The Massey Shaw Fireboat - One of the Little Ships of Dunkirk

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Massey Shaw

 The Massey Shaw is the little red and black boat in the front

The 70th anniversary of D Day is a fitting time to post this blog about my recent visit with my City of London Guides year group to the Massey Shaw fireboat, as it was one of the little ships which took part in the WWII Dunkirk evacuation code-named “Operation Dynamo”.  David Rogers, secretary, friend and fellow guide, conducted a fascinating tour of this small ship with a big history.

Massey Shaw

 The deck

The Massey Shaw was built in 1935 to serve the London Fire Brigade and was named after its first Superintendent, Captain Eyre Massey Shaw.

Massey Shaw


Originally based at Blackfriars Pier she soon proved herself to be a useful addition to the fire brigade's river service.

Massey Shaw

In May 1940 she was one of seven hundred small ships that sailed from Ramsgate to Dunkirk, as part of Operation Dynamo to rescue British and French troops who were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. The little ships were able to navigate the shallow water and were used to ferry the men to  the warships moored further out at sea.

The Massey Shaw carried five hundred men to the warships and also brought returned one hundred men to England.

 Massey Shaw

In the late 1940s a permanent, wooden wheelhouse was built to replace the canvass one and so offered the pilot more protection from the weather.

Massey Shaw

 David Rogers in the engine room - Photo with kind permission of Julie Chandler

The Massey Shaw was decommissioned in 1971 and today has been lovingly restored.

Massey Shaw

 The Crew Space - where we finished off with tea and biscuits

Massey Shaw

 The ship's bell is used at Christenings

Massey Shaw

On concluded the tour we had a wonderful night time view of the London's Docklands

We had an utterly delightful time exploring this charming, small boat and I can highly recommend a visit.

The Massey Shaw is currently located in the West India Docks and visits are available to pre-booked groups.

Practical Information

Address:  The Massey Shaw is currently docked at South Dock, 631 Manchester Rd, London, E14 3NU

Nearest Tube Station:  South Quay on the DLR in Travelcard zone 2. The Massey Shaw is a 10 - 15 minute walk from the station.

Opening Times:  Only open by prior appointment with the Massey Shaw Society.


The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds