Monday 21st May saw 33 members and friends depart for a four day tour of the war sites and cemeteries around Dunkirk.
An early start, meeting our regular crew Bob and Dave of Effion's Coaches outside the RMA for a smooth ferry crossing to Calais. After a quick stop at Pidou Supermarket to collect essential supplies and meet our trusty guide Garry, we were off to Zeebrugge site of the daring harbour raid on 23rd April 1918. Garry soon had everyone off the bus and explained how the raid to block the entrance to the harbour took place. We then visited the Commonwealth Cemetery opposite to lay poppies remembering the Royal Marines lost in that action. Onto Oostend and a walk onto the seafront to see the remaining bows of HMS Vindictive used in the raid to blockade that harbour. Finally onto our hotel at De Panne, Belgium.
A visit to St Venant where in May 1940 the Royal Welsh Fusiliers held and pushed back a German SS unit buying time for those making their way to the coast. Then two very emotional visits, firstly to Paradis where 97 surrendered members of the Norfolk Regiment were massacred. Then after lunch at Cassel we visited a barn at Wormhoult at site of another atrocity performed agianst surrendered British soldiers. We thank Garry for his excellent description and sesitivity when relating the horror of what took place. The final stop of the day was Dunkirk, to the excellent Operation Dynamo Museum,then a view of the beaches at Dunkirk and our first taste of the rescue performed by the "little ships".
Out first stop this morning was to the production and launch site of the V2 rocket, at the Blockhaus at Eperleque. The bleak misty weather reflected the awe felt on first seeing the size of the concrete construction. I think we were all relieved that it had been bombed by 617 squadron and thus never reached completion. After lunch at St Omer we visited one of the few remaining V1 rocket launch sites within the forest at Nieppe. A return to our hotel to change and an evening visit to Ypres to watch and for some take part, in the Last Post Remebrance Service. Our Chairman, Paul Richardson laid wreath on behalf of the Branch.
After breakfast a stop on the dunes of Zuydcoote, looking at the beach towards Dunkirk. Garry once again providing detailed commentary on Operation Dynamo. Although the tide was in this also provided information about the sunken ship and war grave Crested Eagle which can be seen from the shore. Our final stop of the tour was at Dunkirk Cemetery, where final respects were paid. A stop at Pidou for supplies where Garry said goodby (until next year, we hope?) Then another smooth crossing and we were home.
Many thanks to John Elms for organising, to Garry for his encyclopaedic knowledge and Dave and Bob our coach crew. An excellent and informative four days.
The RMA Deal Branch would like to thank Kent County Council for thier support and sponsorship of this veterans trip.