Do I understand then that you were never actually under attack
from the German Air Force?
the time that we were over for the evacuation of Dunkirk we
weren't under attack from the air.
Was that just sheer coincidence or what?
could have been, that I don't know. But we were never directly
attacked. There were ships being sunk out there but not directed
at us. We did see one ship that did get hit by a bomb and then it
just exploded and that was it. But the name of that one I do not
Was it a Royal Navy ship or a civilian ship?
think it was a civilian boat as far as I can remember it was
coming out from Dunkirk harbour.
From Dunkirk harbour.
Yes, it would have come from Dunkirk because it couldn't have got
in so near as what we were to the beaches.
Did anybody actually swim out to the minesweeper itself?
not as far as I know.
Do you know which particular dates you went to Dunkirk to the
The first date of the evacuation ‑ it was in its infancy, it must
have been one of the first or second days that we went.
How long would you spend in Dover before you turned round to go
would say approximately six to eight hours because we used to
clean the ship thoroughly right the way through, because there
wasn't a lot of ship to be searched but a search was always made
because on some of the ships that the soldiers were dying and
nobody found then until after. So all ships were searched and all
army clothing was all put in a pile and put on the jetty at Dover
‑ such things as overcoats, but Jolly Jack made use of some
soldiers overcoats because after the evacuation of Dunkirk there
was still some sailors walking around in soldiers' overcoats.
And did you have to take on fresh supplies and so on during the
we turned around. The most that we gave the soldiers was cocoa,
and I've always remembered one of the soldiers saying in the
galley ‑ we got them in the galley and giving them their cocoa
because they were all over the ship ‑ and one of the soldiers
mentioned this. "Well prior to this" he said "I never ever had any
time for the Navy but my opinion now has changed. I shall always
think you lads have done a grand job".
Were the ships absolutely packed out?
Yes, especially the merchant boats and of course the destroyers
were packed. We lost a couple of destroyers over there.
Why particularly the merchant boats?
Well, I suppose really, there seemed to be more room on those. On
a man o'war there's the gun mountings etcetera and there's not a
lot of room for passengers such as on a merchant vessel or paddle
steamer or pleasure, and I would like to add where the lifeboat
service came into its own.
They used to go over as one
flotilla and I suppose it would be a sight that would never ever
be seen again. When you saw the
Dover, the Ramsgate, the
Margate, the Broadstairs lifeboats all going over in convoy
Do you know if the lifeboats were manned by the actual lifeboat
crews or not?
far as I know they were manned by the lifeboat crews.
Of the people you embarked were they all soldiers or did you ever
have any civilians you embarked?
There was no civilians as far as I know. There was a few French
but we found the French very very panicky, the French soldiers
were very very panicky. They wanted to get away. They weren't so
orderly, as our own troops.
What about Belgian troops? Did you embark those?
could have done but it seemed to be that you were so busy doing
your own job to take interest, as long as you got them onboard and
got then safe and got them off, you was ready for another trip.
Were they hungry and thirsty when they got onboard?
They were mostly thirsty, but what we can gather, the soldiers, as
they were coming through Dunkirk, must have, well, I suppose,
whether they called into the wine bars and that, but the beaches
really smelled of drinks. They really smelled of drink.
Were any of the troops drunk?
I think they filled their bottles on their way through Dunkirk.
Did you have any food to give them?
Yes, we gave them bread and butter and cheese, because we didn't
have a large amount of extra food because of our rations. We’d
only had our rations for each mess, so you couldn't supply
hundreds, but bread, and cocoa and bread and butter and all that
Was sanitation on the ship a problem?
There was the heads. All they really wanted to do ‑ they were
tired. They must have been tired. They just came in and flopped
down and that was it, you never heard any more from them.
Did your ship ever have the opportunity to return fire to the
we didn't we never opened fire at all.
Did you ever see any German surface vessels?
I know that there were E boats there but we never saw any.
Did you ever see any firing from the shore by German troops?
Did you see any of the piers of vehicles which were said to have
been constructed into the sea by the troops, lines of vehicles
which had deliberately been made into a pier?
I don't recall that, because I believe that was done later in the
evacuation, so our trips must have been on the first ‑ we didn't
see any. All the troops that we the beaches came straight from the
Was there any problem with any of the troops not knowing how to
nobody drowned. They walked out as far up to their shoulders ‑
well apart from that, if they couldn't swim they just didn't go
any further. In a whaler, on the last occasions, we could, more or
less, go practically up onto the beach because there was always
enough personnel to push the whaler to sea again, which was a good
thing because, as I've mentioned before, there was an officer
present. It was more orderly. He would give the order, say "Right,
round the boat lads, and er…" push it away.
like to add that people talk about miracles. But after being at
Dunkirk and seeing the evacuation at Dunkirk, miracles do happen.
It was an act of God that all those soldiers got away from those