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After Dunkirk

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Messages: 1 - 20 of 20
  • Message 1. 

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Tuesday, 21st November 2006

    I have asked this on the War and Comflicks site. What happened when the troops arrived back from Dunkirk. Where they all sent home on leave, or fearing that the German Army was right behind them, were the troops, who were worn out dirty short of weapons, in a lot of cases suffering from what was then called shell shock put to work preparing for invasion. Again, as most landed on the south east coast, that would have meant most of them going through London. How did the transport system cope. No book or film covers this. Thanks for any help. This is what happens when you have to much time on your hands.

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  • Message 2

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper (U519668) on Tuesday, 21st November 2006

    Dear Grumpy Fred -
    From what I can glean from a few sources - the returning troops were first assembled in various areas = cleaned up and sorted out then sent on a short leave to assure their relatives that they were indeed safe for the time being.
    They were then re - assembled into their regimental formations and gradually built up with arms and equipment ready for anything. Many were sent out to Egypt to await the arrival of the Italian army in their first foray into Egypt in the late 1940's, and stayed there for many years !
    Meanwhile the newly arriving five divisions of Canadian troops were given the task of defending the South Coast along with other remnants of the British Army.
    The pre war railway system of Southern railways - GWR - LNER - LMS handled the transport magnificently, on the return from France as they did all during the war. It was after the war with the inception of the Socialist merging and nationalisation into British Rail that caused the slide of efficiency in rail travel which appears to continue !Montgomery prior to D Day, called a meeting of all the rail Union leaders to ask them to maintain their efficiency in the tasks to come - which they did unhesitatingly, to their great credit !

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  • Message 3

    , in reply to message 2.

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Tuesday, 21st November 2006

    Thanks Tom. I can see the reasoning for assembling them before leave. Units would have been scattered all over the place. Some would have landed at Dover, others at Ramsgate or many of the small ports on the south coast. So batalions would have been split up even those who arrived at Dunkirk together would have finished up all over the place. I can sleep tonight.

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  • Message 4

    , in reply to message 3.

    Posted by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper (U519668) on Tuesday, 21st November 2006

    Fred -
    you are so right that we can all sleep better each night owing to what those chaps did in the early days - when I think back to what they went through - and survived to fight here, there, and everywhere to the finish in many cases.
    The history of the 11th Hussars(Cherry Pickers) and the 7th Armoured(Desert Rats) Div is mind boggling - From Dunkirk to Egypt - first foray to the wire to upset the Italians at Sidi Barrani - - up and down the desert - Tobruk - Beda Fomm - Tobruk again - Alam Halfa - El Alamein - Tripoli - Tunisia - Salerno - Naples - D Day and all the way through to the finish in Berlin, make us who followed them to have a fairly cushy time of it.

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  • Message 5

    , in reply to message 4.

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Wednesday, 22nd November 2006

    As I have just posted on another site, my late father was a Royal Marine. He was taken out of basic training and sent to the beaches of Dunkirk to assist in the evactuation. The first my mother knew about it was when he arrived home on survivors leave. His ship had been sunk and he finished up in the water. He had 2 ships sunk under him out there. The first time his was sent back to do his duty, the second time he was landed and sent home. I think the navy decided he was costing them to many ships. The Navy lost about 30 ships in that action, and as many more dock yarded at a time when we faced invasion. I think it was Mountbatton who said it took 4 years to build a ship, and 400 years to build a reputation. The navy (Both White Ensign and Red Duster as well as all those small boat men and women?????)earned their reputation during those dark days. We where in Scarborough in August, and there are two small pleasure boats up there that took part in Dunkirk. One is a flat bottom boat. How the h**l did it brave the North Sea then the English Channel I will never know, but thank Gad they it and the others did.

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  • Message 6

    , in reply to message 5.

    Posted by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper (U519668) on Wednesday, 22nd November 2006

    The facts are often overlooked but the main miracle of Dunkirk was the actions of one man - Admiral Bertie Ramsey who organised the navy and the samll flotillas of civilian boats - he was also responsible for the other miracle of D Day
    and the tremendous job that the Navies did during those days.
    Sadly he did not survive a plane crash over France and so never enjoyed the fruits of his labours.

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  • Message 7

    , in reply to message 6.

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Wednesday, 22nd November 2006

    Yes, Ramsey was overlooked, and a great loss to the country

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  • Message 8

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by stanilic (U2347429) on Sunday, 3rd December 2006


    My grandfather, Sidney Wilson, was a freight manager on the LMS based at Kentish Town in 1940. He ran a team of railwaymen that organised the location of railway trains at the South Coast ports during the Dunkirk evacuation. Their collective knowledge allowed the routing of trains through and around the London area. He did not go home for the entire peiod of the operation.

    He was put in for the OBE afterwards but refused to accept it as by then the Battle of Britain was in full swing and young men were dying. All he said was that he was just doing his job and others deserved a medal more than he.

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  • Message 9

    , in reply to message 8.

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Monday, 4th December 2006

    Stanilic It sounds like your GrandFather and mine would have got on. Both made of the Right Stuff, and saw no reason to be rewarded for doing their duty. Is he still alive. If so, I hope you are getting his life down on paper (Or disc) If not, try and remember his stories and get them down. Ask anybody that remembered him for their stories. I write as a hobby, and have written my Grandfather into a long term story so that his memory will never die. I listened to him as a child. I quiet unassuming man, 5ft 6in looked like a drink of water dressed up, with scars on his chest where as a young man he had tackled a brown bear with his bare hands to save a young baby. I wrote that into the story.


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  • Message 10

    , in reply to message 9.

    Posted by LongWeekend (U3023428) on Tuesday, 5th December 2006


    You're right in that no single book covers this, but the various divisional and regimental histories do. You have to dig.

    It depended on when units came back, and in what state. They didn't all come back sans boots, sans rifles, sans everything. Alanbrooke's II Corps, which came out first, in particular, was in reasonable order, apart from heavy equipment. The plan was to reissue kit and send it (3rd and 4th Divs) back to France.

    The later evacuees, in much worse state, were sent on leave while the situation was sorted out. RN personnel from ships that were sunk got the traditional "survivors leave".

    Most of the French evacuated had been returned to France before the surrender - there was still a lot of shipping going to and fro.

    It's going to be a great novel, but you to do the research.

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  • Message 11

    , in reply to message 10.

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Tuesday, 5th December 2006

    I know that some soldiers came back in just clothes they stood up in.Some even minus their boots as they found it hard to swim in them. Other battalions came back ready to fight. The Guards for one. In my story, I have followed a depleated company of Infantry who's convoy is dive bombed, and a sniper left behind to delay the advance. I have added the murder of British P O Ws, but with the sniper taking revenge. I as part of my job have spoken to a number of the local Dunkirk Vets which has helped, but sadly each year more of them pass on.

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  • Message 12

    , in reply to message 9.

    Posted by stanilic (U2347429) on Tuesday, 5th December 2006


    Thanks for your kind words. My paternal grandfather died in 1966. I either took my A level history or went to his funeral. He would expect me to take the exam and so that is what I did. He was an unassuming man who spoke little about himself but was an excellent exemplar. I only got the Dunkirk story from within the family as he would never mention it.

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  • Message 13

    , in reply to message 12.

    Posted by ritsonvaljos (U1268437) on Wednesday, 6th December 2006

    Hello GrumpyFred Stanlic and others,

    One of the stories I posted to the "People's War" website was about a kinsman of mine, James Parkinson, who was evacuated from Dunkirk with his pals. In case you would like to read this, here is the link to that story:

    I have known and talked to a number of Dunkirk Veterans, some of whom no longer with us. The ones I talked to were mostly among the last troops evacuated from the Beaches. This is written in the official records, not just uncorroborated oral testimony incidentally. Those who got away were the lucky ones. Many were taken prisoner or never made it at all. I've also read the Official War Diaries of some of the Regiments involved in the retreat to Dunkirk.

    Some of the other stories I've posted to the website on behalf of Veterans include reminisces about what happened immediately after the evacuation. You should be able to find these and other accounts via the Search Engine of the main "People's War" site.

    These last fellows out were given no instructions about what to do. It was every man for himself. My cousin James Parkinson had no money, no ticket, no food: nothing. He got on the train and went home to his mother. They posted him as missing and until he reported back to base a week later the authorities did not know he had made it back.

    There is another gentleman I know who was at Dunkirk with James and a lot of other men from my locality. He is one of the few I know still living who was at Dunkirk. Several times I've asked him specifically about his wartime story of Dunkirk. But basically he just shakes his head. However, over the odd drink or two, he occasionally comes out with one or two snippets of information. I know what he says is correct because some of his pals have usually told me over the years. He is a great fellow and one of those quiet unassuming wartime veterans.

    Many of those who were at Dunkirk have taken, or will take, their memories to the grave. If you learn what it was really like from those who have spoken or written about it, you realise what it was like and why these others never talked about it.

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  • Message 14

    , in reply to message 13.

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Thursday, 7th December 2006

    Some men have a tendency to play down what the did or saw. They will say things like "A bit hairy," My father would talk forever about the fun he had, but never or hardly ever about the mud blood and guts bit. My uncles were the same. We still owe them everything.

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  • Message 15

    , in reply to message 1.

    Posted by Willard1972 (U6715338) on Friday, 29th December 2006


    My Grandfather served in the 2nd Btn Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry which formed part of the BEF that were evacuated from Dunkirk.

    My Grandfather was injured during the fight back to the beaches(he had to have his leg ampuated onboard a ship back to the UK) and was subsequently invalided out of the Army in 1941;

    However, I learnt that his regiment were, following a breif period of leave, reformed and eventually sent to N. Africa. They then fought through the NA campaign, across Scicily and up through Italy including Monte Cassino, where, as with most of the allies, they suffered heavy losses.

    I am sure that with the amount of men arriving back from France the transport system in the south of England was certeinly put to the test. I wonder how it would handle the same amount of people today?

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  • Message 16

    , in reply to message 15.

    Posted by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper (U519668) on Sunday, 31st December 2006

    Dear Willard
    The 2nd battalion of the DCLI regt was a member of 10th bde of the 4th Infantry Division along with the 2nd Beds & Herts - 1st Warwicks and the 1/6th East Surreys - which was unusual as normally only three battalions to a brigade although one of them might have been machine gunners although they did have a Battalion of Northumberlands in the Division.
    They landed at Algiers with 1st Army and made their way to the first battle of Medjez el Bab along with 78th Div, 46th Div and 6th Armoured div with the 21st tabk bde lending tank support.
    The reinforced German Army of Von Ahrnim held them at Longstop Hill for the winter, and in the sping the took battle in the remaining battles at Kasserine and others.
    In May they were part of the force with 6th Armoured and the 21st Tank bde and 25th tank bde
    along with 7th Armoured and 4th Indian Div with 201 Guards Bde from 8th Army to finally get through Longstop and Medjez el bab and within three days were in Tunis and on to Cap Bon where the Africa Corps and Von Ahrnim's men surrendered.
    They missed out on Sicily but were whisked over to Italy in such a rush that they left everything but their small arms in their camp, which we had to clean up after their "Moonlight Flit"
    In Italy they were involved in the third Battle for Cassino as well as the push through the Gustav / Hitler lines, then after a month's rest for reinforcements they came on to the Gothic Line with 5th Corps of 46th & 56th Divs and went through the Coriano Ridge where many still lay in the Cemetery there along with the other 14,000 dead of the month long Battle.
    I'm not sure but I believe they finished the war in Greece with the 4th Indian Div.
    The whole division was highly thought of and their Commander Maj gen Dudley Ward was always on the spot.
    Hope this helps !

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  • Message 17

    , in reply to message 16.

    Posted by Willard1972 (U6715338) on Tuesday, 2nd January 2007

    Trooper Tom,

    Thanks for the info it is very useful. I travelled down to Bodmin (DCLI Museam)in order to try and find out about my Grandfather,s regiment. Its a small but very intersting museam and worth a vist.

    The regiment was eventually amalgamated with a Somerset LI regiment (i think). Not sure what its called not - can you help?

    Defence cuts again!


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  • Message 18

    , in reply to message 17.

    Posted by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper (U519668) on Tuesday, 2nd January 2007

    Williard -
    In 1959 the Dukes were amalgamated with the Somersets to become the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry but since then I have no doubt that the New Labour have run out of money once more and cut even deeper and so probably all the Light regiments are now one with a number, thus destroying the age old County affiliations and no doubt soon will resemble the American fashion of numbering all of their regiments - at one point they were known as the "Light Division" but that has probably gone as well.
    My own regiment founded in 1689 as the 16th Lancers in 1922 became the 16/5th Lancers incorporating the 5th Irish Lancers - then in 1993 - after the Gulf 1 - was amalgamated with the 17/21st Lancers to become the Queens Royal Lancers(and still is - this week !) and a member of 7th Armoured Div - now sits in Catterick Camp as a training regiment for the next five years !
    This after their work in the 6th Armoured Div in North Africa - Italy and Austria - then back to Egypt ! Politicians seldom serve in the front lines !

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  • Message 19

    , in reply to message 15.

    Posted by Grumpyfred (U2228930) on Tuesday, 2nd January 2007

    Willard, thanks for that. My father followed almost the same route except he landed on the Dunkirk beaches. Then left Italy after Anzio to return home for Normandy. His war finished early 1945 when his officer (A young kid) turned the Jeep over and almost killed him and everybody else.

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  • Message 20

    , in reply to message 19.

    Posted by boabbie (U6156662) on Tuesday, 14th August 2007

    Report message20

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