- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mr R B Houghton
- Location of story:
- During the retreat to Dunkirk
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 February 2004
My father joined the army in 1939 age 19 and joined the 67th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, in which he was a gunner with 265 Battery. Prior to leaving for France with the B.E.F he proposed to his then fiance and they planned to marry on his return. My Mother promised to make all the arrangements and write to him while he was away so he could arrange leave for the wedding.
I’m not sure of any of the details of the Regiments' whereabouts or action in France during this time, but the following account is now a marvelled part of our family history.
On their retreat back to Dunkirk they withdrew from some farm buildings leaving two of their number behind with machine guns, Norman Hall and another chap called Worrall. Norman had been to the same school as my father and they were both members of the Rugby team at Worcester Royal Grammar School. Both men were killed during this retreat from the farm, Norman losing a leg and dying before they could get him to a field medic and we do not know what happened to Worral.
Soon after, my father and his Sergeant, Anderson, separated from the rest of the Battery and set off alone towards the beaches. On reaching a survey point near the middle of a very open and exposed field they endeavoured to stay there as long as possible in case the guns were recalled. This proved impossible as they were soon spotted by an enemy plane and had to take cover in a slit trench whilst being fired upon.
Eventually able to leave this open area, they found their way back to a road heading for Dunkirk and joined the throng of troops and civilians trying to stay one step ahead of the German Army. During a brief rest my father spotted an open mail bag lying in a ditch at the side of the road, and decided to investigate. The first letter he pulled out was addressed to him and was from my mother, detailing plans for the wedding and wishing him a safe and speedy return home.
On reaching the beaches at Dunkirk they regrouped with the rest of the Regiment and spent two days and nights of what my father subsequently described as ‘the closest thing to hell he could imagine.’ He was among those who were on the last organised evacuation from the Mole before it was destroyed by the German Bombers.
He did however make it safely home and the wedding went ahead as plannned on June 13th 1940. In 2000 my father and mother celebrated their Diamond Wedding and, despite failing health, still continue to live happily together in Worcester.
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