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15 October 2014
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Jim Miles in Dunkirk

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Jim Miles, Bob Mellish, Buster Brown, Captain Lofts, Charlie Coombs, Carrie Simpson
Location of story: 
Dunkirk, Albert Canal (Belgium),Kemmel
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the Peoples War site by Douglas Hayler from Chichester Library and has been added to the website on behalf the writers uncle , Michael Heath with his permission and he fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

The story is in the form of a letter from Jim Miles who is now sadly deceased.It is entered in his own words with some punctuation added

I will tell you firstly it all started like my officer said to me come on Jim we have a recci job to do and at that time we were in Belgium, so we had to cross over the Albert Canal and find a tall building which wouldgive us a good view of the countryside, we found one which was about six storeys high. We made ourselves comfortable and got the glasses out, it was a good view of about a mile. Anyway we kept having a look through the glasses and we did this for about an hour and then my officer was getting a bit worried he said HQ should have called them back. At that moment we saw a large group of Germans in the distance led by two motorcycles and sidecars with machine guns mounted on the sidecars, my (officer?) then said come on we must make haste because the sappers were going tp blow up the bridge over the canal. As we got out from the building on to the road we saw a small tank on the bank apparently nobody saw us, so we got over the bridge breathing a sigh of relief. We were lucky because we had got about a hundred yards down the road there was three big explosions. We went where HQ had been but they had disappeared. My officer said that we will have to make our own way, we got to a town called Kemmel - there was a first aid post there. Here I saw my first mate minus one of his legs. It was Carrie Simpson, he worked in the stores next to my office in India. We managed to get a cup of tea there, then we moved on, then we eventually crossed into France. Everywhere seemed to be in uproar, famlies were walking on either side of the road with their belongings in prams trucks and barrows and bikes. The worst was when gerry came downstarfing the road, everybody seemed to move off the road at once, and you could hear the screams in the distance. It makes you feel so bitter against the Germans killing those poor people. We decided to make a break we found a gap in the walking people and made it cross country. We went through a farm which was deserted has we looked round we found some fruit and eggs. I asked the officer where we were heading so he said it was the road to Dunkirk. We got a bit farther we came across a group of chaps side the road looking at the engine of the vehicle. My officer went over and spoke to them and at that moment a shell came from nowhere and hit the roof of the house and a big tile came down and hit one of the chaps. It took half the chaps head off. I went over to have a look, it turned out to be another of my old mates. It was Bob Mellish, he is on one of the snaps at the back of the book. We got moving again about a mile along the road was a red cap with instructions to tell us to destroy our vehicle if possible. After that along the road a bit further we came across another of my mates, he was badly wounded, he told us to go on. We had finally made it to Dunkirk. My officer found another walking about in a daze, I knew him, it was Captain Lofts. My officer told me to look after him and he would go and find out what was happening, after a while my officer came back and said we were going on that destroyer. We eventually got on board and met a couple of mates, it was Buster Brown and Charlie Coombs. We decided to sit under the pom-pom guns. The destroyer started off then we had visitors in the shape of seven Dornier bombers. They started dropping bombs and one hit the side of the ship. They wasn't satisfied with that they came back again and started strafing us. Suddenly I heard a cry, I couldn't believe it, my mates on either side of me were dead, another mate on the deck was wounded. When you have been with your mates for six years you are like brothers, I try to forget but I don't think I will.

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