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Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Veterans remember Dunkirk rescue
Allied troops trapped on Dunkirk beach
Troops brought to safety by hundreds of small vessels
Dunkirk veterans from Northern Ireland have joined their former comrades to mark the 60th anniversary of the evacuation of allied troops from French coast in 1940.

At a ceremony in Dunkirk, Prince Charles took the final salute to the veterans who marched past, having arrived in 60 small ships on Friday after an eight-hour crossing of the English Channel.

The voyage marked the 60th anniversary of the daring evacuation of over 338,000 British and Allied soldiers from beaches in northern France that had been surrounded by advancing German armies.

This is the last year the Dunkirk Veterans' Association will hold formal commemorations to mark the evacuation, in which many civilian vessels took part.

It is also the Association's last official event before it disbands.

Soldiers bombed and shelled

Among those in Dunkirk for the celebrations was Tommy Cook from Newtownards, County Down, one of the few surviving members of the Dunkirk Veterans' Association.

Veteran Tommy Cook
Tommy Cook: Mixed feelings on Dunkirk return
Tommy, along with what was left of the British Expeditionary Force, endured days of being bombed and shelled by the Germans.

"Everything is so clear in my mind," he said.

"We were walking along the road and it was terrible - we walked 30 miles.

"And on the road was all evacuees, people that left their homes, left everything, with a handcart or a pram, carrying all their worldly goods," he said.

We were told we should have been away four or five days ago

Tommy Cook

Tommy later discovered that his company had spent more time than they should have on the sand dunes, after losing contact with their commanding officer.

"The beachmaster asked us what company we were.

"We were told that we should have been away four or five days ago," Tommy said.

"He said make your way down there - there's a couple of ships coming in and we'll try and get you away."

Tommy said his life now revolves around his grandchildren and the local Royal British Legion. He said he spends every Thursday recounting memories of the war with ex-servicemen and women.

But he said he had mixed feelings as he remembered the Dunkirk rescue.

"You don't know - you feel relief there too.

"To think that you were lucky enough to get back and fight."

On Saturday the veterans visited Le Paradis, where many of their comrades were killed as they made their way to the beaches.

On Sunday afternoon the veterans and French and British dignatories attended a ceremony of remembrance at which 60 small ships formed a circle out at sea, while a Lancaster bomber flew over.

The Prince then opened a museum Pegasus Bridge, the scene of one of the most crucial battles of the war.

The bridge was captured by British and Canadian troops, who swooped into enemy territory by glider and parachute on D-Day - 6 June 1944.

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See also:

15 May 00 | UK
Dunkirk: Lest we forget
30 May 00 | Talking Point
Dunkirk: What do you remember?
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