Manx National Heritage Secures Artefacts Of A Local Dunkirk Hero

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 10 March 2008
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a photograph of a mounted certificate with a photo of a steam ship and medal ribbon

The mentioned in despatches certificate awarded to Arthur James Allen for good service. © Manx National Heritage

Manx National Heritage has preserved an important piece of the Isle of Man’s wartime heritage after they acquired the medals and a 'mentioned in despatches' certificate of a Dunkirk hero.

The medal presented to Arthur James Allen by the town of Dunkirk, and the mention in dispatches certificate, which he was awarded for his part in the evacuation of British troops from that port in May and June 1940, were recently offered for sale, and were obtained by the heritage body.

Mr Allen was a ‘Donkeyman’ (responsible for the auxiliary power plant or ‘Donkey’ engine) aboard the requisitioned Isle of Man Steam Packet Company [IOMSPCo] vessel Tynwald when she sailed into Dunkirk to rescue British and French troops in the late spring of 1940.

The town and its beaches were filled with British and French troops who had fallen back in the face of Germany’s blitzkrieg onslaught, and who were awaiting rescue.

Along with other Steam Packet vessels, Tynwald and her crew braved dive bombers and mines to make the perilous crossing and evacuate 9,000 troops – more than any other vessel engaged in the rescue.

a photograph of a medal with a certificate above it

The Medal and certificate awarded to Arthur James Allen by the town of Dunkirk. © Manx National Heritage

“This was unquestionably the finest hour in the history of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company,” said Matthew Richardson, Curator of Social History for Manx National Heritage.

“The Steam Packet fleet, which don’t forget the previous summer had been ferrying tourists back and forth to the Island, were pitched into one of the most ferocious battles of the Second World War, as Hitler tried to crush resistance around Dunkirk.”

The medal presented to Mr Allen for his part in the heroic evacuation and the ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ certificate is now on display in the Steam Packet Gallery at the House of Manannan and museum staff are now trying to find out more about his life.

“We know Mr Allen came from Douglas,” added Matthew, “and if there are any members of his family still on the Island we would be pleased to hear from them, as it would be nice to obtain some further background information about his life and career.”

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