Dunkirk: Generations of lifesavers at Ramsgate

Ramsgate Crew Member Becky Cannon is following in the footsteps of her dad, as well as her great great great uncle Alf who went to Dunkirk with the Ramsgate lifeboat crew in 1940.
Ramsgate Coxswain Ian Cannon and his daughter Becky

Photo: RNLI/Jack Lowe

Ramsgate Coxswain Ian Cannon and his daughter Becky

A shared dream

From the age of seven, Becky dreamed of being on the lifeboat crew at Ramsgate. She remembers watching her dad – Ramsgate Coxswain, Ian Cannon – go out on shouts and wanted to follow in his footsteps. As soon as she was 17, in April 2017, she joined the crew with the ambition to be a helm or a coxswain one day.

Ian Cannon also joined at the earliest opportunity, on his 17th birthday. He was inspired by his father, double Silver Medal awardee Coxswain Ron Cannon, and his grandfather before him:

‘As soon as we could we wanted to be part of the crew, part of our family history really. Becky’s been eager to join since a very young age – I’m proud, very, very proud.’

The family tradition goes back to Dunkirk and beyond. Ian’s great great uncle, Alf Moody, was second coxswain when the Ramsgate lifeboat went to Dunkirk. While the younger crew had been called up for military service, the experienced older seafarers stepped up.

‘They were brave’

On 30 May 1940, Alf Moody was on the crew that braved the bombs to rescue troops stuck on the beaches of Dunkirk. In the gruelling 48 hours that the Ramsgate crew spent at Dunkirk, they were credited with taking 2,800 men off the beaches.

Ian himself went across the English Channel to commemorate Dunkirk:

‘It was amazing to see all the little boats, seeing where it all happened. It was quite choking to be honest. To save people, through minefields, bombing and shooting – they were brave.’

He says there’s one big difference for lifeboat crews today:

‘The crews that manned the Prudential in 1940 would have been seafarers, fishermen, but they certainly wouldn’t have had the training that we have these days. Now we’ve got a window cleaner, an estate agent. These days you need to be willing to learn.’

Although our lifeboats and equipment have changed, there’s one thing that certainly hasn’t changed. All generations of lifeboat men and women need courage to save lives, as Ian says candidly: ‘Being brave comes with the job.’ His daughter Becky volunteers with courage too:

‘You can’t have a lot of fear. You have to get on with it. Keep going, no matter what it is.’

You can read more stories and family histories of the crew members who helped save lives at Dunkirk here.