As the Dunkirk evacuation began Jim’s unit was sent inland to pick up troops. In the event this was not possible and orders came to destroy their vehicles and fall back. All but 2 were destroyed and they began their journey back to Dunkirk. Eventually, these 2 were also destroyed and the men completed their journey on foot. Jim and a friend became separated from the rest of the unit but found them again later.
On arrival, Jim waited on the beaches under fire for 2 days. At first they were at La Panne but soon moved westward towards Dunkirk. Jim’s call to embark came on June 1st when he and his colleagues were sent to the East Mole and boarded HMS Medway Queen under shell fire. He thinks this was late in the afternoon or evening but remembers little except some surprise that the crew were Royal Navy and not civilian. They were sent below deck and fell asleep almost immediately. The night of June 1st/2nd was one of the last pickups for British personnel and the signal concluding the British evacuation was sent the following evening.
Jim awoke early the next morning in Ramsgate when the ship berthed. They were marched to the station and put on a train which took them to Rugley (Birmingham). They spent 2 days there and Jim remembers that soldiers based there full time were confined to barracks while the Dunkirk survivors were allowed to visit the town. They were then sent to Insch in Aberdeenshire where they were all given 2 days leave. It apparently took most of that time just to get home!
Photo: HMS Medway Queen in Ramsgate Harbour 1940. Courtesy PSPS Collection