Freda Hammerton of The Embankment, Twickenham, picked up on the piece written for us on June 22 by Bob Tough of Tough's Boatyard, about the little ships of Dunkirk.

Lifelong Twickenham resident, Freda is the daughter of a Thames waterman and lighterman and she has jotted down her impression as a small girl on that auspicious night in late May 1940.

My father Fred Hammerton was employed at Tough's boatyard during the war. I remember being roused from bed one summer night by my mother Margaret. I didn't know what was happening but had a feeling of something very big and strange. It could have been about 10pm or 11pm. It was double summertime so there was more light.

She told me to put my coat on over my pyjamas and we went down to double steps on the river where my father was in the Tigris.

Behind the Tigris was a string of boats, all very quiet and with very little light. There was a small leading light on the Tigris. My dad waved to us as they went passed. On our side of the river they used to dredge the Thames so it was deeper to take more boats. There seemed to be lots of boats, some of them much bigger than dad's tub.

A few neighbours watched them go downstream. It was all very silent. At that age you weren't aware of what was going on much.

My dad went up to Sheerness and spent the night behind a naval boat. He said it was pretty rough tossing about in the tug.'' As an employee of the boatyard, Fred Hammerton had reserved employment status and was exempt from serving in the armed services. "I remember the ticket he always had to carry around with him which said that he was on work of national importance'. '' Fred Hammerton worked through the war only to be killed by the blast from a doodlebug which hit the end of Water Lane.

Freda, a retired medical secretary, who has lived in Twickenham all her life and attended Gumley School in Isleworth, is the great niece of Walter Hammerton who founded the eponymous ferry which plies between Marble Hill Park and Ham House.

She explained that a waterman is apprenticed for seven years to a master and once he had his indentures he was free to do any job on the river. A lighterman worked specifically on barges.