Northern Ireland

Dunkirk: Belfast WW2 veteran recalls evacuation

Robert Wright
Image caption Robert Wright remembers the scenes on the beaches at Dunkirk

A World War Two veteran from Northern Ireland has been reliving memories of the Dunkirk evacuation 75 years ago.

Robert Wright, 92, from north Belfast, was a teenage soldier serving in a Welsh regiment at the time.

More than 300,000 Allied troops were rescued from the port of Dunkirk in northern France in the mass evacuation in the summer of 1940.

A flotilla of small boats, most of them privately owned, sailed across the English channel to help.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption British troops pictured looking back at the French coast from the deck of a steamer taking them back to England in June 1940

Mr Wright described the scenes on the beaches as "a shambles".

Operation Dynamo

"They were going down to the shore and if they spotted a boat coming in, anybody would be dashing out," he said.

"There were people there supposed to organise, but half of them just wanted to get out themselves.

Image caption Robert Wright, 92, from Belfast, served in a Welsh regiment during the war

"Most of the regiments there tried to keep their men together, but towards the end - when they saw boats coming from England to pick them up - they weren't waiting on the boat docking. They were trying to meet it halfway."

Altogether, about 338,000 troops were evacuated from Dunkirk's beaches between 26 May and 4 June, 1940 in what was known as Operation Dynamo.


The troops, who included French, Canadian and Belgian soldiers as well as British service personnel, were rescued after they had been driven back to the coast of northern France by the German army.

Mr Wright said troops were relieved to see the rescue boats.

"Everybody was glad to see them. I got back, that was the main thing," he said.

"The spirit was quite good. Everybody was saying: 'Thank God we are out of that lads.'"

The 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation is being commemorated in a number of ways over the coming days in the UK.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Some of the Little Ships involved in the Dunkirk evacuation prepare to set sail from Ramsgate to France to mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Dynamo

On Thursday, a flotilla of 60 ships will leave south coast ports to head for a service in France.

The main commemorative event will be an official service at the Allied Beach Memorial - Digue des Alliés à Dunkerque - on Saturday.

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