Personal Account of W H Smith, 228 Army Field Company, BEF

Personal account of W H Smith, 228 Army Field Company, BEF

I was with the Royal Engineers, and after blowing the bridges over the La Bassee canal we made our way to Dunkerque, and got on what was probably the last boat out of the port, the "Hird" of Oslo [actually she left Dunkirk on the night of the 28th May in the first few days of the evacuation – perhaps the reference here is about her being one of the last to leave the inner harbour before this became unusable]. She was an old cargo boat with four or five shell holes below the waterline. My memory is rather vague as to what happened in the harbour, as we were nearly all fast asleep when the boat pulled out. Anyway we managed to cross the channel to Dover, but because we had a few French officers on board we didn't stop and finished up at Cherbourg.

["Hird" had been trapped in Dunkirk for a couple of weeks and had been damaged in air raids on the port. She was actually under French command, the bulk of the 3,000 troops on board were French and her orders were to proceed direct to Cherbourg. With only one engine in operation the ship could only make 6 knots. When the ship failed to call at Dover, Newhaven or Southampton, some of the British troops on board threatened to mutiny and shoot the Norwegian Captain. The situation was only diffused by the intervention of an elderly British officer who shielded the Captain from his would be attackers. He explained that the ship was under the command of the French Navy and had orders to get the French troops back to Cherbourg. He promised to get all of the British troops home, which to his credit he succeeded in doing.]

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