Town paying tribute to the heroes of Dunkirk

IPSWICH: It was a war that turned boys into men.

And now, 70 years later, veterans are preparing to unite once again in memory of the fallen heroes of Dunkirk.

Tomorrow, two of the town’s second world war veterans will pay tribute to their comrades in an event organised by the Royal British Legion.

The duo, both from Ipswich, will be guests of honour at the commemoration of Dunkirk, which is set to take place on Orwell Quay.

The evacuation of Dunkirk, which was codenamed Operation Dynamo, came after the speed of the German advance through Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France left hundreds of thousands of British and French troops trapped.

Little ships from across the UK, many of them private fishing boats, were drafted in to support the evacuation, which was led by the Royal Navy. Between May 27 and June 4, 1940, 338,000 troops were rescued from the beaches of northern France.

The operation, while not a victory, was seen as a brilliant rearguard action and led to the “Dunkirk Spirit” in Britain which helped sustain the country during the darkest days of the war.

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Terry Miles, 93, was among the thousands of soldiers retreating on the beaches of northern France, whilst awaiting the support of the flotilla of little ships.

The father-of-two, who worked in transport after the war, told the Evening Star that the 70th anniversary of the events had brought memories flooding back.

After enlisting in 1938, Mr Miles landed in France, on September 27, 1939, after war was declared on September 3.

He was 22 when he served in Dunkirk and made it home on a meat boat swarming with maggots.

He said: “Although I enjoyed my time in the army, I have many memories which I do not want, things which I wish I did not see. Boys came in and went out as men.

“I remember the vibrations of the artillery guns. Every time the Germans would shoot, the ground and the sand would shake. I was scared stiff.

“It was a life saver to get on one of those boats.”

Another veteran preparing for Sunday is Bernard Sharp, who celebrated his 21st birthday on the Dunkirk beach, waiting to be taken off by the small ships and the Royal Navy.

And he will be celebrating his 91st birthday tomorrow by laying a wreath in memory of his fallen comrades at the special Drumhead Service, set to take place at the Ipswich Waterfront. Mr Sharp will also be meeting youngsters to tell them what Dunkirk was like.

He said: “There will be a lot of memories come flooding back. There aren’t many of us now.

“The Dunkirk Veterans’ association has been wound up. I don’t know if there are many other veterans like me left any more.

“It wasn’t really a victory, it was a controlled retreat – but it was used by Churchill and others to inspire the country and it was seen as a turning point in the war.

“We were able to fight again – I went to fight in North Africa.”

n Do you have any wartime memories or relatives who took part in the Dunkirk evacuation? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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