A Huddersfield veteran has told how he was plucked from the Dunkirk beaches to safety on the day of the 75th anniversary of the evacuation.
Hundreds of fishing boats, pleasure yachts and lifeboats crossed the Channel between May 26 and June 4 1940, to help evacuate Allied forces from the beaches of northern France.
If Operation Dynamo had not been a success transporting around 338,000 troops from the French coast to safety the war effort may have been critically damaged almost before it started.
A service at Ramsgate Harbour today - Wednesday - was attended by 95-year-old Edward Oates from Huddersfield who served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
Mr Oates, originally of Lindley, said: “We saw smoke coming from Dunkirk and some people said people were getting away there so we poured into Dunkirk.
“Volunteers were called forward to put people on a hospital ship. It took three or four of us to carry one stretcher because we were getting hungry and weak.
“We put people on the hospital ship and then we got on a boat and sailed home. It was a Russian boat, obviously an army vessel meant to take Russians over to France.
“The chap on the boat said to us ‘Help yourselves, I’m not unloading’, so I had a tin of peaches.”
More than 50 Little Ships are to set sail across the Channel, escorted by the RNLI and the Royal Navy, ahead of commemorations in Dunkirk.
Among those making the journey will be the 48ft-long Mimosa, a 20-ton motor yacht built in 1935, which took part in three trips to Dunkirk’s beaches.
After Dunkirk, Mimosa was chartered for £21 a month as an auxiliary patrol vessel, and had her name changed to Ocelot, hiding her contribution in the evacuation.
Owner Bernie Rowe from Bristol said: “It went three times on Dynamo and brought back probably 30. I’ve always wanted to do this, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The Bishop of Dover Trevor Willmott said: “It was a ramshackle fleet but ramshackle filled with volunteers. What they found on Dunkirk’s beaches were similar human beings.”
He said the war exposed “the darkness of human wickedness and violence that sought to dominate or control.”
And he added: “Sadly, 75 years on, we are still a violent world and peace is the only way that we will find happiness.”