Don't forget the past

A WARNING that wartime memories could be lost forever has been sounded after the death of a Dunkirk veteran who never boasted about his wartime heroics.

A WARNING that wartime memories could be lost forever has been sounded after the death of a Dunkirk veteran who never boasted about his wartime heroics.

Wally Biggs died at the end of last month at the age of 86 - but now his sister Kay Woollard has warned that as second world war memories fade into history, more should be done to keep them alive.

Mr Biggs, like many men of his generation, joined up to the army at the tender age of 18, just as the Second World War broke out.

In 1940 he found himself fighting for his life on the beaches of Dunkirk in France along with thousands of other British soldiers.

It is estimated that more than 30,000 British men died when allied forces were evacuated in the wake of an onslaught of German troops, the event is now thought of as one of the most brutal eras of the War.

He was lucky enough to be one of the 338,000 men saved in the evacuation, some of which came in the form of the “little ships” made up of local people and fishermen in their boats.

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Mrs Woollard, 82, of Dereham Road in Ipswich, remembers the day her brother returned from Dunkirk.

She said: “He arrived home and when I came in the back gate from work my mother was hosing my brother down with water on the front lawn.”

“Later, I heard him tell my mother that he had been in the water for about eight hours at Dunkirk and he was picked up by a fishing boat which was only able to take about four or five men and it was already full up.”

“He was holding his officer at the time to try and save him, but one of the men told him to let go of him because he'd lost his head.”

The men were sent straight home after Dunkirk, still in the clothes they wore, which were infested with fleas and lice.

Mrs Woollard said: “He got off the train at Ipswich station and came on the bus.

“My brother told me that there had been a lady on the bus who said: 'fancy letting that stinking tramp on the bus!' And the bus driver said: 'If anyone's getting off the bus, it will be you!' ”

Mr Biggs later travelled to London to tell his officer's wife what had happened to her husband and then moved to Norfolk to set up business with his brother-in-law.

Mrs Woollard said as far as she knew he'd never spoken about what happened to him at Dunkirk again.

She said: “In those days we were brought up to keep things to ourselves. There must be people my age and still alive who remember Dunkirk themselves, these stories are part of our history and should be told.”

Have you got a story to tell about Dunkirk?

Were you or a family member involved in the battle?

Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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