Saturday, December 5, 2015

Dunkirk evacuation was horribly dangerous

Seventeen ships sunk or knocked out of action. That was the Luftwaffe's score this June 1. All day the human residue—the hollow-eyed survivors, the pale wounded on stretchers, the ragged bundles that turned out to be bodies—were landed on the quays of Dover, Ramsgate, and other southeast coast towns. The effect was predictable on the men whose ships happened to be in port.

At Folkestone the crew of the railway steamer Malines were especially shaken by the ordeal of the Prague. The two vessels belonged to the same line, and there was a close association between the crews. Some of the Malines's men were already survivors of a ship sunk at Rotterdam, and Malines herself had been heavily bombed there. After two hard trips to Dunkirk she was now at Folkestone waiting for coal, when nerves began to crack. . . .

Malines was ordered to Dunkirk again on the evening of June 1, but with the crew on the edge of revolt, her captain refused to go. He was supported by the masters of two other steamers also at Folkestone, the Islae of Man packets Ben-My-Chree and Tynwald. They too refused to go, and when the local naval commander sent a written inquiry asking whether Ben-My-Chree would sail, her skipper simply wrote back, "I beg to state that after our experience in Dunkirk yesterday, my answer is 'No.'"
Walter Lord, The Miracle of Dunkirk (New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012), pp. 222-23  (copyright 1982) 

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