The last surviving Thames steam tug returns to London this week – twenty years after being saved from the scrapyard.

Challenge, which saved hundreds of lives at Dunkirk, will berth at St Katharine Docks after a £1 million restoration by enthusiasts.

The tug will be open to visitors at the Classic Boat Festival over the weekend (September 14th and 15th) -  forty years after being retired from the London docks.

Round the World yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston helped save the vessel  from being scrapped and in recent years teams of volunteers from the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust have been refitting and restoring the vessel in Sussex.

Jerry Lewis, Chairman of the trust, said: “It will be a a great day for Challenge to return to the Thames, her home for so many years.

“It is a tribute to the many volunteers who have put in vast amounts of time, effort and money for the last twenty years since 1993 when we were sold the ship for £1 on the understanding that she was removed from the dock without delay.”

Challenge is the last surviving example of a large purpose-built, Thames ship-handling tug, where she was based for her entire working life.

During the war her role included towing the Maunsell towers out to the Thames Estuary where they formed the front line of defence against invasion.

Later jobs included towing parts of the Mulberry harbour which ensured the success of the D Day landings. In 1944 a VI flying bomb exploded in the water close alongside causing extensive damage and lighting a number of fires. Some of  the shrapnel holes are still in evidence.

Story dated Sept 9th 2013