Personal Account J R Ardern

J R Ardern

At such long range, my recollections of Dunkirk are somewhat kaleidoscopic, though some details still stand out quite clearly in the mind even after the passing of 35 years. The overall impression was one of unreality. Those involved most certainly did not feel like heroes. Indeed, how can an army on the retreat have many heroic aspirations? It was only when we arrived back at Dover on board the HMS Venomous – one of the last vessels of any size to manage to reach the battered jetty at Dunkirk, from whose deck we had looked back at a beach already largely cleared of the multitude which had crowded it for three days or more – that we realised we had been involved in a chapter of history.

The retreat and the evacuation, like any other major military undertaking, was made up of countless individual experiences and thousands of minor heroisms. Many of the chaps who were involved were merely part of an organised rabble. Not only had they ditched or destroyed their armour, transport and artillery (under orders), but a huge number had thrown away their personal weapons (without being so ordered). I was in fact one of the minority who were able to hand-in their rifles to the Military Police upon arrival back in Dover.


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