Vets relive Dunkirk horror

IT was a brave and heroic rescue involving hundreds of naval and civilian ships - and yesterday, almost 70 years later, two veterans of the Dunkirk evacuation relived their terrifying ordeal.

By John Howard

IT was a brave and heroic rescue involving hundreds of naval and civilian ships - and yesterday, almost 70 years later, two veterans of the Dunkirk evacuation relived their terrifying ordeal.

Ted Vickery and Bernard Sharp spoke to the EADT after a service in Ipswich had blessed 20 of the ships which helped in the dramatic operation.

On May 27, 1940, hundreds of ships helped to rescue what was left of the British army, which had been forced to retreat to Dunkirk in the face of marauding German forces.


You may also want to watch:


Mr Vickery, 88, vividly remembers clinging to a packed rowing boat as he was rescued from the chaos by his brave saviours.

The old soldier, who celebrated his 21st birthday on the beach along with Mr Sharp, remembered comrades who never made it home during the service, arranged by the modern day owners of some of the ships used in the rescue.

Most Read

Although the retreat from mainland Europe was militarily a disaster, it was seen as a logistical and morale-boosting success because most of the troops were safely taken away.

The evacuation took about ten days, leaving thousands of troops exposed on the beach waiting to be picked up.

Mr Vickery, who now lives at Henley, was in the Royal Corps of Signals and based at Arras in northern France.

He said: “It was utter chaos and on the beach it was really every man for himself. German fighter planes were bombing and we were fortunate to be among the survivors.

“The fighter planes, the Meshersmits, would spray the beach with machine gun bullets.

“It was a case of trying to see it coming and moving out of the way, you would see the bullets hitting the beach.

“I got out hanging on to the side of a small rowing boat crewed by three sailors, two rowing and one steering.

“I waded out into the water and held the boat so it was not swamped by waves. But the boat was full, with about 15 people, and there was no room for me.

“I was told me they were not leaving me and to hang on to the side. When we were out about 500 to 600 yards we were taken aboard a mine sweeper and landed on the pier at Margate on June 1.”

Mr Sharp, 88, who now lives in Chelsworth Avenue in Ipswich, arrived at Dunkirk by train from near Le Havre where he had been serving with the Royal Engineers.

He and his colleagues travelled in cattle trucks for several days and arrived there just before his birthday, on May 31.

He does not remember anything about being taken off the beach, just arriving in Plymouth at the beginning of June.

Although they are both from Ipswich, neither man knew of the other until many years later, and it was only recently that they realised they had both come of age on the beach at Dunkirk.

They are both stalwarts of the Royal British Legion and joined comrades to mark the arrival of the small ships this weekend.

Ted's son Robin Vickery, from Henley, was among those at a special service at Ipswich's marina attended by veterans.

He said: “It's lovely to see the ships in Ipswich and remembering there place in history in those days. “You think of the people who never returned and who gave their lives so those such as my father were able to return.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus