Friday, 22 May 2015

Madhouse Diaries : The Little Ships have come back to Dunkirk

It's a very special weekend in Dunkirk this weekend and to mark the occasion, the council have put the flags out - both the Union Jack and the Tricolore are flying from the mast of the clock tower ! As well as being the 70th anniversary of VE Day, this year is also the 65th anniversary of Operation Dynamo so the Little Ships have come back to Dunkirk. 

They are all festooned with colourful bunting and it looks like a really joyous, happy celebration.

But Operation Dynamo and the Evacuation of Dunkirk is always a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty paradox. Churchill called it "a miracle of deliverance" and, over 9 days, an amazing 338,226 soldiers were rescued from the beaches by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats. Nevertheless thousands more lost their lives and I remember reading one eyewitness account that said that the sea was red.

Numerous photographic exhibits have been dotted along the quayside next to the boats to show the historic events of May 1940.

It's actually very freaky to think that all this happened on the same beaches and stretch of sea that we now go to for relaxing walks, building sandcastles and collecting shells. This image, showing the soldiers patiently waiting to be rescued, up to chest-height in the water because the sandbanks prevented the boats from getting any closer to the shore, really brings it home.

Some of the most poignant reminders come from the war veterans and their descendants. I saw several elderly men in uniforms, proudly displaying vast quantities of medals on their chests. This wreath of poppies attached the the fence caught my eye.

"The Ferryman : I made a ferry through the foam, Dunkirk and Deal - Dieppe and Dover, I brought the flower of Britain home And took the fruits of freedom over." It mentioned a Dunkirk war veteran survivor who passed away a few years ago and whose children or grandchildren are continuing to come over with the Little Ships to honour him.

The best message that Dunkirk can show us these days is that no act of kindness is too small to make a difference. Some of these Little Ships are really small - they must only fit a dozen or so people on board at any one time.

But working together, and persevering, going back and forth as many times as was needed, each Little Ship made a real difference - this one saved 130 people.

Each of the Little Ships proudly bears a "Dunkirk 1940" plaque.

As well as many boats from the South coast, there are also a few Thames barges that took part in the evacuation.

The Ramsgate lifeboat has also put in an appearance. There are two British Royal Navy ships on a separate quay too. We might head over to see them tomorrow.

It's heartwarming to see just how many people answered the call to come and snatch a few soldiers from the hell on Dunkirk beach, putting their own lives at risk. This is the true meaning of "l'esprit de Dunkerque" or Dunkirk spirit and it's great to see the Little Ships coming back to honour the heroes of Operation Dynamo, in and out of uniform.

1 comment:

  1. How absolutely fascinating that these ships are still sailing and what a fitting memorial. Thanks for linking up #outandabout


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