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Page last updated at 14:52 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 15:52 UK

Dunkirk rescue: soldiers' stories


Three soldiers, Harry Garrett, Arthur Waterhouse and Alfred Smith, all rescued from the Dunkirk beaches in 1940, tell their stories.

Alfred Smith

(Ex Royal Regiment of Artillery)

Alfred was a 23 year old Sergeant surveyor in the London Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force. He arrived in France during the period of "Phoney War" and was involved in anti tank operations against German armoured divisions. As the Germans advanced and then the Belgians capitulated he joined in the retreat to Dunkirk. He and other members of his regiment made it to the beach with two field guns and took up positions in the sand dunes. He was nearly imprisoned by the military police after taking a staff car from outside General Gort's headquarters to try to take food back to his comrades. Although on the beach for some time he boarded a ship "without getting his feet wet".

Arthur Waterhouse

(Ex Royal West Kent Regiment)

Arthur Waterhouse joined the army as a chef but was never out of the front line throughout the war. He walked for several days In the retreat to Dunkirk and was one of the men who took cover in the sand dunes. He took part in an ill-fated rearguard action. With a colleague he helped two sailors in a small boat unload stores for two days onto the beach. They took him with them when their ship sailed for the Channel ports.

Harry Garrett

(Ex Anti-Tank Regiment)

Harry tells his story on the BBC People's War website. "As soon as the Germans invaded Belgium our unit being anti-tank had to go forward through shelling bombing and carnage of civilians, it was heart braking.

"We got stuck in to the Nazi's on the Belgium canal system where we were heavily engaged and overwhelmed, and we had to retreat right to Arrns and Vimy Ridge 1918 battleground. We could not hold the Germans; they were far too strong for us. Operation Dynamo was then in the order and we had to make our way to Dunkirk. We were being bombed, strafed and shelled all the way."

The evacuation of Dunkirk, codenamed Operation Dynamo, took place between 26 May and 4 June 1940.

A flotilla of 900 naval and civilian craft was sent across the Channel under RAF protection and managed to rescue 338,226 people.

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