Peter Cook

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

IN THE shel­ter of the sand dunes on the edge of the Dunkirk beaches, Wally Jen­ner lay down and fell asleep. “Sleep came eas­ily,” he said. “I didn’t rouse un­til day break.”

It had been a tough and life-chang­ing few weeks since as C Com­pany clerk of the Fourth Royal West Kent Reg­i­ment he boarded a ferry at Southamp­ton, which would take them to Cher­bourg.

The jour­ney to­wards the Bel­gian border saw them march 75 miles in three days, and quickly set about dig­ging in.

The Ger­mans in­vaded Hol­land and the Royal West Kents moved into Bel­gium.

Dive bombers at­tacked on May 19 and Wally helped with the wounded.

Two days later, af­ter the Ger­mans were seen across the River and they were bombed and shelled, the or­der came to pull back 20 miles.

There were no reg­u­lar food sup­plies. Men scrounged what they could where they could. Then a sergeant pro­duced a pig he had found for­ag­ing, and it was turned into a stew.

By May 28 it was clear the po­si­tion was hope­less. Wally didn’t know it but the evac­u­a­tion of Dunkirk had be­gun. It was ev­ery man for him­self and he pushed off alone to­wards the coast.

“There was no or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he said. “The roads were clut­tered with horses and carts, civil­ians, aban­doned mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles and equip­ment.

“We were re­peat­edly jump­ing into ditches to avoid the Stuka dive bombers which were at­tack­ing the refugees.”

Af­ter pass­ing through burned-out vil­lages, he ar­rived at the dunes.

Next day he took his place in a queue of men, stand­ing waist deep in the sea, hop­ing in vain that a boat would come. He re­alised he would have a bet­ter chance if he headed for the Mole, a badly dam­aged pier at the far end of the beach.

He vol­un­teered as a stretcher bearer, and even­tu­ally both he and the wounded man he was help­ing to carry were taken aboard the de­stroyer HMS Wolse­ley.

“I thought we were to be taken down the coast to con­tinue the war,” he said. “Never have I seen a more com­fort­ing sight than the White Cliffs of Dover in the late af­ter­noon sun.”

Wally went on to fight in North Africa, In­dia and Burma.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.