Leigh-on-Sea.Community.Looking Back.Culture.Connections.
70th Anniversary of Operation Dynamo

BBC News 29th May 2010 (Transcript):


Dunkirk veteran Ken Blake has said that the memory of those lost on the beaches of France has always stayed with him. Mr Blake shared his recollection of events as he spoke to the BBC on the 70th anniversary of the World War II evacuation:


“I came across a young lad, who was bad, I could do nothing for him, to get on the way to get out of here. He was only a young lad, and he was badly wounded, very badly wounded and he was calling out (Mr Blake upset)... he was calling out to his Mum. And I could do nothing for him, and left him there, so that poor young fella, he must of died? But the essence is how many other lads on those beaches there, just like that calling out for their Mum? Remember these we only 17, 18 years of age, we were still juniors, we weren’t fully grown men, youngster like your selves (Army/Navy Cadets). You at home, who was the greatest member of your household, it’s your Mum isn’t it? That’s the one that means to you the most, that’s the one on the beach there, crying out there for their Mum. It’s always been there with me all that time, and that’s what happened there on those beaches. It’s a line that they don’t print so much these days about so many of those young lads, ‘cause there’s a hell of a lot that were killed. Six thousand killed (Mr Blake upset) here at Dunkirk beach, four thousand on the Lancashire”. BBC Interviewer: “Let me just bring in, your all Cadets coming over, when you hear stories like this, what does it mean to you?” Cadet: “It’s very moving, there’s a lot of people who take it for granted what happened here and the sacrifices they made, we need to remember, we need to remember and it’s fantastic being here and hearing all these stories, meeting all these amazing people.”      



The Citizen 28th May 2010 (Reporter: Nazia Parveen):


As people gathered to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Dunkirk retreat during World War II, we spoke to people from East Lancashire who were affected for life by the mass evacuation.


When we got to Dunkirk, the beach was full of people and everyone looked terrified. I just knew I had to get out of there.” These are the words of John Lynch when he arrived at the French port 70 years ago. He was serving with the 24th Field Company, Royal Artillery, and was one of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers waiting to be rescued by a fleet of vessels. Now aged 89, the great-grandfather, from Ferrier Close, Blackburn, remembers the day he had to swim for his life like it was yesterday.


John, who joined up in 1939 when he was 17, said:


“It was just terrible. We were told we needed to get to Dunkirk as soon as possible and there were hundreds of us marching on the roads. The water was very shallow like the beach in Southport so the boats could not get in to us so I just dived into the sea and swam until I reached a vessel. But all I could think about was the friends that I had left on the beach who could not swim and there were raids going on everywhere so we had to get back quickly. They were just standing there and there were machine guns and bombs going off. We went back for them and when we got to the beach I grabbed my friend Ned and pulled him into the boat.”

John was rescued and taken back to Ramsgate and then to the Plymouth Naval Hospital after his ears began bleeding. Following an operation he completely lost his hearing in his right ear and was sent back to Blackburn to recover. A couple of weeks after arriving home he met his future wife Catherine in Corporation Park and they were married for 61 years before she passed away almost eight years ago. John said: "I feel incredibly lucky that I managed to get on one of those vessels because I was able to meet Catherine and fall in love. I will always remember those who did not make it and I am proud that I went back and saved the lives of my friends.”

Meanwhile, George Nicholson told the story of his father of the same name, who served with the East Lancashire Regiment, who was not as lucky after being captured at Dunkirk. George said: “When they arrived in Dunkirk the roads were packed with vehicles and they were desperately trying to get to the coast. They were under heavy shelling so they jumped in a side car and tried to get to a quieter part through some fields. They were still trying to get to the coast when one or two shells began to drop, so they took cover behind some buildings and at the other side, the Jerries were waiting. They were captured.”  As the evacuation of Dunkirk was beginning only a few fields away, George was being taken back into enemy territory facing an unknown future. The men were placed in a column of 8,000 Belgian, French and British POWs and marched through France towards Brussels to be transported to German camps. But as the group neared Brussels, several made bids for freedom, faced with spending years behind barbed wire in deep Nazi Germany. George, who still lives with his mother Rebecca in Dalby Crescent, said: “They made a break for it and the four of them got into a corn field by the side of the road.” They went on the run for 16 months through three countries, relying on the French and Belgian people to feed and hide them. On reaching Nazi-occupied France, the four men split up. George worked as a farmhand for several months a resistance worker supplied him with a fake ID and almost helped him escape on a train to the south west.  But he was later sent to an internment camp in Vichy, where the Government held escaped troops, picked up by patrols. He finally made it home to England after he was diagnosed with dysentery. He flew to Spain and sailed back to London. His parents had believed him dead for many months on the basis of a report from a fellow Blackburn soldier. But before he could relax, George returned to military duties and eventually returned to France on D-Day, 1944. George said: “I think it is something that ought to be remembered with great pride because of the large effort that went into the evacuation and the amount of lives that were saved as a result.”


Whalley (in Lancashire) Councillor Joyce Holgate remembered the sacrifice her 20-year-old brother Frank Lawless, made on that day so that others could live. Lance Corporal Lawless, of the Coldstream Guards, was part of the British Expeditionary Force tasked with defending the town of Pecq and its bridge over the Escaut river, from the advancing Germans so that those in Dunkirk could get on the vessels. Against huge odds, the battalion successfully held the town all day. However, during the following day a retreat to the Belgian/French border was ordered and during the night of May 22, the battalion evacuated the town and headed for Roubaix where Mr Lawless was killed. His younger sister Joyce, who visited his grave at Pecq Communal Cemetery in Belgium earlier this year, said: “My brother and all the other troops played an extremely important part in the rescue effort.They helped to defend Dunkirk and keep the Germans back so that the English could come and get their troops and he will always be remembered for his bravery.”