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A fleet of "little ships" which rescued Allied
troops from Dunkirk in 1940 has set sail from the south coast to mark the 70th anniversary of the event.
More than 50 vessels are heading to France
to commemorate Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of some 338,000 soldiers from Dunkirk's beaches.
The troops had been driven back to the coast by the German army.
The phrase "Dunkirk spirit" is seen as emblematic of British determination and courage in the face of adversity.
The flotilla in Ramsgate, in Kent, was cheered by rain-soaked crowds as it set sail for Dunkirk, in north-east France
, at 0700 BST.
See a map explaining the Dunkirk evacuation
BBC correspondent Jon Kay is on board the Greta, the oldest of the little ships that brought back hundreds of exhausted men 70 years ago.
He was joined by Brian de Mattos whose father Basil was part of the rescue mission.
Mr de Mattos said: "It's a great honour for me to be following in my father's footsteps 70 years later. To see all these little ships is really quite an emotional time.
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In pictures: Little ships in Ramsgate
"My father made many trips in and out of Dunkirk harbour often under fire from the enemy."
The original evacuation took place between 26 May and 4 June 1940, and involved 900 naval and civilian craft which were sent across the Channel under RAF protection.
Among them were a number of smaller vessels including fishing
boats pleasure crafts, paddle steamers and lifeboats.
During the evacuation - described by Winston Churchill as a "miracle of deliverance" - the Luftwaffe attacked whenever the weather
allowed and at least 5,000 soldiers were killed.
Heritage historian Paul Pattison said the troops who disembarked at the ports
of Dover were given a warm and compassionate welcome.
He said: "They were given a cup of tea, a ham sandwich and clothing
where they needed it because they were wet and bedraggled and often blood-stained.
"They were then very quickly put onto trains and dispatched all over the country - away from the danger
zone - for a bit of rest and recuperation before they were ready to join their units again."
Ramsgate's Royal Harbour Marina was the reception
centre for returning troops and after a weekend of commemorative events
in France, the little ships are due to return there on Monday.
Edwin Brown, who was among those rescued in 1940, told the BBC: "They made a hell of a difference because they got us out to the bigger boats where we could get some help from the sailors who couldn't get in because of the depth
of the water
"There isn't a better spirit anywhere because everyone was looking after each other.
More than 300,000 Allied troops were rescued from the Dunkirk beaches
"If you were in trouble and you needed help, it was there. That was the Dunkirk spirit."
The ships will be escorted by the Royal Navy
frigate HMS Monmouth - the youngest ship in the flotilla - on their eight-hour journey.
Rear Adm Tom Cunningham said it was important for his crew to take part.
He said: "We all have very strong bonds in the maritime community and we recognise... what a sacrifice and what bravery it took for [the small ships] to do it."
A commemorative ceremony is due to be held at the Allied memorial on Dunkirk beach on Saturday. There will be a minute's silence, followed by the national anthems of Britain, the Czech Republic, France and Belgium.
Historians say the evacuation boosted British morale at a crucial point of the war.
World War II expert Nick Hewitt said Dunkirk "bought time" for the Allies, allowing them to regroup and fight another day.
"Without Dunkirk, Britain wouldn't have had an army and it's extremely questionable whether it could have fought the war," he said.