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15 October 2014
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Return from Dunkirk...?

by Allan Scott

Contributed by 
Allan Scott
People in story: 
Leonard Scott
Location of story: 
Around Sidcup
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2272510
Contributed on: 
07 February 2004

Shortly after being called up, my father was posted to Sidcup for basic training. He writes:

'Soon after the Dunkirk evacuation began, orders were issued for all we Sidcup warriors to parade in full marching order at 8 a.m. All equipment was to be cleaned and everything which could be blanco-ed or polished would be blanco-ed or polished. We were divided into detachments, each with our own lieutenant or captain at the head and marched through the nearby villages. Were we to repel a German invasion? If so, why did we carry no ammunition? No, we were there to encourage the villagers into believing that England still had an army. The civilians had other ideas. They thought we were troops returning from Dunkirk! We were cheered and kindly ladies ran alongside offering us cups of tea. It was humiliating. There was no T.V. and live pictures of the real soldiers, the battered, bruised and limping survivors had not yet appeared on the cinema news-reels. Those films, like the Press, were censored.'

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Return from Dunkirk...?

Posted on: 07 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Although I very much enjoyed reading your contribution I would disagree with part of your last paragraph and last sentence: "live pictures of the real soldiers, the battered, bruised and limping survivors had not yet appeared on the cinema news-reels. Those films, like the Press, were censored."

So far as I am aware there was no censorship of the defeat in France nor of the Dunkirk evacuation. Some 30 million people regularly went to the 'pictures' as films were then called and there were many newsreel makers and distributors (Gaumont-British, Movietone, Pathe, amongst others). Newsreels were thus an excellent medium to get the government's message across. As with all news film, surprisingly it is not the images that matter so much as the commentary.
Newsreels of the French roads blocked with fleeing refugees (commented as German inhumanity) and, later, the Dunkirk evacuation (commented as a great miracle) were very widely shown.

 

Message 2 - Return from Dunkirk...?

Posted on: 15 February 2004 by Allan Scott

Hi, Peter,

Thanks for your comment -- I think my father (now 90 years old) would be happy to discuss this with you, and I will pass on your message to him.

This is just a short extract from a much longer book called 'A Danish Wife' -- really a biography of very remarkable mother, who died in 1999. My father is a superb writer, and with his permission I've taken a few short extracts from his work to post on this site in the hope of getting replies like yours.

Thanks again, and I'm sure he'll answer on his own account!

All the best,

Allan Scott

 

Message 3 - Return from Dunkirk...?

Posted on: 15 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Thank you very much, Allan, I look forward to reading more from your father. Ninety! What a grand age!

Best wishes,

Peter

Message 1 - Return from Dunkirk?

Posted on: 07 February 2004 by paul gill - WW2 Site Helper

Good short story! Did your dad see any real action later? Keeping up morale was important. I remember seeing an exhibition of news photographs in Northampton. One had been censored. Was it to stop the Germans getting information? No! It showed a public air raid shelter blown down by a minor gale the night before! The shelter was clearly useless.

As in your father's story it was important to suggest things weren't too bad.

If your dad has any more stories I'd like to read them.

Best wishes

paul

 

Message 2 - Return from Dunkirk?

Posted on: 15 February 2004 by Allan Scott

Hi, Paul,

Thanks for your message -- I'll pass on your kind words to my 90-year-old father!

The piece you read is just a short extract from a much longer book he is currently writing, called 'A Danish Wife' -- really a biography of my late mother. I've posted a number of other extracts on the site, but as an RAPC member he never really saw action of any kind -- his hairiest moments were during the Blitz, and the sea journeys from England to North Africa, and from North Africa to Italy. What's interesting is that he and my mother kept up a long correspondence before, during and after the war, all of which survives.

He's a terrific writer, and all encouragement for this project will be very gratefully received.

I'm still getting to grips with the mechanics of this site :) but I think that if you click on my name you'll be able to find a list of the 7 or 8 other articles I've posted.

Thanks again,

Allan Scott

 

Message 3 - Return from Dunkirk?

Posted on: 15 February 2004 by paul gill - WW2 Site Helper

Sadly my father is very ill at the moment but I look forward to reading the stories in about a month.

I have got used to the site and its odd quirks now but it takes a while.

Your dad was in the pay corps. I assume he doesn't think civilians were encouraged to think they'd come back from Dunkirk?
Did he have any training for the pay corps?

paul

 

Message 4 - Return from Dunkirk?

Posted on: 16 February 2004 by Allan Scott

Hi, Paul,

Try this hot link:
A2272583

It should take you to an extract from my father's book that describes his training at Foot's Cray. There's another good story there about problems with rifle drill...!

All the best,

Allan

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