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The Nightmare That Was Dunkirkicon for Recommended story

by evacueeAlbert

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People in story: 
Albert George HEATH
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Contributed on: 
17 February 2004

The story of Albert George Heath Royal Artillery,
(my dad)
An evacuation from Dunkirk,
in his own words written twenty years later.

361 (5th London) Battery, 91 (4th London) Field Regiment Royal Artillery from Lewisham, with its 25 pounder guns was dug in near Lille on the 21 May 1940. Our position took a direct hit from enemy artillery. My right leg was shattered below the knee, I also had a gun shot wound in my back in the shoulder. Battery medics splinted the leg; there was no treatment to the gunshot wound, which was open, and bleeding. I was evacuated to the regimental aid post.

The regimental aid post was evacuated on the night of the 21 May 1940, before leaving further treatment consisted of a ½ bottle of cognac!

On the 22 May my wounds were examined at the field hospital. The wounds were dressed and morphine tablets were administered to ease the pain. The first signs of gangrene began to appear.

Between the 22 and 25 May the field hospital was evacuated. During this time I received further minor injuries but no more treatment other than 2 morphine tablets.

On the 25 May I was admitted to another field hospital. Gangrene was taking a firmer hold of the right leg. The leg was amputated above the knee to prevent further complications.

26 to 28 May Treatment for the injuries consisted of further morphine doses but no changes of dressings. During this time I eventually arrived at Dunkirk. Whilst in the ambulance on the quayside a bomb exploded nearby. Shrapnel ripped into the ambulance severing my right arm, the ambulance then caught fire! French sailors pulled me from the burning ambulance, but I suffered burns to my head and face. I was embarked onto the SS Canterbury, another bomb exploded in the water beside the boat, which pitched, and I ended up in the harbour. This time the crew pulled me out!

On the 29 May we arrived in Dover at 4 in the morning. I was put on an ambulance train, destination unknown. This later turned out to be Blackburn. During the journey a soldier in a lower berth complained to the train staff of blood dripping from my arm. The arm was treated for the first time since the incident in the ambulance on Dunkirk harbour. Slats from a packing case were used as splints. It was only on arrival in Blackburn when the injuries were fully assessed that they found the packing case slats had been applied nailed to my arm.

During the next 5 years dad underwent 31 major operations on both his arm and leg. Until his death in 1985 at the age of 75 dad must, at times have been in terrible pain from these injuries, but he never let the real pain show. He worked up to retirement at 65 and led as active a life as his disability would allow.

He was a very brave man.

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