Like many other vessels, Glala's moment came during Operation Dynamo - the evacuation of Dunkirk. She was commanded by Sub-Lieutenant John Alexander Dow, who had joined the Clyde Division of the RNVR in 1938. Her crew also included Peter Magnus RNVR, probably a midshipman at the time, who joined her on the way to Dunkirk at Ramsgate.

Glala set out for Dunkirk at 0800 on 31st May 1940 in company with the yachts Amulree and Caleta. She arrived in Dunkirk Roads at 1130 and towed two whalers full of soldiers to the requisitioned paddle steamer HMS Golden Eagle. She then sailed further up the coast and at La Panne Glala towed boats for the destroyers HMS Venomous and HMS Vivacious.

hms vivaciousbray dunes 1940

HMS Vivacious at Dunkirk. / The beach at Bray Dunes

Off Bray Dunes, HMS Vivacious came under fire from German shore guns and suffered 15 casualties. According to the Naval Staff History;

"It was about this time, 2000, that the yacht Glagla [sic] (which was standing by to tow the boats of the Vivacious from the beach) found that her tiller wire was reduced to a single strand. Her Commanding Officer said, 'The bombing and shelling which had been going on continuously, became intense. A Captain RN in yacht No.1 of the Solent Patrol (i.e. Captain Howson in the Ankh) ordered us to make for the open sea, and all the small craft followed him out'".

Destroyers Vivacious and Venomous were damaged in the bombing. Sub-Lieutenant Dow, on Glala, reported a near miss in an air raid.

Glala was ordered to return to Ramsgate for repairs and from there she proceeded to Sheerness. Repairs done, she then returned to Ramsgate, arriving at 1845 on the 2nd June, and, two hours later, left for Dunkirk again. Early in the morning of the 3rd June her port engine failed and she was compelled to return to Sheerness.



ADLS - web site of The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships



John Alexander Dow RNVR

04-10-1938 Joined RNVR (Clyde Division), prob. Midshipman

21-10-1939 Commanding Officer, Glala (harbour defence motor yacht)

11-01-1940 Sub-Lieutenant

28-08-1940 HMS Veteran (destroyer, lost to a u-boat 27-09-42)

01-03-1942 Lieutenant

05-01-1943 HMS Orlando (RN base, Greenock) (flotilla duties as torpedo officer)

04-1946 HMS Vernon (torpedo and anti-submarine establishment, Brighton)

Peter Magnus RNVR

13.12.1940 Temporary Sub-Lieutenant

04.04.1942 - (08.)1942 Commanding Officer, HM MTB 18 [HMS Beehive]

08.1942 - 04.05.1943 Commanding Officer, HM MTB 224 [HMS Hornet]

05.05.1943 - (12.1943) Commanding Officer, HM MTB 349

13.06.1943 Temporary Lieutenant (released/relinquished before 04.1946)

26.05.1944 - (10.1944) Commanding Officer, HM MTB 475 & Senior Officer, 30th MTB Flotilla

Distinguished Service Cross, 16.01.1945 - Coastal Forces action Nore 10.10.44

Distinguished Service Cross, 10.04.1945 - attack E-boats Channel 22.12.44


MTB = motor torpedo boat

RNVR = Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve