WWII Written accounts By Troop Sgt, Bernard Kaye No: 2073747 Royal Engineers 16th Assault Sqd

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15 I noticed in the darkness another similar boat pulling away from the mole. As there were no others it seemed that the boat we were about to board would bethe last to leave Dunkirk (the following day Dunkirk was fully taken by the Germans). If this was the case and I see no reason why it would not be it meant that we had the distinction of being the last troops to leave Dunkirk. We had already been the last troops out of Lille. Although this was not much to be proud of it made me feel that we had been extremely lucky to getaway under the circumstances. I climbed wearily down the steel ladder which was fixed to the moles steep side and lost my foothold. I slipped down into the blackness of the hold and landed upon something soft which aimed a blow meat and cursed! The hold was crammed with soldiers who had lain on the floor and gone to sleep. I had fallen on some unfortunate person though I never found out what damage I had done him and he never knew who landed on him! I sank down and went to sleep and allowed the wearisome load of my worries to slip off my shoulders. The relief was unbelievable and I slipped into a kind of unconsciousness, which was not really sleep. Sometime later I was jerked back into wakefulness. Jim was shaking me. I looked at his dark outline and grunted’ “What do you want now?” somewhat irritably. “Do you want to seethe coast disappear?” he asked. Somehow it seemed as though Jim had managed to keep himself awake until he was sure that we were moving. I marvelled at his stamina. Together we picked our throughway the mass of snoring soldiers and climbed up the stairs and onto the deck. The sight was rewarding. The coastline was about half a mile away now and was illuminated by many fires which burnt along the front. We were actually leaving France! We had left the dock area and were out in the open sea. It was wonderful and the thrill of it all made me forget my weariness. In the docks a crane was working. It sounded strange coming from across the water and whenever I have since heard a crane working my mind has carried back to that strange Tonight. our consternation the little ship which bore us away from the French coast suddenly dropped anchor and swung around into the wind. This took us by surprise but we soon realised that we were probably waiting to form some sort of convoy. Suddenly without warning a huge flame leapt into the sky from the coastline. A fuel store seemed to have been seton fire and the shoreline was illuminated in the most dramatic manner. We looked across the bay and saw dozens of masts of sunken ships showing out of the water. It was a terrifying sight. We must have lost a frightening number of ships of all kinds. The light died away and we decided to lie down on the deck and sleep there until the boat moved once more. This account draws to its conclusion. It is all true and as clear in my mind as when it happened. Later in my army career I would return to France and the positions of hunter and hunted would be reversed. The German army would fear us as we now feared them. In wartime I think it is a question of morale. I was present in many victories over the German army which was avery fine one. I built rafts on the Rhine because in the intervening time I had risen to the rank of Troop Sergeant. I was in a flying column of tanks and our squadron was responsible for taking many towns and villages. Nothing, however was as exciting and harrowing as the flight from France.
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