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“Turn back! You’re only 2 ½ miles from enemy lines”

by Genevieve

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Molly Cresswell
Location of story: 
Dover, Belgium, Holland, Germany
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
08 December 2005

I was in Dover during the evacuation of Dunkirk. The Eastern Arm of the dock was used by the pleasure boats that had gone to help. One Captain of a pleasure boat which had been used to take people for trips around the harbour before the war — Captain Walker — went out and returned about five times. The harbour was full of boats of all sizes. People gave the men tea and sandwiches as they were in such a bad state. Rationing was in force by then, but they needed it more.

We saw parts of the Battle of Britain fought over the harbour.

I was advised to join ENSA as I wanted to go on working on the stage. I served with ENSA for two years in Britain, touring all the time and then our company was sent into Europe and we worked we worked close to the front line after D-Day, gradually going through Holland and Belgium and finally into Germany. Our ENSA Company was ‘adopted’ by and under the protection of General Horrocks. We were linked to the Allied Troops as they pressed forward into Germany. We saw some terrible sights; it was nothing to see dead bodies along the roads as we moved into Germany.

One Group Captain invited me to go up in a small German plane — a Storch two-seater. I thought it would be exciting and agreed to meet at a nearby airfield at a particular time. We went to the airfield by lorry and as the one behind had broken down, our driver stopped to help. When we got there the pilot had gone up on his own and I had missed the chance to fly with him. Very soon after we learned that the plane had crashed. On one occasion we were travelling along, all of the girls were singing away and a motorcyclist drove up tooting and trying to stop our driver.
“Turn back” he shouted “you’re only 2 ½ miles from enemy lines!”

At about this time we were told that we were to entertain some VIPs and we learned that they were to include Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower and General Montgomery. We were included at the dinner and when the after dinner speeches went ahead ‘Monty’ who was not very much liked, got up and said:
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I’m not too keen on the ladies and I’m 100% fit!” He then went on with his speech. Mr Churchill followed on and said:
“I do drink, I couldn’t count the number of cigars that I smoke in a day, I’m very fond of the ladies and I’m 200% fit!”
When people were mingling later in the evening Mr Churchill came up to me and said “I know you don’t I? No! Don’t say anything!” and went away. He came back half an hour later and said “You once gave me a cup of tea!”

We were also told to expect a woman VIP; this turned out to be Marlene Dietrich. She was billeted in the same hotel with us. On the first night of her stay there was a knock at the door and there was Dietrich. She wanted to come in. “May I sleep in your room?” she asked. I let her in and asked why she wanted to. She was very anxious and frightened and explained that if any of the local German population discovered that she was there she would be in great danger. The next day she asked if some of us would like to go to Belsen with her. I had never heard of such a place and thought that we were simply going for an outing. I put on a clean white dress and looked forward to it. The shock when I got there is hard to describe. I saw piles of bodies, naked; I saw people in great distress. I saw evidence of cannibalism. I noticed that some of the women were in a better state, but later found out that these had been used as prostitutes for the SS. Dietrich wanted to go there as she was seeking her sister.

Later I was to see and hear the confessions of the two women who had run it and been responsible for the evil deeds. They were Elizabeth Wochenroth and Irma Gries. I also heard Lord Haw-Haw’s confession and saw the documents.

After the War I went on to entertain in the Middle East — but that’s another story...

This story was collected by Jill Hollands and submitted to the People’s War site by Becky Barugh of the BBC Radio Shropshire CSV Action Desk on behalf of Molly Cresswell and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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