On Sunday, TV personality and naval historian Dan Snow led a small fleet of 30-foot inflatable speed boats across the English Channel. Their mission: to ferry home fellow Brits who were stranded in France because of the massive flight disruptions caused by volcanic ash. They planned on (and twitter promoted) making the 2-hour round trip all day Sunday, but French bureaucrats only allowed them to make one return trip with 25 stranded Englishmen.
Dan Snow said it was not clear what French laws his mission had transgressed, but French officials had suggested that he lacked the permits necessary for any boat plying for hire. Organizers said they had charged no fares, but suggested donations for Help for Heroes, a British charity for those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. After hours of appeals failed, the mission was abandoned.
The plan began when the wife of one of Snow’s friends was among the stranded. Snow was also inspired by a BBC documentary he’s working on marking the 70th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk. In the spring of 1940, hundreds of private craft joined the Royal Navy in making the 22-mile trip from Dover to Dunkirk, saving nearly 340,000 British, French and Canadian soldiers.
More from Snow (@thehistoryguy):
What happened in 1940 was a triumph of improvisation. But improvisation is incompatible with modern bureaucracy. All we wanted was to help some people get home. We thought we could have some fun, and we did. All the people who participated in this had a great time.
[Image: Dan Snow/twitpic]