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.