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Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 20:20 GMT 21:20 UK
Prince honours 'Dunkirk spirit'
Prince Charles
Prince Charles speaks to Dunkirk veterans
The Prince of Wales has taken the salute at the last official parade of Dunkirk veterans on the 60th anniversary of the Allied troop evacuation.

Hundreds of Dunkirk veterans who were among the 338,226 troops rescued from the beaches in May and June 1940 stood in formation, medals glittering in the June sunshine.

The miracle of Dunkirk should be very precious to us all.

Prince Charles
The British and French veterans' associations had chosen the landmark anniversary to officially disband, due to the increasing age of their members.

Around 700 marched past the Prince outside the town hall, while another 100 unable to march watched with the crowd.

After the parade the Prince opened a new museum in Normandy, a memorial to the 6th Airborne Division, the first troops to land in France on D-Day in 1944.

The museum is the final resting place of the Pegasus Bridge captured in the first airborne assault, which was scrapped in 1993 but restored and moved to the new site after pressure from veterans.
Veterans gathered for the last time to honour fallen comrades

Speaking at the Dunkirk memorial, the Prince of Wales said: "It is a huge pleasure to see such a large number of you here today and for me a great privilege to be with you all."

"I am very glad to see how you intend that the DVA should go out with a bang rather than a whimper - that is very much 'the Dunkirk spirit'."

He went on: "Without the success of Operation Dynamo, without the fierce fighting around Dunkirk that held the ring long enough for 240,000 British and 95,000 French servicemen to be taken off the beaches, without the sacrifices made by those who never returned home, D-Day may never have taken place at all."

Bells rang out to mark the final salute of the Dunkirk veterans
Before speaking in English, the Prince said in French: "We honour the veterans of the British withdrawal from Dunkirk in 1940, along with, of course, the Little Ships that helped take many off the beaches.

"This miracle, which enabled the United Kingdom to fight on, was a magnificent piece of improvisation, supported by countless acts of individual courage by British and French alike."

Acts of courage

Former Royal Artilleryman George Kay, 80, said: "Some people say Dunkirk was a defeat, but if all those men like me had not been rescued we could not have gone on to fight and win the war."

He added: "Without Dunkirk, there would have been no Normandy - the miracle of Dunkirk should therefore be very precious to us all."
The daring rescue saved 338,000 soldiers
Later, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott joined veterans on the shoreline for a memorial service which coincided with a ceremony on HMs Somerset, moored offshore.

General John Carpenter, President of the Dunkirk Veterans Association, said strong friendships had grown from the terrible incident.

He said: "Sixty years ago today Operation Dynamo came to an end and thanks to the courage and discipline and inspirational improvisation of so many - especially the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, Allied ships and Little Ships - over 338,000 were saved.

"Sadly, some 68,000 members of the British Expeditionary Force were killed, wounded, went missing or became prisoners of war. We do not forget them."

'We will not forget'

Speaking at Dunkirk harbour, 79-year-old veteran Dennis Avon, said he felt bad when he remembered comrades who had not made it home.

"I start to cry when I think of the people who didn't come back and saved us so we can come back and have freedom," he said.

The 60 ships that made the pilgrimage from Dover on Friday formed a circle out at sea for a poignant fly past by a Lancaster bomber, Spitfire and Hurricane fighters.

A technical problem prevented the plane dropping its load of poppies in remembrance of the troops that died.

The BBC's Carole Jones
"An emotional but dignified farewell"
Prof. Michael Dockrill, historian
"Men who survived the most appalling experience"
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"Even today there were extraordinary reunions"
See also:

04 Jun 00 | UK
02 Jun 00 | UK
02 Jun 00 | UK
02 Jun 00 | Dunkirk
15 May 00 | UK
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