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15 October 2014
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Dunkirk: A Poem

by ChrisC_CWW

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George Jones
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07 February 2004

We waited wearily, waist high in the sea
The miracle unfolding before us gave us hope
We'd expected ships but these were boats, small boats
But they floated somehow
Men clambered aboard

I eyed them enviously
Watched them turn and go back out to sea
Heading home to dear old Blighty
Patiently we shuffled forward
Legs numb, teeth chattering
Hopefully my turn would come soon

A Stuka strafed the beach again
Cries from men hit reached our ears
The eyes of the human pier followed the raider
We sighed gratefully as it turned inland
No one had the energy to scatter
To try and escape the pilot's cruel bullets
So we stood, staring seaward

A dot grew into a battered boat
The volunteer owner smiled weakly
By now I was so weak, so hungry, so cold
I could barely haul myself onboard

The skipper helped my mates and me
We worried that the boat would capsize
He crammed as many men on as he dare
"I'll be back." He shouted to the remaining men
They waved us off

Such relief filled us as we got under way
A boy's head appeared from below deck
He looked hollow eyed and shocked by his exploits
I'll never forget him

He scooped mugs of hot tea from a bucket
Handing them round to us
Apologising for the crude container
Explaining that he'd dropped the teapot overboard

He'd been bailing out seawater in a previous trip
A German Patrol boat had attacked them
They were still shipping water
Hesitantly he asked
Could we help after we'd drunk our tea?

We gulped down the warm beverage
Ignoring the hint of oil in it
To me it tasted like nectar
Sweet and warm

The sea grew choppy
We busily bailed with the boy
Someone started to whistle
Another sang the words
Pretty soon we were all singing

I asked the Skipper a question
How the folks at home viewed our defeat
He eyed a French soldier in our midst
"No one blames the BEF," He whispered
"Everyone knows you did your bit."

Someone distracted us with a cheer
A welcome sight greeted us
Looming out of the mist
The white cliffs of Dover

"Welcome home boys!" He grinned toothlessly
I glanced at the other battle hardened men
My tears weren't the only ones being shed….

© Christine L. Coles — July 2001
Dedicated to my Uncle - George Jones a Dunkirk Veteran

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