By Thelma Etim and Jo Palmer
BBC News, Dorset
Some 350,000 stranded allied troops were rescued from Dunkirk in France, during a 10-day mass evacuation which ended on 4 June 1940.
But Private Harry Malpas was not among them - instead, the 18-year-old spent the next five years battling to survive each day as a prisoner of war.
Cpl Malpas was transferred to the coal mines because he tried to escape
He never made it on to the famous flotilla of small civilian vessels known as the "Little Ships", which gave rise to the term "Dunkirk spirit".
Recalling the moment he came face-to-face with a young German officer, Pte Malpas - formerly of the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment - told BBC news: "He said, 'For you the war is over'."
It came to pass that the soldier would cheat death on many other occasions before safely returning to British shores for the final time.
In 1940, Pte Malpas was attached to the 8th Battalion "to make up the strength" as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) which was retreating towards Dunkirk for evacuation.
The move proved serendipitous because men from his original battalion were systematically killed in a barn during an incident on 28 May, which came to be known as the Wormhoudt Massacre.
Members of the SS 2nd Battalion tossed grenades into the cowshed containing about 100 POWs.
Between 80 and 90 British soldiers died.
"They were all herded into this barn and executed," added Pte Malpas, from Ferndown in Dorset.
"We were overrun. When hundreds of German tanks came, the arms that we had were like using a pea-shooter against a cannon."
He managed to make his way back to Dunkirk with other soldiers and nearly made it to the beach but, he says, his efforts to get home were scuppered when he was ordered to take up a machine gun post.
The young private was there for four days when he was injured in an explosion.
"I woke up in the road and my knee was shot-out, there was blood on my face and everywhere else.
"I crawled into a doorway, a tank came along and a German soldier got off, gave me a cigarette, picked me up and put me on his tank."
About 350,000 stranded allied troops were rescued from Dunkirk in France
He was later treated in a hospital before being put on a coal barge bound for Germany.
Pte Malpas was then transferred to Poland - where most of the Nazi concentration camps were located.
"You were just bewildered, really. It was dog-eat-dog in the big holding camps, there was very little food," he said.
"All you got was barley soup and a portion of black bread that had to last you 24 hours - you had to eke it out, you had to be a survivor."
Pte Malpas said gangs would try to steal the food in the camps - where at least 100 soldiers were crammed into huts with bunks - and Red Cross parcels were looted.
He said he was forced to slave away for hours in coal mines or risk being shot because he had tried to escape.
During 1944, when Soviet forces advanced towards Germany through eastern Europe, Poland bore the brunt of the attack.
"In January 1945 when the Russians began their big push they [his captors] fetched us out of the mines at 3am - I was on the night shift - and gave us an hour to pack what we could and put us on this 'death march'," said Pte Malpas.
Freedom in sight
From then on until May, the POWs marched up to 12 hours a day in all weathers.
He added: "You did not get any food. All what we had to live on was what we scavenged out of the fields as we walked [and if] the guards caught you, you were shot on the spot.
"If you fell down [while marching] you were shot or bayoneted."
Pte Malpas said he was marching along a bridge when Russian bombs rained down on him and the other beleaguered soldiers.
His friend lost a leg and he was injured when a lump of shrapnel became lodged in his foot.
The surviving prisoners were rounded up and taken to a hospital in Rastenburg, until they were eventually liberated by American soldiers.
Pte Malpas was later repatriated to the UK but his hiatus from the horrors of war was only temporary.
After 12 weeks leave, he was re-trained in Blackpool and then sent back to Germany to serve as a military policeman.
Pte Malpas was finally discharged in 1947.
Speaking of his five-year ordeal, the 89-year-old added: "You have not got time to be frightened - all that was on your mind was to get back [to England] but I knew I was not going to get off the beach."
Thousands of men lined the beaches