Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 14:45 UK
Admiral William Tennant: Hero of the Dunkirk evacuation
Still from the BBC TV series Dunkirk
Admiral Tennant stayed almost to the end of the evacuation

Admiral William Tennant was a son of Upton-upon-Severn, with a long career in the Royal Navy.

The nickname he was given by ordinary sailors - Dunkirk Joe - indicates the key role he played in the evacuation of the British army in 1940.

Many say that without his cool head and organisational skills, Operation Dynamo - as the evacuation was known - would not have been the success it was.

There is a memorial bust to Admiral Tennant in Upton-upon-Severn.


In 1940, William Tennant was a Captain, and arrived on the beaches of Dunkirk aboard the destroyer HMS Wolfhound.

Still from the BBC TV series Dunkirk
The armada of 'little ships' helped evacuate soldiers from the beaches

His job was to act as "Beachmaster", which in reality meant organising more than 300,000 tired and dispirited troops, and getting them aboard the famous armada of small boats that had sailed for England to rescue them.

He arrived at Dunkirk on 26 May, and stayed there until 2 June, during which time 378,829 troops, including 120,000 French soldiers, had been rescued.

Even then he stayed almost to the end, patrolling the length of the beach calling through a megaphone "Are there any British soldiers still ashore?"

The evacuation from Dunkirk remains one of the greatest "victory from the jaws of defeat" stories.

Mulberry harbours

Bill Tennant had a very eventful war, even after the Dunkirk evacuation.

The remains of a Mulberry harbour in Normandy
The remains of a Mulberry harbour in Normandy

He was the captain of HMS Repulse, which was sunk by the Japanese in 1942.

He also had a key role in the D-day landings in 1944.

He was put in charge of the massive artificial Mulberry harbours that were towed to the Normandy beaches, and which enabled the allies to supply their troops fighting to break out of the beachhead.


He was knighted in 1945 and, after retirement, came back to live in the family home at Upton-upon-Severn.

He became Lord Lieutenant of the county in 1950 and was given the freedom of the city of Worcester in 1960, three years before his death.

A memorial bust can be seen near the famous Pepperpot church tower in the town of his birth.

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