Ralph Barker Military History

The Blockade Busters

Ralph Barker

Recounts one of the greatest sea stories of World War II. It is the story of how George Binney, a 39 year-old civilian working in neutral Sweden when Norway was overrun by the Germans in 1940, set about running vital cargoes of Swedish ball-bearings and special steels to Britain through the blockaded Skagerrak, where German air strength was dominant and where the Royal Navy dare not trespass.

Despite Admiralty gloom and in the face of political objections that were overcome by Binney's persistence, five ships carrying a year's supply of valuable materials for the expanding British war industries were successfully sailed to Britain in January 1941. A following attempt was not as successful and ended when six ships were sunk or scuttled. But then came the saga of the Little Ships, the motor gunboats flying the Red Duster that operated out of the Humber to and from the Swedish coast in the winter of 1943/44, defying the strengthened German defences and the wrath of severe weather.