Why Julia never knew her father who was fatally wounded during Dunkirk evacuation

Dudley Moss, wife Yvonne and baby daughter Julia. Their time together would be tragically short

Dudley Moss, wife Yvonne and baby daughter Julia. Their time together would be tragically short - Credit: Archant

This is a very special picture ? recording for posterity one of perhaps only three occasions that gunner Dudley Moss saw his baby daughter.

Within months of this photograph being taken he’d be fatally injured ? wounded during the evacuation of thousands of allied troops from Dunkirk 75 years ago. Cruel fate meant he was hurt within a few miles of English soil ? perhaps even within sight of his homeland ? when the vessel taking him to safety was hit by the Nazis.

Dudley’s wife Yvonne rushed from Suffolk to be with her husband, who had been brought ashore after the attack, and got there just in time. He died in her arms on June 2, 1940. Their daughter, Julia, was still a few days shy of seven months.

Today, Julia Meek lives in Ipswich, with precious few mementos of the father she never knew and scant details about his life.

“Two medals and the picture. That’s all I’ve got. There’s nothing else. Originally, my mother kept some of the things, but when she moved to a smaller house she threw a lot of things out and I don’t think she kept very much, really. It is a shame.”

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Yvonne volunteered very little about the man she’d married not long after falling pregnant, and her daughter never really pressed. “She never encouraged me to, I suppose. I went to the convent school [off Woodbridge Road in Ipswich] and there was about a third of us without fathers. I’ve got twin friends still; their father was shot down.”

The 75-year-old thus knows hardly anything about her dad’s early life, though it seems he came from Woodbridge and quite probably met Yvonne because she was friends with his sister at one point. “Just, really, what my cousin told me. My mother never said very much. I know when his body was brought home to Suffolk they kept the coffin in the front room until the funeral; that’s what they did in those days. My mother made my grandfather open it to make sure it was him.”

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Dudley and Yvonne had had such little time together ? their only child conceived out of love as the world moved towards its second terrible war in a little over two decades.

Julia knows her parents had lived in Woodbridge for a short time. As a reservist, her father went to war early on. Yvonne would move in with her mother ? “a bit of a tyrant; holier than thou!” smiles Julia, who was born in November, 1939.

She grew up in Withipoll Street, Ipswich, and remembers the air raids. “You accepted it because it was just part of life. It was all you knew.”

Her mother never remarried, though did have a gentleman friend. There was more tragedy, sadly, when he died following an industrial accident at work.

Julia supposes that, as she grew up and life carried on, she never really thought about trying to piece together her father’s story, especially as her mum appeared loathe to rake over the past.

While Julia has this year watched the commemorative war programmes on TV, years ago she’d give such things a wide berth. “I suppose I chose not to watch it when I was young because I didn’t really like it; it brought it all back. Now, I suppose, I wish I had.”

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