Personal Account W J Walker Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surreys)

Personal Account W J Walker Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surreys)

It started at a very full casualty clearing station near Mons. We were there four days longer than anticipated because of the rapid German advance. They informed us they were going to move us to Dunkirk in a convoy of sixty ambulances. I was in the QRR and my companion was a Sergeant in the Sherwood Foresters. We were in the last vehicle on a crowded road of refugees and retreating troops, after about ten minutes travelling we were continually attacked by the Luftwaffe, our ambulance driver kept stopping and taking cover in ditches. Machine gun bullets were being sprayed all over the place, we stopped so many times that we lost the convoy.

We turned off the main road because we were travelling on our own along a deserted road, the Sergeant thought we were going in the wrong direction so he tapped on the cab window and stopped the ambulance. We got the map out and found we were travelling miles away from Dunkirk, so we managed to get back onto the right road again and arrived in Dunkirk just as it was getting dusk. Every roof top on the right of town appeared to be on fire, there must have been loads of incendiaries dropped and the road was strewn with broken glass, broken telephone wires and posts.

We got to some crossroads in the middle of the town and there were two MPs there who stopped the ambulance and told the driver to leave town and return next morning. they took the turning to the left a little way up the road, then the two front wheels of the ambulance went into a bomb crater. Our driver got out, telling us not to worry as we would be rescued. We laid there for about half an hour, listening to the bombs falling around us, some quite close, so we decided to get out. We had no boots and were dodging the broken glass. We were sheltering in a shop doorway when two French policemen came along and picked us up and carried us down to the basement of a hotel.

In the cellar were women and children and the Mayor of Dunkirk in full regalia. We slept on a heap of coke in the corner and both felt it was just a matter of time until the Germans came. In the morning a miracle happened, we heard footsteps and an Englishman shout "Are there any British troops down there"? All our worries seemed over and we felt half way home. We climbed into a small truck and were given a bar of chocolate and a tin of strawberries. This was very welcome as we had had no food since leaving the CCS in Belgium. We were taken to the beach, the RAMC were there and we were carried on stretchers to the nearest jetty and got into a queue for the boats.

Three German bombers came over and after they had gone, I was surprised to see the jetty still there. We were eventually put on a frigate, in the steward's cabin. She pulled out guns blazing, but we felt safe in the hands of the Royal Navy. As we left the shore, another miracle happened, a sea mist came down, that was on May 29th 1940 and it must have blotted any activity in the Channel from the Luftwaffe. The frigate began to rock and we knew we were near the English coast. By then the mist had cleared and looking through the porthole we could see the White Cliffs of Dover, a lovely sight.

We were taken to Winterton Hospital, Sedgefield, County Durham and after a year I was transferred to Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton for another year. Unfortunately, although we shared all that together we never met again and I am sorry I never even knew the name of my companion.

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