Unsung heroes from the Second World War who saved the lives of hundreds of servicemen at the height of battle have been honoured on Poole Quay.

On a drizzly day a poignant ceremony paid tribute to the men of the US Coast Guard at the harbourside memorial, attended by representatives from the Society of Poole Men, Poole-based RNLI and HM Coastguard.

An honour guard of sailors from the town’s warship HMS Cattistock saluted as a wreath was laid at the memorial by Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger, of the US Coast Guard, in the presence of Poole’s Sheriff, Cllr Carol Evans.

On D-Day, June 6 1944, 60 cutters of the US Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla 1 set sail in 83ft boats, built entirely of wood.

The Matchbox Fleet, also known as the Seagoing St Bernards, was credited with saving the lives of 1,437 men and one woman.

That first day of the invasion of Normandy, those courageous men saved the lives of more than 400 servicemen.

The patrol boats were quickly readied for action a few weeks before D-Day as PM Winston Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt realised that Operation Neptune needed a rescue flotilla.

“They sailed in vessels that we would regard as positively dangerous; to save lives under fire, in the middle of the bloody carnage of the greatest contested invasion known to man,” said staff officer Geoff Matthews, of HM Coastguard.

“These are the actions of truly brave men and that spirit resides in coastguards and lifeboatmen today,” he said.

RNLI chief executive Paul Boissier also paid tribute to the men who set out to save lives in the midst of battle, who exemplified courage and were an inspiration to life-saving organisations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Vice Admiral Neffenger saluted the “wonderful achievement” of the life savers of the US’s fifth armed service.

“They are unsung heroes,” he said.


FROM this Quay, 60 cutters of the United States Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla 1 departed for the Normandy Invasion, 6 June 1944.

These 83 foot boats, built entirely of wood, and the 840 crewmembers were credited with saving the lives of 1,437 men and 1 woman.

In remembrance of the service of Rescue Flotilla 1, and with appreciation of the kindnesses of the people of Poole to the crews, this Plaque is given by the men and women of the United States Coast Guard.

Semper Paratus June 1994