I stumbled across this today over at the ABC News site, it’s worth a look:
The sight of the old bloke walking down the beach was very poignant, you could almost see the memories forming around him.
The Dunkirk Evacuation was unique in history, and the sacrifice made by the coastal populations of England to rescue the stranded soldiers is the certainly the stuff of legend.
I had read a few ‘dry’ historical accounts of the evacuation, and knew about the lead up to, and the result of the evacuation. But they left out the actual terror, the desperation and the sheer madness of sailing into a warzone in little boats to rescue a defeated army. Men used row boats, dinghy’s, in fact anything they could float, to cross and recross the English channel carrying as many men as they could, while all about them artillery shells, bullets, and dive bombing aircraft rained down sheets of metal. Many of them never made it home.
The story that really bought the evacuation to life was ‘The Snow Goose’, written in 1940 by Paul Gallico, it tells the story of a lonely artist living in a lighthouse, and how he helps a young girl, Fritha, heal a wounded Snow Goose. The three of them become firm friends, and he paints a portrait of her holding the wounded bird. Then the news comes on the radio, Winston Churchill had put out a desperate call for any man with a boat to sail at once to Dunkirk.
“I have to go Fritha, there are men who need help…”
“Cor, you should have seen ‘im come through the shrapnel! And overhead flew the most beautiful bird!”
It was my mothers’ book and I read it as a boy. It made me cry then, and when I re-read it recently, it made me cry again.
A good sorrow… borne of pride, mad courage, and loss.
My Grand Uncle was one of the many soldiers who died at Dunkirk. Nobody is sure if he even made it to the beach on the day, all we know is that he was killed before he could be rescued.
Soon I will read the story to my little girl, and tell her about her long dead relative and keep his story alive for another generation to remember and respect.
But I will have to practice not crying before I do 🙂