Charlie Waite, Dunkirk Veteran (2 of 2)

Charlie Waite, Dunkirk Veteran (2 of 2)

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Charlie Waite, Dunkirk Veteran (2 of 2)

Charlie Waite, a Dunkirk veteran, seen in a wartime photo.

Charlie Waite features in Dunkirk: The Forgotten Heroes, broadcast on Yesterday in the UK. Many thanks to Yesterday for providing us with these pictures.

The Heroic World War Two Volunteer – Charles Joseph Coward

He fought against the Nazis and was sent to a concentration camp. There he spied on his captors and risked his life to save those he could. All that under the name of Coward.

Charles Joseph Coward was born in Britain on January 30, 1905. He joined the British Army in 1937 and served with the 8 th Reserve Regimental Royal Artillery. By the time WWII started in 1939, he was a Quartermaster Battery Sergeant Major.

The Germans assaulted the port of Calais on May 21, 1940 – marking the start of the Siege of Calais. The Allies were driven back, and the British Expeditionary Force fled from France through the port of Dunkirk. Fortunately, most made it out in time to fight the Germans another day.

Unfortunately for Coward, he was not one of them, and he became a POW. He did have an advantage he spoke German. He, therefore, used his language skills to make seven escape attempts by passing himself off as a German soldier.

One of the escape attempts worked, but he was injured. Sent to a German Army field hospital, he kept up his pretense. After the German doctors had treated his wounds, he was given an Iron Cross for his bravery and suffering.

It did not take them long to realize their mistake, of course. He was sent back to the POW camp where he earned a reputation for sabotage while on work details. Finally, he was sent to Poland Auschwitz, to be precise.

Coward arrived at Auschwitz III (Monowitz) a working camp in December 1943. It was located approximately five miles from Auschwitz II (Birkenau), the death camp. It belonged to IG Farben – a chemical plant that only closed its doors in 2012 (but survives today as AGFA, BASF, Bayer, and Sanofi).

IG Farben had acquired the patent to Zyklon B – originally used as an insecticide and by US immigration officials to delouse Mexican laborers. When the Final Solution (the extermination of Jews and other undesirables) came into effect in 1942, the Nazi regime found another use for it in nearby Auschwitz II.

Auschwitz III (Monowitz) By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Coward and between 1,200 and 1,400 other British POWs were kept at sub-camp E715. Their job was to run the liquid fuel plant which produced synthetic rubber. Coward, however, due to his German language skills worked as a Red Cross liaison officer as Germany still kept up the pretense of honoring the Geneva Convention articles.

As such, he was allowed some measure of free movement within the camp. Sometimes, he was permitted to go to the nearby towns. There, he witnessed the arrival of trainloads of Jews to the extermination camp.

Auschwitz III housed 10,000 Jews who were allowed to work. Due to exhaustion, sickness, brutality, and deliberate starvation they did not last long. Unable to stand by and do nothing, Coward got to work.

As the British POWs had access to Red Cross items, Coward and the other prisoners set aside food and medicine. Those items were then smuggled to the Jewish section of their camp to help as many as possible.

A slave laborer at the IG Farben plant in Auschwitz III By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Allowed to send letters out, Coward began writing to his friend – Mr. William Orange. There was no such person. It was the code for the British War Office. In those letters, he explained what was happening in the camps, as well as the treatment and mass slaughter of Jews.

One day, a letter was smuggled to him, asking for help. It came from Karel Sperber, a British ship’s doctor, but there was a problem – Sperber was being held in the Jewish section of Monowitz. So Coward exchanged clothes with an inmate and smuggled himself into the Jewish sector to try to find the doctor. Sadly, he failed.

He did see how Jews in the work camp were being treated. After the war, he was among those who testified at the IG Farben Trial in Nuremberg. He helped to have some of the company’s directors imprisoned, although only for a few years.

He wanted to help the Jews. To pull it off, he needed two things – chocolate and corpses. It was a daring plan, but it worked.

Coward gave the chocolate to the guards in exchange for the bodies of non-Jewish dead prisoners. Then, once their clothes and papers had been removed they were cremated.

The United States of America vs. Carl Krauch, et al., also called the IG Farben Trial

Jewish escapees put on the clothes and assumed the new, non-Jewish identities. With help from members of the Polish resistance, they were then smuggled out of the camp. As the number of those missing tallied with the number of those who were reported dead, neither Coward nor the bribed guards fell under any suspicion.

It is estimated around 400 Jews were saved using that method.

In January 1945 Soviet forces advanced deeper into Poland. As they made their way toward Auschwitz, Coward and the other POWs were forced to march to Bavaria in Germany. The prisoners were liberated by Allied forces en route, finally putting an end to the brutal nightmare.

In 1963 Yad Vashem recognized Coward as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. He became known as the “Count of Auschwitz.” and a film was made of his exploits called “The Password is Courage.”

2. Graham Greene: The acclaimed novelist who worked for Britain’s MI6

(Credit: AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

The English-born Greene was already an established novelist (𠇋righton Rock,” “The Power and the Glory”) with a taste for adventure when he became a spy for MI6, the British secret intelligence service, in 1941. He was stationed for more than a year in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where his responsibilities included searching ships sailing from Africa to Germany for smuggled diamonds and documents, and monitoring Vichy forces in neighboring French Guinea. (Greene’s experiences in West Africa provided material for his best-selling 1948 novel “The Heart of the Matter.”) In 1943, the author returned to London and worked for MI6 under Harold “Kim” Philby, the high-level British spymaster who in 1963 was exposed as a long-term Soviet mole when he defected to Moscow. Afterward, Greene publicly defended his friend and visited him in the USSR. Greene published more than 25 novels during his career, including a number of espionage thrillers, such as “The Quiet American,” “Our Man in Havana” and “The Human Factor.”

Leon Grange #795

One evening, in the fall of 1895, a group of Leon people met in the Albert Ackler Cheese Factory on Wells HIll to discuss organizing a Grange. It was decided to call Deputy E. C. Ferguson from Conewango for the purpose. Mr. Ferguson met with these people October 7, 1895 in the Leon Hotel, and from the twenty-two charter members, the following members were elected as its officers:
-Worthy Master - Hiram Crofoot
-Overseer - Harrison Franklin
-Lecturer - Mrs. M.G. Peckham
-Assistant Steward - Mark Gorsline
-Gate Keeper - Aras Wood

PFC Charley Havlat: The Last American Combat Death of World War II in Europe

Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30, 1945, but his death didn’t bring an end to the fighting of World War II or the work that had to be done. While many German units were standing down, Allied troops fought German holdouts right up until Germany’s unconditional surrender on Victory in Europe Day — better known as VE Day — on May 8.

The last American soldier killed in combat in Europe died just minutes after German and Allied officers had negotiated a ceasefire and a few hours before the German army’s surrender. The son of Czech immigrants, Private First Class Charles “Charley” Havlat died liberating his parents’ homeland from the Nazis.

Havlat was born on Nov. 10, 1910, in Dorchester, Nebraska. He was the eldest of six children born to Anton Havlat and Antonia Nemec, who immigrated to America in the early 1900s. The Havlat children grew up steeped in the cultural traditions of their parents’ motherland — they spoke Czech at home and bragged to their friends about the kolaches their mother cooked.

Havlat worked as a farmhand for $1 a day before eventually starting a trucking company with his cousin. The U.S. Army drafted him in 1942, and he and his brother Rudy both joined the 803rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. Havlat was assigned to the battalion’s recon company.

The 803rd landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought its way inland to Saint-Lô. The battalion continued across northern France and saw combat in some of the war’s fiercest battles. The Havlats fought at Aachen and the Hürtgen Forest, and they were in the Ardennes Forest when the Battle of the Bulge began on Dec. 16, 1944.

After the Allies broke German lines in the Ardennes, the 803rd helped capture Trier, Germany, and crossed the Rhine. Eventually, Charley and Rudy found themselves in their parents’ homeland, helping liberate the Czech town of Volary from the Germans. During these operations, troops of the 803rd also rescued a group of starving young Jewish women who’d somehow managed to survive the Nazi’s horrific extermination operations.

On May 7, 1945, Charley’s platoon was conducting a recon mission on a dirt road in the woods when they took heavy fire from troops of the 11th Panzer Division. The Germans attacked with machine gun and small arms fire from concealed positions in the trees. They fired four panzerfausts at the Americans’ lead vehicle — an M8 armored car. They exploded around it, bringing the Americans to a stop.

Charley was in the second vehicle, an unarmored open-top jeep. He ducked down behind the hood, but when he peeked his head up to see what was happening, a German bullet struck him directly in the forehead, killing him instantly. The Americans returned fire until their radio operator received word that a ceasefire order had gone into effect and they had orders to withdraw back to Volary immediately. Charley was the only fatality.

It turned out the ceasefire went into effect just nine minutes before Charley died. Just a few hours after the attack, the German military surrendered. The German officer who led the ambush was captured not long after. He told the Americans he knew nothing of the ceasefire until 30 minutes after and apologized for Charley’s death. The next day, Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered.

As a fellow member of the 803rd, Rudy learned of Charley’s death when his comrades returned to Volary. But their brother Adolph — the youngest of the Havlat children and another GI serving in Europe — didn’t get the word for weeks. In fact, on VE Day, he wrote home to his mother telling her that they’d all be home soon.

Adolph was serving with Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), assigned to the prisoner-of-war and displaced persons division assisting POWs, refugees, and Holocaust survivors. He was in Frankfurt, Germany, when he finally learned of his brother’s death.

Adolph’s commander granted him leave, and he hitchhiked his way to meet Rudy so they could pay respect to their brother. Afterward, Adolph returned to SHAEF — there was still a lot of work to do. Though the war was over, the resettlement of refugees and repatriation of POWs would prove to be a long and difficult process that would ultimately go on for decades.

American troops left Volary as the Red Army took over occupation duties in Czechoslovakia and propped up a pro-Soviet government. It quickly became apparent that repressive Nazi rule had merely been replaced by repressive Communist rule. As the Soviet Union tightened its grip on Czechoslovakia and the Iron Curtain fell across Eastern Europe, thousands more Czechs, Slovakians, and other Eastern Europeans became refugees as they fled to the west. Many of these refugees, like the Havlats, made their way to America to start new lives.

Today, Charley Havlat has a permanent grave at the Saint Avold World War II veterans cemetery near Metz, France. In the modern-day Czech Republic, a Czech military club paid for a memorial plaque placed at the spot where he died.


Crowds packed the famous London square but the largest cheers were reserved for singer Harry Styles, whose appearance produced ear shattering screams.

Eager student: The 32-year-old royal sat forward on his chair as he quizzed the old soldiers about their worldly experiences

Tell me your stories! Prince Harry looked captivated by stories from the Dunkirk veterans at Kensington Palace this afternoon

Main event: After the chat, the Prince of Wales headed to the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square with his guests, including George Wagner, 96 (left). There they mingled with stars such as Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy for the premiere of the historical action drama, which tells the story of soldiers being evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk during WWII

Proud moment: Afghanistan veteran Louis Nethercott (left) exchanges smiles with the Prince of Wales (right) on arrival

Here come the boys: From left Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and producer Emma Thomas attend the preview screening of Dunkirk at BFI Southbank in central London

He's got skills: Charismatic Prince Harry mingled with (from left) Barry Keoghan, Sir Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy


James Baynes – 97, from North London

​Before the Dunkirk evacuation he was stationed near Béthune and after receiving the orders to evacuate suffered bombardment with his division around Lille (Caestre Sector).

During the evacuation of Dunkirk, as a weak swimmer, he narrowly avoided reaching a ship which was shortly afterwards sunk by German bombardment, escaped shooting (by a Scottish officer!) for being in the wrong queue, assisted a French officer and another British soldier in paddling away in a small boat which was not seaworthy, was eventually picked up by a Royal Navy launch, and taken back to England (Margate) crammed into the hold of a Dutch coal tanker.

He later went on to serve in the North Africa (notably El Alamein) and Italy (notably Monte Cassino) campaigns, enduring fierce fighting, and repeatedly narrowly escaping death. For the remainder of his working career, post-war, he served as a civilian in the War Office (subsequently the Ministry of Defence).

Charlie Biscoe – 97, from Essex

​Enlisted 1938 in Dorset Regiment, then transferred to Royal West Kent 1939-1946. Occupation driver/mechanic driving Bren gun carrier. Was sent to France April 1940 and subsequently evacuated from Dunkirk. Regiment joined the 8th Indian Division (8th Army) in El Alamein, where he was wounded.

After his recovery Mr Biscoe served in Persia and Iraq. He then went on to Greece and Italy, where he was involved at the battle of Monte Cassino. Charles ended his career on 28th July 1946 after serving 8 years 46 days with an exemplary military conduct record.

Garth Wright – 97, from Devon

​Garth Wright grew up near Tavistock in Devon. In 1939, he headed to France with the Royal Artillery where he served as a motorcycle dispatch rider.

At Dunkirk, he volunteered as a stretcher bearer before returning to England on a Royal Navy destroyer. He subsequently landed at Algiers as part of Operation Torch and took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944. He was demobbed in 1946. After the war he worked as a bus driver in Plymouth.

James Baynes, 97, from north London, narrowly avoided reaching a ship which was shortly afterwards sunk by German bombardment during the evacuation of Dunkirk. He later went on to serve in the North Africa (notably El Alamein) and Italy campaigns

Les Gray – 98 , from Birmingham

Recruited into the BEF and served from 1940 onwards. After the evacuation of Dunkirk he served in North Africa and Italy. He left the army in 1946.

Middlesex regiment. War evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. Served in El Alamein, Sicily, Normandie, North West Europe. Awarded for his bravery.​

Sidney Spalding – 100 years old from Colchester

​He was abandoned on the beach in Dunkirk by his commanding officer with the instruction 'every man for himself'.

He then got himself on to a boat, alone. He was in the Territorial Army when war was declared and was therefore recruited from the start of the war.

Arthur Taylor – 96, from Dorset

He was 19 at Dunkirk, serving with the Royal Airforce. Serving with 13 Squadron flying Lysanders who were spotting the fall of shot for an artillery regiment. He served from from August 1939 but in 1937 he joined Royal Engineers underage

George Wagner – 96, from Birmingham

Born in 1920, George Wagner grew up just outside Birmingham. In early 1940 he went to France with the Royal Engineers. During the Dunkirk evacuation, he helped to construct a pier made of abandoned lorries on the beach at La Panne. On 6 June 1944 – D-Day – Mr Wagner returned to France, landing on Sword Beach as part of Operation Overlord. He was demobbed in 1946.

Harry Garrett – 99, from Kent

Joined the TA in 1938, Y Division. Escaped Dunkirk on a destroyer, The Wolsey. He then joined the 51st Highland Division and was sent to Egypt, Tripoli, Sussie and Sicily. After the war he joined the Royal Legion and was voted vice Chairman of the Sevenoakes branch. He has been awarded the gold badge and life membership.

​Mr Ashford was conscripted into the Army in the autumn of 1939 and was sent out to France in early March 1940. He served within the 42nd Battalion in the Highland Light Infantry.

Hero: Les Gray (centre), 98, from Birmingham, surrounded by his family. Mr Gray was recruited into the BEF and served from 1940 onwards. After the evacuation of Dunkirk he served in north Africa and Italy. He left the army in 1946

Mr Purton was part of the Royal Army Service Core, and walked from Deppane to Dunkirk after coming off of 'The Mole' – a long stone and wooden jetty at the mouth of the port. He went out to Dunkirk at the very beginning and went to North Africa afterwards and ended up being captured by the Germans.

Alfred Smith, 98, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Served in the Royal Army Service Corps during World War II. He was evacuated from Dunkirk and went on to take part in the D-Day landings before being hospitalised by a shrapnel injury.

He said: 'I drove for two days with no sleep and we eventually arrived at Dunkirk. We had to blow the lorriesup so the Germans could not use them and then we sat on the beach for 48 hours waiting to get off. Planes kept coming over machine-gunning us and lots of my friends were killed because there was nowhere to hide.

'Eventually, a paddle steamer came so I went in the water and swam for a few yards and was pulled on board. I think I just passed out and when I came to they had carried me downstairs. We landed at Harwich and then I found out that just 31 got back out of 107 of us.'

After the war Mr Smith worked first as a taxi driver and then as a driving instructor for 40 years. He lost his wife Betty 14 years ago. He is now a regular member at SSAFA's Southend Veterans' Lunch Club.

​Ms Morgan served as a Captain in the Army and deployed to Kosovo when she was 25 in 1998. She struggled with her mental health when she came home as she didn't feel able to talk about it. She is currently being supported by Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds.

Mr Nethercott joined the military when he was just 17 and found being a Royal Marines Commando was not only something he was good at, it was something he loved.

His commando unit and the lads he served with became his second family. His 10-year military career took him all over the globe, including Europe, India, America, Africa, Norway and the Middle and Far East. In May 2016, Mr Nethercott was selected to be the Mental Health Ambassador for the Invictus Games in Orlando.

At Kensington Palace Harry chatted to Sidney Spalding, 100, from Colchester, who was abandoned on the beach in Dunkirk by his commanding officer with the instruction 'every man for himself'.

Harry also spoke to George Wagner, 96, from Litchfield, near Birmingham, who was sent to Europe in late 1939 with the Royal Engineers, and like tens of thousands of others recounted how he seized an opportunity to get off the beaches.

He was given a private screening of the movie and said the sound of explosions brought back memories of the bombardment they faced as they tried to leave.

Mr Wagner said about the movie: 'It's got bags of bangs, that's what worries me is the bangs.

Learning from true heroes: Prince Harry attended the premiere with Dunkirk veteran George Wagner, 96, (centre) Afghanistan veteran Louis Nethercott (left), and Kosovo veteran, Gemma Morgan (behind the Prince)

Royal arrival: Prince Harry, 32, added to the star-studded event as he made an incredibly dashing arrival to the red carpet

Prince Harry and veterans from Dunkirk, Afghanistan and Kosovo walk past a WWII Spitfire MK1 at the Dunkirk premiere

'It just reminded me when we were just outside Dunkirk we were mortared as we were getting away. Then they started to shell us and then one or two planes started to have a go.

'I was down below deck, there were six or seven of us and we were soaking wet and naked, our clothes were in the engine room drying out.'

The veteran later joined Harry at the premiere and walked the red carpet with the royal who was cheered and screamed at by the crowds.

The Prince arrived onto the red carpet along with veterans from Dunkirk, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Suave: Harry Styles, the former One Direction star turned solo artist, is making his acting debut as Alex in Christopher Nolan's epic war drama Dunkirk. The One Direction star, 23, parted ways with his usual kooky ensembles for a more reserved look

Handsome: Harry, who has won early praise for his role of Alex in Dunkirk, was dressed to impress in his paired down, minimalistic black suit

Speaking at the world premiere for the film in Leicester Square, Styles said it may be 'one and done' in regards to his film career. He told reporters: 'I'd do this one again but it may be one and done . I'd do this one again'

The Prince looked happy this evening despite a busy day of royal duties at Westminster Abbey and Kensington Palace

It's been a busy day for the Prince, who this morning welcomed Queen Letizia of Spain with a kiss on the cheek as they met outside Westminster Abbey.

The engagement was the first time the royal had been tasked with a formal role in a state visit.

Harry Styles, the former One Direction star turned solo artist, is making his acting debut as Alex in Christopher Nolan's epic war drama Dunkirk.

The One Direction star, 23, parted ways with his usual kooky ensembles for a more reserved look for the flick's big event - which is set for release on 20 July in the UK - while Tom, 39, and Murphy, 41, also looked undeniably suave in their fitted suits.

Tom Hardy looked every inch the hunk as he sported shaved head on both sides - with the rest of his locks slicked back in the middle. Pictured: Hardy poses in front of a Spitfire MK1 at the Leicester Square premiere

A-listers: Starring Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy (pictured with wife Charlotte Riley), Cillian Murphy and a wealth of British talent, the film tells the story of the chaotic rescue of Allied soldiers during the Second World War

His big night: Actress Charlotte Riley looked thrilled for her husband, Tom Hardy, during the big world premiere

Spring chicken: George Wagner, left, who turns 97 later this year, looked fit and healthy as he arrived with Prince Harry

Speaking at the world premiere for the film in Leicester Square, Styles said it may be 'one and done' in regards to his film career.

He told reporters: 'I'd do this one again but it may be one and done . I'd do this one again.'

He was joined by namesake Prince Harry on the red carpet in Leicester Square and three army veterans who served in Dunkirk, Kosovo and Afghanistan respectively.

Starring Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and a wealth of British talent, the film tells the story of the chaotic rescue of Allied soldiers during the Second World War.

Murphy, who takes on the role of Shivering Soldier, was dressed to impress in a fitted suit, which he paired with a baby blue shirt and a slick navy tie

The talented actor, who is famed for his role in BBC's Peaky Blinders, looked at ease as he made an early arrival to the event in his suave ensemble

The star's locks were shaved on both sides, which put emphasis off his chiselled features and piercing blue eyes. Murphy proved to be in high spirits as he took his time and mingled with fans and signed autographs

Comparing acting to his pop music career Styles said: 'It feels a little different for sure you've done the thing already so this is the fun bit.

'I loved it I had a great time I've been very fortunate to be part of this film.

'When I heard about Chris doing it I was kind of already excited to watch it to be honest and I just wanted to be involved.

'The story is such an important piece of British history . And I think everyone thought we were making something special.

Real deal: Dunkirk veterans Arthur Taylor (left) and war veteran Bill Gladden (far right) stepped out on the red carpet

Murphy looked fresh-faced and ready to celebrate the new film, which is set to hit UK cinemas on 20 July

The musician's performance received a warm reception from critics and his co-stars so far.

Murphy, who takes on the role of Shivering Soldier, was dressed to impress in a fitted suit, which he paired with a baby blue shirt and a slick navy tie.

The talented actor, who is famed for his role in BBC's Peaky Blinders, looked at ease as he made an early arrival to the event in his suave ensemble.

The star's locks were shaved on both sides, which put emphasis off his chiselled features and piercing blue eyes.

The handsome star (left) made a style statement in a unique printed three-piece suit set, which teased at his muscular frame. He posed alongside his beautiful wife Charlotte Riley

The Hammersmith-born talent, who sported a sexy, scruffy beard, completed the striking look with a pair of black boots

Hardy wasn't the only one bringing out the glamour, as he was joined by his beautiful wife Charlotte Riley


The evacuation from Dunkirk was one of the biggest operations of the Second World War and was one of the major factors in enabling the Allies to continue fighting.

It was the largest military evacuation in history, taking place between May 27 and June 4, 1940. The evacuation, known as Operation Dynamo, saw an estimated 338,000 Allied troops rescued from northern France. But 11,000 Britons were killed during Operation Dynamo, and another 40,000 were captured and imprisoned.

Described as a 'miracle of deliverance' by wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, it is seen as one of several events in 1940 that determined the eventual outcome of the war.

The Second World War began after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, but for a number of months there was little further action on land. But in early 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway and then launched an offensive against Belgium and France in western Europe.

Hitler's troops advanced rapidly, taking Paris - which they never achieved in the First World War - and moved towards the Channel.

They reached the coast towards the end of May 1940, pinning back the Allied forces, including several hundred thousand troops of the British Expeditionary Force. Military leaders quickly realised there was no way they would be able to stay on mainland Europe.

Operational command fell to Bertram Ramsay, a retired vice-admiral who was recalled to service in 1939. From a room deep in the cliffs at Dover, Ramsay and his staff pieced together Operation Dynamo, a daring rescue mission by the Royal Navy to get troops off the beaches around Dunkirk and back to Britain.

On May 14 1940 the call went out. The BBC made the announcement: 'The Admiralty have made an order requesting all owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30ft and 100ft in length to send all particulars to the Admiralty within 14 days from today if they have not already been offered or requisitioned.'

Boats of all sorts were requisitioned - from those for hire on the Thames to pleasure yachts - and manned by naval personnel, though in some cases boats were taken over to Dunkirk by the owners themselves.

They sailed from Dover, the closest point, to allow them the shortest crossing. On May 29, Operation Dynamo was put into action.

When they got to Dunkirk they faced chaos. Soldiers were hiding in sand dunes from aerial attack, much of the town of Dunkirk had been reduced to ruins by the bombardment and the German forces were closing in.

Above them, RAF Spitfire and Hurricane fighters were headed inland to attack the German fighter planes to head them off and protect the men on the beaches.

As the little ships arrived they were directed to different sectors. Many did not have radios, so the only methods of communication were by shouting to those on the beaches or by semaphore.

Space was so tight, with decks crammed full, that soldiers could only carry their rifles. A huge amount of equipment, including aircraft, tanks and heavy guns, had to be left behind.

The little ships were meant to bring soldiers to the larger ships, but some ended up ferrying people all the way back to England. The evacuation lasted for several days.

Prime Minister Churchill and his advisers had expected that it would be possible to rescue only 20,000 to 30,00 men, but by June 4 more than 300,000 had been saved.

The exact number was impossible to gauge - though 338,000 is an accepted estimate - but it is thought that over the week up to 400,000 British, French and Belgian troops were rescued - men who would return to fight in Europe and eventually help win the war.

But there were also heavy losses, with around 90,000 dead, wounded or taken prisoner. A number of ships were also lost, through enemy action, running aground and breaking down. Despite this, Dunkirk was regarded as a success and a great boost for morale.

In a famous speech to the House of Commons, Churchill praised the 'miracle of Dunkirk' and resolved that Britain would fight on: 'We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!'

Murphy proved to be in high spirits as he took his time and mingled with fans and signed autographs.

Taking after Murphy, Tom Hardy looked every inch the hunk as he sported shaved head on both sides - with the rest of his locks slicked back in the middle.

The handsome star made a style statement in a unique printed three-piece suit set, which teased at his muscular frame.

Mixing and matching different colours, Hardy donned a baby blue shirt, with white collars, alongside a slick maroon coloured tie.

The Hammersmith-born talent, who sported a sexy, scruffy beard, completed the striking look with a pair of black boots.

Dapper: Acting heavyweight Mark Rylance looked handsome in an all-black ensemble complete with a bowler hat which he tipped as he stood in front of a Spitfire MK1. Crowds screamed with delight as he beamed at them from the red carpet

The man behind it all: Director Christopher Nolan (left) looked thrilled a the culmination of his hard work as he arrived with his wife, Emma Thomas. Right: Charlotte Riley turned heads in her stunning low-cut jumpsuit

Arriving: Kenneth Branagh, who plays the part of Commander Bolton, looked handsome as he made a slick appearance on the red carpet. He was also spotted sharing a joke with Prince Harry with co-stars Barry Keoghan and Cillian Murphy

Night of film: Dermot O'Leary and Dee Koppang headed to the world premiere for the film in Leicester Square, central London

Busy day! Prince Harry, who this morning welcomed Queen Letizia of Spain with a kiss on the cheek as they met outside Westminster Abbey. The engagement was the first time the royal had been tasked with a formal role in a state visit

Glam: Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard was in high spirits as he arrived with a female companion for the movie spectacle

Edgy look: The star stood out on the red carpet, despite being dressed in a stylish all-black suit to match his dark hair

The various red carpet hunks were joined by their co-star Fionn Whitehead, who takes on the role of Tommy in the eagerly anticipated flick.

The star, whose claim to fame will be Nolan's Dunkirk, did his best to make a style statement for his big night.

The rising star looked handsome in a fitted grey plaid three-piece suit, which consisted of a blazer, wasitcoat and trousers.

A crisp white shirt and black tie completed the suave look, as did a pair of shiny black boots.

Don't miss it! Dunkirk is set for release on 20 July with filming having taken place in Holland, the UK and Los Angeles

Plot: The film begins in 1940 with hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops hemmed in by the German army on the beaches of northern France

Impressively done: The acclaimed director, who boasts the likes of The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Interstellar on his resume, has paid astonishing attention to detail while filming the project

'We were trapped on the sands': Dunkirk veteran's account of the 1940 evacuation

If you told George Wagner in 1940 where his Dunkirk story would take him, the old soldier would never have believed you.

But tonight, the 97-year-old veteran walked the red carpet with Prince Harry to watch a screening of Christopher Nolan's blockbuster – a movie based on the evacuation George remembers all too well.

In 1939 at the age of 19, George was sent to Europe with the Royal Engineers as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

But just 11 days after invading Belgium and the Netherlands, the German Army surrounded the BEF on the beaches of Dunkirk, northern France.

Remembers it all too well: In 1939, at the age of 19, George Wagner (pictured) was sent to Europe with the Royal Engineers

George, from Litchfield, near Birmingham, said: 'We were trapped on the sands at La Panne and we tried to get off. I'd been on the beach for about two-and-a-half, three days.

'I had nothing to eat or anything like that.

‘My unit that I was with, we drove every lorry into the sea and then we took the bridging equipment and put it on top of the lorries so they could walk into deeper water.’

He recalled the tragic moment the Germans started to shell his position, killing most of the men in his unit.

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That’s how the BBC’s 1973 series ‘The World At War’ describes the dire prospects of Britain and her allies at the end of the Battle of France.

Those who hadn’t been killed, cut off, encircled or captured now huddled in a rapidly shrinking pocket in and around the beaches of Dunkirk, awaiting the terrible coup de grace.

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The Fall Of France

Allied prospects hadn’t started out this badly, nor had morale been this low. In fact, having already fought two wars against Germany in the 70 years prior, France thought it might finally have its neighbour’s number.

After the joint invasion of Poland in September, 1939, by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, German forces had been largely reassigned to the west - and it was obvious to the French they might be the next target.

By May 1940, they were expecting, along with their British allies, either an incursion directly across the French and German frontier, reminiscent of the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, or a re-run of the Schlieffen Plan.

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This was the gambit used by Germany in the opening moves of World War 1. Knowing the French were likely to try and retake Alsace and Lorraine, territories lost in the 1871 Treaty of Frankfurt, German planners had used this to their advantage.

By leaving a token force in this area, the French were drawn into a trap as the bulk of the German Army outmanoeuvred them and ploughed through Belgium, then swung into northern France.

Having overcome unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Belgians and the relatively tiny BEF (British Expeditionary Force), the Germans had very nearly taken Paris. Were it not for ‘the Miracle on the Marne’, the war on the Western Front might very well have been over by Christmas, 1914 – and Germany would have won.

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French Defence Plans

By 1940, the French answer to the problem of keeping the Germans at bay was the Maginot Line. This was, however, a bit of a misnomer. It turned out to be prohibitively expensive and therefore went unfinished, resulting in less of a ‘line’ and more of a network of forts and other defensive positions.

This network ran along much of France’s eastern border and its strongest section was on the shared French-German frontier. Further north, less robust defences were dotted across the landscape, tracking along Luxembourg and Belgium and up to the Channel coast.

Unlike the Germans, the British and French weren’t prepared to pre-emptively violate Belgian territory (this had been a large part of the justification for Britain going to war with Germany in World War 1, after all). However, if the Germans did cross into Belgium again (or Holland, for that matter), Britain and France were willing and ready to do so as well in order to help push the invaders out. This, however, was not formally co-ordinated with the Belgians. As much as they would have welcomed the extra help, they were also conscious not to provide Germany with a pretext to invade because they were working so openly with Britain and France.

As far as the French and British were concerned, this should have been fine anyway. Both routes into France, they reckoned, had been blocked. A repeat of the Franco-Prussian War would see the Germans smack right into a concrete wall along their border with France, whilst another Schlieffen Plan would spark an immediate Allied defence of Belgium (and/or the Netherlands), one that had a sturdy line of forts in northern France as backup, should it falter.

The only question now was, when the attack came, would it be like 1870 or 1914?

German Attack

The answer was 1914, sort of.

The Germans did attack the Maginot Line, but this was essentially a feint. Further north, a larger-scale attack was unleashed on Belgium and the Netherlands, but even this was not the heart of the operation. Unbeknownst to the Allies, the Nazis had also found, and taken, a third route into France.

The Ardennes region, located mostly in Belgium and Luxembourg, but also reaching into France and Germany, is thickly forested with rough, mountainous terrain. For this reason, it was considered to be largely impassable by mechanised forces. The Allies, therefore, had a lighter defensive footprint here, expecting to encounter a token force consisting only of German foot soldiers at best.

Despite the British inventing the tank, the Germans had now become experts in deploying them. Surpassing all expectations, German Panzer divisions - consisting of not just the infantry that the French and British expected, but also motorised troops and tank regiments - came crashing through the Ardennes.

Air reconnaissance did establish this spear thrust was coming, but the thick foliage masked the sheer scale of the attack. The French moved two armoured, three infantry and one mechanised division (an infantry formation with transport) into the area from their pool of reserves further back, but these units would have been no match for the 45 German divisions.

Operation Dynamo

The Germans had already punched through the token forces in their path, and soon swept north and surrounded the British and French armies. Len Deighton’s ‘Blood, Tears and Folly’ gives an insight into just why this was so easy for the Germans:

“The tactical failing of Allied tank warfare was to send tank against tank the Germans knew that armour should be used against vulnerable targets, while mobile batteries of high-velocity anti-tank guns dealt with enemy armour. Allied tank experts also knew all this, but tank experts were not consulted by the higher commands.”

Just as the military situation had fallen apart, many citizens performed their civic duties little better than the military men protecting them. German propaganda had taken full advantage of the political divide in France between communists, socialists and fascists. (Open divisions in Germany had of course largely disappeared since the Nazis had crushed their opponents).

Stirring the pot was fairly easy with a population so divided against itself and with the trauma of the last war still very much alive in the public memory. The French were reminded that Britain had persuaded (‘pressured’) them to go to war, and how terribly unfair it was that French soldiers were paid so poorly compared to their British counterparts.

Beyond German prodding, the far ends of the political spectrum had also both done their bit to contribute to the disaster, with communists engaging in industrial sabotage, leading to substandard equipment here and there (as well as some accidents) fascists, meanwhile, often sympathised with the Nazis and, in Holland, even went as far as dressing up like military police so they could help German paratroopers take bridges.

The German advance was so rapid that French Premier Paul Reynaud was soon telephoning Winston Churchill, who had only just become the Prime Minister upon the resignation of Neville Chamberlain. Reynaud told him:

“We have been defeated… We are beaten we have lost the battle.”

Following this bombshell, the British started planning and then executed ‘Operation Dynamo’ (the evacuate all the country's troops) on May 26, 1940. Walter Lord relates in ‘The Miracle of Dunkirk’ that the mission name had come from the room at Naval HQ in Dover Castle that contained the building’s electric generator - a dynamo - where the whole plan was put together.

German Advance

Originally, the effort had called for the use of the ports at both Dunkirk (or Dunkerque) and Calais, but the Germans captured the latter early on May 26, following a three-day siege.

Their advance seemed unstoppable, and when Dynamo began, the expectation was that only 50,000 troops might be extracted from France and ferried back to Britain. To put that in perspective, the British had started out with roughly 400,000 men on the Continent in May of 1940.

Osprey Publishing’s ‘France 1940: Blitzkrieg in the West’ tells us that when fighting had started on this front, the tip of the spear for Britain had been its 10 front line infantry divisions (it also had three Line of Communications, or Signals, divisions and one tank brigade) the French, meanwhile, had had 94 divisions, the Belgians 22 and the Dutch 10 (for a total of 136). Hitler had 157 divisions in total but was only able to commit to the same number as the Allies to his invasion of France. In any event, 93 of those took part in the invasion discussed (45 alone in the Ardennes) while the rest were available as reserves.

So both sides had numerical parity. What is less well known is that they also had armoured parity - French tanks were actually as good and as numerous as German ones. (Admittedly though, Germany had better aircraft and more of them). It was the brilliant and rapid Ardennes manoeuvre that won the day, cutting the Allies in half and allowing the Germans to rapidly overwhelm them.

'Golden Bridge'

But there was a silver lining, one that would allow far more troops than the original 50,000 estimated to slip away.

On May 24, Hitler had unexpectedly halted the advance of his Panzer units. This incredibly fortuitous blunder gave the Allies time to organise a more comprehensive rescue. The question is, therefore, why did Hitler do it?

One theory is known as the ‘Golden Bridge’, suggesting that Hitler deliberately held back so the Britain could recover more of its troops. The idea is that he wanted to facilitate more congenial negotiations with the British, who he wished to settle his differences with and remove from the war diplomatically once the Battle of France was over.

There is merit to this notion. Hitler was a kind of Anglophone, envious of Britain’s vast empire and keen to emulate it. It was also clear to anybody who’d read his rantings in ‘Mein Kampf’, first published in 1925, that he despised Russia as well as the Jews. Since the 1917 Russian Revolution had produced a Bolshevik government there, Hitler had come to consider leftists, Russians and Jews to be more or less synonymous enemies.

Thus, any serious observer knew the military marriage between the far-right Hitler and far-left Stalin was one of mere convenience. As soon as France was taken care of, Hitler was always likely to want to deal with the British quickly so that he could get on and invade the east, killing, conquering or enslaving the ‘racially inferior’ Slavs in the process.

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But the BBC’s ‘The Other Side of Dunkirk’ dismisses the whole Golden Bridge concept. Rather, what the program reveals is that the Nazi war engine was not the terrifyingly efficient machine it appeared to be. Blitzkrieg, or ‘Lightning War’ - Germany’s principle combat and propaganda weapon - had come about partially by accident.

The Germans had certainly been more astute at learning to use and deploy their tanks, but there was not, at the beginning of the invasion of France, a broad consensus about just how independent Panzer units should be.

One school of thought, in fact, the dominant mode of thinking, advocated a period of pause and consolidation once the German Army had burst out of the Ardennes and punched deeply into France.

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This instinct went right back to the beginning of tank warfare – the Germans, after all, had been on the receiving end of tank attacks both at the Somme in September, 1916, and, far more importantly, at Cambrai in November, 1917.

During this battle, tanks that had infantry tucked up closely for support had been far less likely to be taken out by field artillery. But at the village of Flesquieres, the attack launched by the 51 Highland Division ground to a halt. Crucially, tanks here lacked that uniform proper infantry support. The result was that the tanks were more or less turned into 4-mile-an-hour sitting ducks as they were picked off by field guns (a battery specially trained to deal with tanks, one of few in the German Army, happened to be located at the village). Later on, in the cramped village streets of Fontaine-Notre-Dame, they also had tracks blown off by German soldiers using sandbags filled with grenades.

Hitler's Command

As a result of this, the instinct to integrate infantry and tanks appears to have been difficult to break. But XIX Corps commander Colonel General Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was innately rebellious. Believing in the principle of more autonomous panzers, he pressed his own tanks to push on once they’d emerged from the Ardennes, despite the consensus view that periods of consolidation were needed.

Guderian’s idea worked spectacularly, kicking the advance into high gear and sending the British and French into headlong retreat. For all intents and purposes, he appeared to have won the argument.

Yet, as the Panzers approached Dunkirk, this earlier decision would now prompt a backlash from Hitler. This is because approval for the German tanks to continue onto Dunkirk from Calais had not been personally approved by the Fuhrer. Ever the icon of authoritarianism, Hitler insisted that ultimate command of the war would not reside with the generals, as it had between 1914 and 1918, but with him, and him alone.

Military historian Colonel Dr Karl-Heinz Frieser put it this way:

“Hitler reacted with one of his famous outbursts of rage. The fundamental question was who should have control over military operations in the future, either the High Command, as in the First World War, or Hitler. This order to stop outside Dunkirk resulted in a kind of revolt, a power struggle between Hitler and the generals. Now who would win this? I repeat again: Hitler wasn’t interested in tactical, operational, strategic, political or ideological questions – he was only interested in a single question, the principle of power, the principle of leadership.”

In other words, Guderian may have won the ideological battle, but that made it all the more important for Hitler to win the war for command and control.

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Getting Off The Continent

Hitler’s dogma would pay considerable dividends for the Allies. They now had some time to organise a proper defence of Dunkirk, and most importantly, to evacuate more troops.

Not that this merciful reprieve was evident on the ground at the time, mind you. For those desperately trying to get out of France, and others working to help them, nothing was easy or straightforward. Even getting to the coast was a logistical nightmare, with staggered retreats having to be organised between the various units of the French, British and Belgian armies. Making matters worse was the intermittent obstacle of roads choked with refugee flows – if the soldiers weren’t sticking around, civilians certainly weren’t going to either.

Meanwhile, at Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo did not start well for the Allies either. On the mission’s first full day, May 27, there were 75 sorties* by German Stuka dive bombers, and 225 regular bomber sorties all aimed at destroying Dunkirk’s ports. Five miles of quays and 115 acres of docks and warehouses were knocked out just in the first wave of air attacks.

(*Sorties are individual operational flights within an air mission flown by each aircraft involved).

In the next wave, the French steamers Aden and Cote d’Azur were struck, as was the British ship Worthtown – just like that, 11,948 tons of steel sank to the bottom of the Channel.

On the surface, the destruction was every bit as complete:

“By noon the port was completely blocked… (the Luftwaffe having) set fire to the town and the Saint-Pol (oil) refinery… killing 1,000 civilians – the huge pall of oily black smoke, rising 3,500m (11,500ft) into the air, providing a beacon for both the raiders and defenders.”

For their part, the RAF provided 200 fighters (Spitfires, Hurricanes and some Defiants) spread across 16 squadrons for air defence over Dunkirk. They, of course, had taken several casualties in the fighting in France (56 pilots KIA and 18 who ended up as POWs). There was also a smattering of Bristol Blenheim IV bombers, although the fighters were the important component.

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Stranded Troops

These aircraft would augment the growing flotilla coming to the rescue of the stranded troops, itself to be augmented later by hundreds of civilian craft that would supplement the Royal Navy’s scores of destroyers, patrol ships, minesweepers, trawlers, anti-submarine boats, gunboats, anti-aircraft, hospital, store and assorted other ships. Yachts and fishing boats would come to be as much a part of this operation as giant naval vessels, for this was an all-out and all-arms operation to salvage Britain’s army and with it, her ability to keep fighting the war.

Everyone would have to pull together as the BEF organised improvised defensive lines along canals and other waterways with its other remaining allies. They’d keep the Germans at bay whilst those on the beach organised assembly and embarkation points. Next, the baton would pass to the Royal Navy who would have to ferry the vast numbers of troops safely across the Channel, while the last link in the chain would need to come in the form of continuous air cover from the RAF. If any of the three arms failed in its overall mission, the whole operation, and quite possibly Britain’s entire war effort, would end in disaster.

Arriving at Dunkirk later that day, Senior Naval Officer (SNO-Dunkirk) Captain William G Tennant surveyed the carnage. Without ports to dock at for the large Royal Navy vessels, getting the hordes of men off the beaches would be impossible. (Larger vessels have bottoms that extend quite a long way below the water line, making them more stable on the high seas but also less-able to navigate shallower coastal waters). He needed smaller ships, and signalled Dover:

“Please send every available craft to beaches East of Dunkirk immediately. Evacuation tomorrow night is problematic.”

Using lighter, more flat-bottomed craft to get men between the beaches and the ships further out at sea was now essential. The beach in closest proximity to the dock at Dunkirk was Malo-les-Bains.

Others utilised for the evacuation were Bray-Dunes and La (or De) Panne, both further east (the latter just beyond the French-Belgian border), making the whole evacuation zone about 20 kilometres from west to east.

While the Navy were frantically organising the beaches, the Army were continuing to fight a desperate rear-guard action to keep the Dunkirk pocket from collapsing.

This required dedicated professionalism and bravery from all involved, as units were either picked, mercifully for them, to be the next ones to leave, or alternatively to be those holding the line against overwhelming odds.

Major-General Bernard Montgomery and the 13,600 men in his 3 Division were some of the luckier ones, falling in and heading for the beaches while 4 and 5 Divisions held the line. Also involved in defence of the pocket were the men of 3 Battalion, the Grenadier Guards (of 1 Infantry Division).

Their job was to counterattack on the evening of May 27 to help other British and Belgian units that were cracking under the pressure of the continuous German onslaught.

Doug Dilby’s ‘Fall Gelb 1940 (2): Airborne Assault on the Low Countries’ describes what happened next:

“With the sun at their backs and a stout defence before them, the guardsmen began their attack… supported by barrages from five artillery regiments. However, soon they were subjected to heavy artillery and mortar fire themselves and were slowed by the cumbersome crossing of a deep, five-foot wide stream and ‘innumerable fences’.”

Machine-guns soon spat bullets at them from behind nearby trees while a farm burned in the distance:

“By the time 1 and 2 companies reached the (Comines-Ypres Canal), they had suffered such horrendous casualties they were unable to hold the line and fell back a quarter of a mile to where 3 and 4 companies had dug in – using their bayonets as picks and shovels – in a long field ditch. The battalion held out against German shelling and attacks through the night and all the next day.”

A mere nine officers and 270 men, from an estimated 412 who’d started the attack on May 27, finally withdrew to Dunkirk at 10:00 pm on May 28. (Total infantry battalion strength during World War 2 was over 800, a significant number of whom would have been auxiliary personnel supporting the front-line infantry with signals, transport and heavy fire. By this point in the battle though, many units would have already been understrength because of losses and the confusion of battle).

While the British and French were fighting on, the Belgians were getting ready to wind things down. In Dunkirk 1940, Dildy relates that King Leopold had telephoned Lord Gort, Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, to say:

“The time is rapidly approaching when [we] will be unable to continue the fight. [I] will be forced to capitulate to avoid a collapse.”

Leopold really couldn’t do much more, what with his country swamped by German forces, hospitals stuffed with casualties and ammunition supplies rapidly running out. His only hope now was to capitulate and spare his people any unnecessary further suffering.

Fighting on alone, the French and English were given some respite by both the weather – it was particularly cloudy on May 28 – and the thick smoke of the oil fire started by German raids the previous day. This reduced visibility meant a comparatively light 75 bombing sorties from the Luftwaffe that day.

That didn’t stop the RAF engaging them, but the bombers were so effectively screened by fighter escorts of Messerschmitt Bf 109s that only one bomber was shot down. What’s more, only two Bf 109s were also lost to three Spitfires, eight Hawker Hurricanes and three Defiants (newer aircraft with turret-based rather than forward firing guns).

Beneath the desperate air battles, Captain Tennant – frustrated by this point at the slow rate of extraction – was about to drastically improve the operation’s efficiency:

“At 2200hrs the night before, Capt. Tennant directed one of the personnel ships, the modern 1,162-ton Queen of the Channel, to try docking against the harbour side of the Jetee de l’est (known as the ‘east mole’ to the British). This was a rocky 1,280-metre long (4,200ft) breakwater extending from the base of old fortifications to the harbour’s mouth. Atop tall pilings set in the tumbled stone boulders was a wooden gangway about two metres wide.”

This feature would become a vital and iconic part of the entire evacuation:

“While not designed as a docking or embarkation pier (breakwaters did just that, screening ports from rough seas), in the darkness Captain W. J. Odell eased the cross-Channel steamer to the jetty, the crew made fast a head rope and he warped alongside, secured with lines fore and aft. As Tennant watched, 600 troops shuffled down the makeshift dock and boarded Queen of the Channel via ladders and gangplanks.”

Realising the potential of this feature, Tennant next organised cycles of both human and naval traffic along and into the mole to minimise loading time and maximise the number of men piling onto each ship. Queen of the Channel would subsequently be sunk by a German bomber, but the newly-energised operation was now underway, with many more men now being plucked from the beaches than the mere 7,669 who’d been removed on the first day.

Unfortunately, Luftwaffe attacks were stepped up on May 29. Because they were operating out of Britain and not locally, the RAF were hamstrung by the greater range required of them, something that meant they couldn’t fly for as long as their opponents.

These gaps in RAF activity were taken full advantage of by the Germans, who bombed a number of ships that day.

Weary troops hunkered down and endured the bombing, getting what sleep they could in the violence around them as they awaited their turn to be ushered onto one vessel or another.

One of these men was Charlie Brown, who was with the Royal Army Service Corps of the BEF at Dunkirk and recalled how terrifying things were:

“You’re in a ditch… and you say to yourself ‘For God’s sake, drop (your bombs) and get it over’. They (Stukas) come down one after the other, they had a whistle – oh, the most frightening noise.”

The “frightening noise” was not an accident. As terrifying as Stukas were, they had a significant vulnerability to anti-aircraft guns. Sirens that wailed as they plunged towards the earth were installed precisely so that they could cause psychological mayhem amongst those on the ground, and throw off the aim of anyone trying to shoot them down.

Alistair Horne reminds us in ‘To Lose a Battle: France 1940’ that shooting them down before they delivered their deadly payloads was vital:

“The explosive force of the heavy bombs literally turned batteries upside down, wrecked guns and filled the working parts of anti-aircraft machine-guns with earth and grit. Observers in concrete bunkers were blinded by the dust and smoke and everywhere telephone lines were ruptured.”

Not that those on the Dunkirk beaches even had bunkers to hide in, nor much in the way of anti-aircraft guns to shoot back with. Their only defence was an air offence.

Despite the difficulty the RAF was having, 47,310 men still made it back to England on May 29, proving that, even with savage Luftwaffe assaults, Dynamo was still operating at a far-more efficient rate than it had been.

Beyond the beaches, the perimeter around Dunkirk had now largely been closed, with defensive lines getting tighter and stronger. However, the BEF’s 145 Brigade was still outside of it.

“As darkness fell at 2130hrs the dauntless defenders moved out north-eastwards in a single column. However, they soon stumbled into (the Germans)… and in a series of running battles through the night, the column fragmented into small groups. After sunrise (commanding officer Brigadier) Somerset, 40 officers and almost 2,000 troops were surrounded and surrendered near Watou. The remainder dispersed, finally straggling into the perimeter two to four days later.”

By May 31, this line consisted of 92,000 British and 156,000 French troops arrayed against 120,000 Germans (though, of course, the conquering German Army consisted of many more troops – these were simply the ones immediately opposite those defending Dunkirk).

What’s interesting is that, because the Germans were still conducting their overall attack on France and the Low Countries, Dunkirk had not been their main focus. It wasn’t until this day that the various German operations there would finally come under the umbrella of one commander.

As troops readied themselves to try and penetrate the Allied line, preparing to cross pontoon bridges across the Nieuport Canal, they came under sudden attack from a number of bi-planes that had been thrown into the defensive effort – their 250lb bombs crashing into their ranks, ruining their preparations.

Messerschmitts were soon dispatched to deal with the pesky counter-attacks, but a number of Hawker Hurricanes swooped in and shot down three of them in turn.

Sir Max Aitken, who served as a Hawker Hurricane pilot and squadron leader with the RAF during the battle (and was the son of the press baron of the same name) knew just how important his role was to the operation:

“Our job was to stop enemy aircraft getting to those troops (at Dunkirk). Believe me, if enemy aircraft had got superiority of the air at Dunkirk, they would have massacred those fellows on the beach. Nothing could have been done, they had no guns, they had no anti-aircraft (weapons), and German bombers and German dive bombers – the Stukas – would have just murdered them, and we couldn’t have got those troops off.”

And it wasn’t just about the beaches:

“Another thing the Germans tried to do, of course, was to sink the ships. They knew that the fellows would not be able to swim out to England. Therefore, they had to try and get on the ships, and if they could sink these ships, then the British Army would have been trapped.”

A number of soldiers at Dunkirk later grumbled that the RAF wasn’t doing its job because of the several planes that got through and bombed them. They felt their own pilots were conspicuous by their absence.

What soldiers didn’t realise was that the RAF weren’t visible to them precisely because they were elsewhere, helping to hold the Luftwaffe off. As bad as things were at Dunkirk, they’d have been far worse if more German planes had got through. In the process of stopping them, and of fighting the campaign in France, the RAF’s Fighter Command lost half of all its aircraft, many of them around Dunkirk.

Bombers weren’t the only problem though. German artillery had now got close enough to start shelling the harbour as well. Strong winds and violent surf were also testing the men evacuating on May 31, with a number of small boats that had joined the effort being capsized.

In the skies above, Messerschmitts continued to duel with RAF fighters as they attempted to protect their bombers, which attacked in three waves that day. They downed six of them, and four fighters, but suffered their biggest loss of the campaign for their trouble – six Spitfires, eight Hurricanes and five Defiants. Of course, the men on the beaches were also ‘defiants’, braving the air attacks and artillery fire to continue clambering aboard the vessels relentlessly sent to their rescue. 53,230 made it out that day.

June 1 was worse – in fact, the worst day so far, in terms of air attacks. Five major raids, featuring – as per the usual logistical impediments – big gaps in the RAF response. The result was, in many instances, hordes of Stukas diving out of clear blue skies, screaming at the hapless ships and men below as they dropped their payloads on them.

For their part, when the RAF was able to be present and engaged the enemy, they lost 16 fighters to 14 enemy aircraft.

Ships were also hit, of course:

“Trapped in the narrow channel of Route X (Y and Z were the other escape routes) where manoeuvring was impossible, Foudroyant was ‘submerged in a cloud of Stukas’. Shattered by three direct hits and numerous near misses, the large French destroyer quickly capsized and sank. A French auxiliary minesweeper, tug, two trawlers and a motor yacht rescued 157 crewmen.”

Other ships were also hit, 2,000 survivors subsequently being rescued from the rapidly sinking Brighton Queen alone.

By the end of June 2, the Brits had largely gone from Dunkirk, save for the aircover and those left behind in the chaos of all the fighting still raging at the edges of the defensive pocket. French troops were now in line to be extracted, but in one instance, as exhausted troops under the command of General Barthelemy’s worked their way towards the sea, this went terribly wrong:

“As his ragged, weary warriors tramped towards Malo-les-Bains, ‘a vast crowd of troops materialised[d]… out of the cellars and holes streams of unarmed men appeared, emerging everywhere, converging on the Mole, until they became an immense river of men frozen almost solid at his approaches’.”

This mixed-up and disorganised mass was composed of auxiliary soldiers such as transport drivers and ordnance troops, and their very lack of discipline and order severely hampered the evacuation of Barthelemy’s more uniform (and some might argue, more deserving) men. French historian Jacques Mordal said that “No episode in the epic of Dunkirk caused more heartbreak.”

Despite this setback, 46,792 French troops were still evacuated that day.

As to the success of the operation as a whole, most sources state that around 338,000 troops were rescued. This is about right, but in reality, the situation was more complicated.

Dildy states that 308,888 troops were ferried back to England on British vessels, while 48,474 were evacuated from Dunkirk on French ships, though 26,314 of these men were taken to other French ports (remember that France had not fallen entirely to the Nazis at this point, even if it was looking increasingly likely that it soon would). Of course, the operation was not neat and tidy, and many French soldiers were taken on British ships, with 122,000 ending up in Britain. A handful remained whilst the rest were soon returned to areas of France that had not yet fallen to continue the fight.

More complicated still is the fact that, although it accounted for the bulk of the British troops evacuated from France, Dynamo was not the only operation of this nature being carried out. Of all the troops extracted from Dunkirk, 221,504 had been British. An additional 144,171 British and Canadian personnel who’d been south of the Somme escaped in Operations ‘Aerial’ and ‘Cycle’ three weeks after Dunkirk. This puts the total number of British and Canadian troops who escaped the Continent at 365,675 - an impressive figure given that, as noted, it was originally thought that only around 50,000 men would get out.

Ultimately, as is pointed out in the BBC’s ‘The Other Side of Dunkirk’, this better-than-expected result may have allowed the war to continue. Britain’s improved prospects not only helped it fight on alone, it could have also inspired the US to join the war effort later on.

As we know, it would be a long hard road to eventual victory, but Dunkirk had made the next step in that journey possible, outlined by Winston Churchill in one famous wartime addresses to the Commons:

“The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war… Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’.”

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There were, of course, many ‘finest hours’ in the fight against fascism.

Back on the Continent, the French had continued fighting until most of the British and many of their own men had had a chance to get away.

When the last ships had gone and the Dunkirk campaign drew to a close, French commander General Beaufrere met his opposite number, German General Lieutenant Cranz, at the red brick Hotel de Ville in Dunkirk. It was over.

In a formal ceremony, the two men exchanged Cranz’s steel helmet for the French general’s kepi (military cap).

Accepting Beaufrere’s surrender, Cranz asked:

For more on the Battle for France and the Dunkirk operation, read ‘Dunkirk 1940: Operation Dynamo’ and ‘Fall Gelb 1940 (1)’ and ‘Fall Gelb 1940 (2)’ by Doug Dildy. ‘France 1940: Blitzkrieg in the West’ from the ‘Battles of World War II’ series gives additional information. Visit Osprey Publishing for more military history.

Charlie Waite, Dunkirk Veteran (2 of 2) - History

Charlie celebrated his 100th birthday 12th march this year 2016 , died 31 august 2017

Charles Rodaway 2nd LOYAL NORTH REGIMENT WW2


I have add the pleasure of a drink or two with him and his wife Sheila in BLACKPOOL he was sentenced to death along with his pal William nifty SMITH they were saying goodbye to each other when the firing squad downed rifles and marched off

Statement of Everett D. Reamer

Solitary Cell September 18, 1944-August 22, 1945

Sakai Prison built in 1927 of brick construction. Solitary cells were isolated and
very small with a solid door having a screened slot for viewing prisoners.
There was no heat or fan no water, a wooden pail for a toilet, one light hung from
the ceiling, a small barred window at the rear of the cell.
My clothing was one thin shirt, one thin trousers, no shoes or socks, no jacket or
kimono as indicated in the report. No wooden box, only the floor to sit on. Only one thin blanket for cover ? not two as indicated in the report. I was required to sit all day on the floor, lying down was permitted only between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Meals were assigned numbers 1 through 7. One being the largest amount ? seven being the smallest. I received a #5 ration, not a #3 as indicated.
Bathing was usually allowed once a month no soap, no wash cloth or towel, no
clean clothing. Refer to three barrels in the report.
Exercise was in the yard ? not every day as indicated. We were lucky if we were
allowed to exercise twice a month. We were fortunate to be able to exercise with the foreign civilians, most of whom were fluent in Japanese and other languages, including English. It was from these foreign civilians that we learned a little about the progress of the war (on the sly, of course).
My hands and feet were frozen in January 1945. No medical help was offered. I
laid down during the day to get attention. My cell door would be opened and I would be beaten for not sitting up. After serious infection from frost bite, the warden spoke in English and asked me what was wrong. When I told him about the frost bite infection,he ordered me taken to the medical station, where I got some relief and returned to my cell. I was later beaten by the two medical techs at the medical station. As stated, during air attacks, I was handcuffed with hands behind my back and left in my cell.
Eight (8) Allied POW?s were in Solitary at Osaka Sakai Prison:
Everett D. Reamer U.S. Army From Osaka Camp #1
Louis J. Bradsher U.S. Army Osaka Camp #1
Robert A. Newton U.S. Marine Corps Zentsugi Camp
Francis J. Joslin U.S. Army Unknown ? not Osaka #1
William H. Smith British Army Unknown
Charles A. Rodaway British Army Unknown
Gary DeVoss Dutch Army Unknown
Ben Magdon U.S. Army Unknown
Eight (8) Civilians in Solitary at Osaka Sakai Prison:
1 Russian Prisoner (name unknown) spoke several languages
1 Russian Prisoner (name unknown) spoke only Russian
1 German Prisoner (name unknown) spoke English, Japanese (was tortured)
1 German Prisoner ? Herbert Wellweber spoke English, Japanese
1 Dutch Prisoner (name unknown) spoke English, Japanese
1 Dutch Prisoner (name unknown) died in prison 1945
1 French Prisoner (name unknown) spoke English, Japanese
1 unknown nationality ? Mike Bonifer spoke several languages
To survive being in Solitary Confinement, and with no amenities and little food, frequent abuse and constant insults speaks volumes of the will to survive, and most of us did until our recovery on August 22, 1945.
Everett D. Reamer, P.O.W. (U.S. Army)
Final prison cell #13 Prison #1589

Charlie, after the war meeting up with L/R Norman Craven of Manchester, Reggie Hunt of Blackpool, Charles Rodaway., Jack Broughton and his wife Ida of Cheshire.

birthday card from Charlie to Nifty, turns out Charlie was a very good artist

Charlie and granddaughter Heather Garriock is 100 birthday 12/3/2016

During is youth, Charlie went to sea on the Fleetwood Trawler Swan this would be the second one the first was sunk in 1921 being late for setting off on a later trip he was told to go and find another ship, Charlie told me he was not that bothered he never liked it anyway, so he went to work for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company on THE LADY OF MANN not often you get a photo of a ship going backwards ,and Fleetwood trawler Swan going the right way.


Everett and Toru at the former site of Osaka POW Camp

Testimony of Everett Reamer-

Dunkirk – the remarkable tale of the 40,000 selfless Brits who sacrificed themselves during WW2 to face down Adolf Hitler’s Panzers in a desperate bid to protect their comrades on the beaches of Northern France

Operation Dynamo had defied the odds to save more than 300,000 brave Allied troops from being crushed under Hitler's jackboot.

The daring tale of strategic nous and dogged determination to snatch victory from the jaws of crushing defeat is well documented — and is set to be further ingrained in the national memory as the Christopher Nolan blockbuster Dunkirk hits the big screen.

But what is less vividly remembered is the story of the 40,000 men left behind — men who stoically suffered defeat themselves to help bring about the "miracle" of their comrades making it back to Blighty.

For every seven men shipped across the English Channel between May and June 1940 — while the German army massed on the outskirts of the heavily shelled Northern French town — one was left behind to have his fate decided by the ruthless Wehrmacht.

To many, this fate at times appeared worse than dying on the battlefield.

"A lot of those 40,000 men were marched hundreds of miles into Germany and Poland and spent the rest of the war working in mines, fields, and factories. They became slave labour", documentary maker Steve Humphries explained to the Telegraph.

The British Expeditionary Force had been deployed to help defend our continental Allies after Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939.

But Berlin's menacing Blitzkrieg strategy of devastatingly rapid tank-led warfare proved overwhelming for the armies of Belgium and France, despite the help of the British auxiliary force.

Survivor Charlie Waite told a TV documentary in 2010: "I think I fired five or 10 rounds on Salisbury Plain, and that was supposed to be our weapons training.

“When the Germans attacked us, we had old rifles from the 1914-18 war but none of us had been issued with any ammunition.”

When the retreating Allies were pushed back to the Dunkirk shore by the rolling Nazi war machine, it appeared they were destined to be brutally cut down in what would have been the biggest single military disaster in British history.

But an order from the Fuhrer himself halted his rampaging ground troops to allow Germany's air power to pummel his trapped enemies.

This proved a decisive error on the part of Hitler — who set the overstretched and weary Luftwaffe up against a superior Royal Air Force.

Brit airmen were able to defend the town well enough for the Allies to turn their backs to the wall and set up defences around the small corner of free soil left available around Dunkirk.

A single British battalion was tasked with defending five German-built bridges over a canal circling the town, while other positions were fortified and Operation Dynamo was begun.

Aerial dogfights punctuated the spring sky as troops waded onto the beaches to meet vessels large and small which had been tasked with running the gauntlet of enemy bombers to ship them home — ultimately leading to the rescue of hundreds of thousands.

But heart-wrenching first hand accounts tell how Our Boys who missed the final Navy, merchant and pleasure ships out of the harbour were swiftly rounded up by the advancing Nazi troops.

Their despondency would be compounded by the swift fall of France to Germany's complete control just days later — shutting off any possibility of safe passage home.

Instead, they were beaten into line and ordered to march hundreds of miles back to the centre of the newly expanded German Third Reich.

David Mowatt was 27 when he was rounded up in the ruins of Dunkirk after Winston Churchill told every man left behind to fight to the last round.

He said in 2010: "There was no rest for us. I was here, there and everywhere.

"We were holding the line by day, pulling back at night and forming up for the next day while they were evacuated, until we were out of ammunition, food - everything more or less."

After the surrender, German field marshall Erwin Rommel spoke to the prisoners, telling them he hoped they would not be held for long.

But his soft words masked the harsh reality that was to follow.

Thousands of PoWs were ordered to trudge across what remained of war-scarred Northern Europe towards Germany — suffering daily beatings, intense starvation and appalling sanitation.

He recalled being forced to eat weeds and shrubs by the roadside and contracting excruciating gastroenteritis twice.

"Hundreds died on that march. It was terrible. We were eating buttercups and bloody daisies, nettles, anything.

"Before we marched out, we were told that on the way people would be offering us sandwiches and stuff to eat and drink but that we would be shot if we accepted it".

After two years spent toiling on a farm near Gdansk in occupied Poland, he eventually made it home to Scotland after escaping the clutches of his Nazi captors.

Similar daring escapes saw many manage to create their own miracle of deliverance.

Julian Fane, who was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Gloucestershire Regiment, recalled in a documentary, Dunkirk: The Forgotten Heroes, his experience of arriving back in England after escaping the torment of occupied Europe.

“Twenty miles away we’d been in absolute hell, and suddenly there were men in white flannels on very carefully mown turf playing cricket, as if nothing had happened.

Britain’s biggest family the Radfords show off fancy new £6.5k fridge

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