Dunkirk veterans set sail for anniversary event

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Second World War veterans set sail from Dover today to cross the English Channel to Dunkirk for a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the evacuation.

Second World War veterans set sail from Dover today to cross the English Channel to Dunkirk for a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the evacuation.



The former troops and their families were given a rousing send-off, with a performance from the Parachute Regimental Band and a chorus of Jerusalem from a Royal Choral Society choir.



A Spitfire and a Hurricane aircraft performed a military fly-past, soaring through the grey sky above the ferry as it made its way to northern France.



Meanwhile a flotilla of "little ships" involved in the evacuation set sail from Ramsgate in Kent to join Norfolk Line's Maersk Dover on the French coast.



The vessels, many of which were private fishing or pleasure boats, were drafted in to help evacuate the troops from the beaches of Northern France in 1940.



They are being escorted back there today by Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth.



In Dunkirk the nine veterans will attend a ceremony to mark the historic rescue mission.



A silence will be held to commemorate the event and a bugle player will sound the Last Post.



Rose petals will be scattered and white doves released to symbolise peace.



The veterans were joined on board the ferry by members of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Help for Heroes charity.



The Dunkirk evacuation, dubbed Operation Dynamo, saw 338,000 troops rescued from the beaches of northern France between May 27 and June 4, 1940.



It came after the speed of the German advance through Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France left nearly half a million British and French troops trapped there.



The rescue was led by the Royal Navy, which drafted in ships and boats of every size.



Described as a "miracle of deliverance" by British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, it is seen as one of several events in 1940 that determined the eventual outcome of the war.









One veteran making the trip, former private Lionel Tucker, recalled his 21-mile march from Cassel in northern France to the beaches of Dunkirk.



The 93-year-old from Southampton was with the 1st Battalion of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, keeping their vehicles roadworthy.



He said: "We reached Cassel and we were being heavily shelled by the Germans and we were trying to hold the place but eventually we had to get out.



"We had to do as much damage to our vehicles as we could to stop the Germans from using them.



"Then we had to march 21 miles to Dunkirk, which was horrific because we were being bombed by German planes.



"We were diving into ditches and people were being killed."



On arrival at Dunkirk they found it "in ruins", he said.



"When we got to Dunkirk it was worse than ever," he said. "A German came over with his plane and took a direct hit."



Afraid he would have to swim for it, he threw his kit into the water so as to lighten his load, he recalled.



But instead he was ferried across the Channel on a vessel called the Maid of Orleans.



"When I got on board I flopped down and went to sleep and never woke up until I got there and saw the white cliffs of Dover," he said.



He described today's journey back to Dunkirk as "emotional".





Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The heroism and valour shown by the people who went to the rescue of the thousands of troops stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk 70 years ago is a testament to the courage and endeavour of British people.



"Our country should always be grateful to and remember all those who were involved in the evacuation, and our thoughts go to all those who didn't make it home.



"We can all be very proud of the 'Little Ships' of Dunkirk and the commemorative events this week are a fitting reminder."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory