Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dunkirk: 70 Years Later

This week is the 70th.anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation: the heroic rescue of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940.
Though initially it looked hopeless, by the end of the nine-day 'Operation Dynamo', 338,000+ soldiers had been rescued by a hastily-assembled fleet of 850 boats. The plucky little TAMZINEMany of the troops were able to embark from the harbour's protective mole onto destroyers and other large ships, while others waded from the beaches toward the ships, waiting for hours shoulder-deep in water to board and be ferried out to the larger ships. Thousands were carried back to England by the famous "little ships of Dunkirk", a now-legendary flotilla of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and lifeboats. The smallest of this flotilla was the 15-foot fishing boat Tamzine, now in the Imperial War Museum.
The "miracle of the little ships" is a prominent folk memory in Britain, and the Dunkirk Spirit lives on in the British psyche.
My father was one of the lucky last to be rescued, on the final day. A very strong competitive swimmer, he was picked up by a boat several miles off the French coast, heading towards England, and arrived in Margate in the early hours of his birthday. Freedom: no-one gets a better 21st.birthday present than that!

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