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- Ramsey, Huntingdon
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- Contributed on:
- 11 November 2003
My friend and I joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in March 1939 with some bravado. Surprise, surprise, when war was declared on 3 September 1939, and we were both posted to our military destinations within a fortnight.
This is my account of my subsequent experience after the fall of Dunkirk. The capitulation of France had left the British troops to fight it out alone and entrapped on the beaches of Dunkirk.
Caring for the returning troops
The ATS company of which I was part had been housed initially in a requisitioned country house in Narborough. Just prior to the fall of Dunkirk, we were transferred to a newly built militia camp in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire.
Following the débâcle at Dunkirk, troops, about 100 at a time, those who were able to walk, were marched into the camps as they arrived back on British soil. They were exhausted and in tatters, some wearing legless trousers and armless jackets and even less. They all had to be fed and provided for.
This is where I come into the story. I and my ATS platoon, whatever our routine jobs, had to help in the kitchens preparing food, that is peeling potatoes, cleaning other vegetables and washing up (army style). Camp beds and blankets had to be provided, and the quartermaster had to re-equip the soldiers with suitable clothing.
Back to the war zone
After several days, the troops were dispatched to an army base elsewhere. There they were presumably issued with the necessary documentation dealing with their safe return, and, possibly after a period of well-earned leave, they returned to the war zone.
The batches of troops continued to come and go for several weeks, and although it was hard and tedious work we all felt we had given valuable service. We know too that the troops were more than grateful to have been rescued from Dunkirk and cared for so well back home.
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