Personal Account – L Collins 35 Field Battery, 2nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

Personal Account – L Collins 35 Field Battery, 2nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

We pulled into position on the Friday night, just before the total collapse of the evacuation during Saturday / Sunday. This position was to be our last, about 9-10 miles from Dunkirk, which could be seen in the distance by the columns of smoke. 'A' Troop had been given up as lost. However, by daylight on Saturday morning they showed up after running the gauntlet of mortar and rifle fire, and pulled into position alongside 'B' Troop. The first time the two troops had been together, all was quiet, but we expected that the crunch would come any minute.

Mid-morning a check on ammunition, our gun 'H' had 46 rounds HE and 4 rounds AP and not an ammunition truck anywhere in the vicinity or gun tractors. Suddenly we got the order, "Destroy all guns", which we did. We then, what was left of us, paraded in front of the nearby farmhouse, which had been the command post, and were given a tin of corned beef, a packet of biscuits between two men and shown the way to Dunkirk.

After what felt like an endless march and getting attention from the Stuka dive bombers, we arrived at what was the outer perimeter. Blown and destroyed guns and equipment. Next the inner perimeter manned by men of various units with Bren and rifle. Into the streets of Dunkirk which was well on fire, the enemy was within range to shell the town.

By now units were really mixed up. We arrived at the sand dunes, away to the right the beaches were crowded with troops. We made for the pier which was cut in half by the bombing, another air raid, we lay flat on the pier and watched the bombing of the ships out at sea. The tide was out and the ships couldn't get any closer to pick up. The all clear sounded, we ran forward again across the gap in the pier, two planks had been placed across this gap, the sea was about 40-50ft below. Two ships were at the end of the pier, I was told to get on one at the side, I had to crawl down a plank on my hands and knees to the boat deck.

(Once aboard) We were hustled down below, so as not to impede others getting on. Another raid, the deck gunners came amongst us collecting all 0.303 ammunition for the Lewis guns. Late afternoon arrived, another air raid. Then came darkness, silence and sleep. Then we were awakened by the following words, the sweetest words I've ever heard, "Wakey, wakey, come on lads you're at Dover", we scrambled up on deck. Stretcher cases, sick and wounded first off, then the rest, unwashed, unshaven, rags and tatters very prominent.

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