Sunday, May 04, 2014

Return to Dunkirk

 1. Some Dunkirk Veterans and their wives (May 1990)
West Cumbria Branch members with their wives

[Courtesy of the 'News & Star' (Cumbrian Newspapers)]
2. Dunkirk Memorial Casket and WW2 Memorial.
[St. Nicholas' Chapel, Whitehaven, Cumbria]

3. Dunkirk Memorial Casket and poppy wreath
[With the Association emblem displayed on the handle]

4. St Nicholas' Church Tower and chapel, Whitehaven.
[Where the Dunkirk Memorial Casket is displayed]
For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Introduction: the 'Miracle of Dunkirk'

Operation 'Dynamo', the code name for the evacuation of the Allied Service men and women from the beaches in the Dunkirk area of northern France in the late Spring of 1940. The operation took place between 26 May and 4 June 1940, during which time the 'Little Ships' of Dunkirk transported the service men and women of Britain, France and Belgium from the beaches to the mainly Royal Navy and Merchant Navy vessels lying offshore. Once on board, they were transported across the Channel to Britain.

This was the legendary 'Miracle of Dunkirk'. Operation 'Dynamo' succeeded in evacuating about 368,000 troops. In addition to those evacuated from the Dunkirk area, more than 200,000 Allied troops were also evacuated from other ports, such as Cherbourg. On 4 June 1940, at the end of Operation 'Dynamo', the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reported back to the House of Commons about the Dunkirk evacuation. It would become of his best remembered speeches.

The Prime Minister's speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940 ended in the following way:

" The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

It was at that moment that the term 'Dunkirk Spirit' entered the English language. It is synonymous with the refusal to accept defeat even in the a time of great crisis. Many of those saved would subsequently take part in operations in various parts of the world, helping to liberate North Africa, Europe, and the Far East.

The Dunkirk Veterans Association was formed by a group of ex-servicemen who had served at Dunkirk in Leeds, West Yorkshire in 1953. The number of branches grew throughout Britain, the Commonwealth and elsewhere to more than 100, with more than 20,000 members. Due to the increasing average age of its active membership, the Association was voluntarily disbanded on 30 June 2000.

The remainder of this article is mainly concerned with the West Cumbria Branch of the Dunkirk Veterans.

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Aims and membership of the Dunkirk Veterans Association

The aims of the Dunkirk Veterans Association were as follows:

"To assist all needy members and their families and to foster the spirit of comradeship which existed on and off the Dunkirk beaches in 1940".

Full membership of the Dunkirk Veterans Association was open to those who served at Dunkirk while others qualified as Associate Members:

"All service personnel who served at Dunkirk and other ports of evacuation between 10 May and June 1940 have been eligible for membership, including all personnel of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) who were taken prisoner of war as a result of that 1940 campaign. Associate membership was also granted to those otherwise not qualified, but who had assisted at the ports of evacuation, during the relevant period".

The West Cumbria Branch of the Association was based in the Whitehaven area but its membership also included former veterans living in other parts of Cumbria. Members and their wives, families and supporters returned to the Dunkirk area several times for the anniversary of the evacuation. For example, the newspaper cutting from the 'News & Star' [Photograph No. 1, above] shows some of the West Cumbrian party immediately before the group left for Dunkirk. Seen at the front of this photograph is the West Cumbria Branch standard, which was subsequently laid up at the Whitehaven corps of the Salvation Army in 2000.

During this pilgrimage to Dunkirk, and with the consent of the Dunkirk authorities, a small amount of sand from the beach at Dunkirk was brought back to West Cumbria. The sand and the names of the branch members were placed in a wooden casket, which was donated to the Parish of Whitehaven (Church of England) and placed beneath the St Nicholas parish WW2 War Memorial [Photograph No. 2]. On the handle of the wooden casket can be seen the badge of the Dunkirk Veterans Association [Photograph No. 3]. The wooden casket and war memorial are located in St Nicholas' Church Tower, Whitehaven [Photograph No. 4].

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Remembering the Dunkirk Veterans

The wording on the metal tablets of the Dunkirk casket in St Nicholas' Chapel, Whitehaven reads as follows:

"This casket contains sand taken from the evacuation beaches of Dunkirk, which during May and June 1940, a total of 368,000 British and Allied servicemen were rescued from the might of the German Armed Forces by gallantry of the Royal Navy and other Small Ships.

'From glorious defeat grew the shoots of final victory'."

"Presented to the Parish Church of Whitehaven by the West Cumbria Branch of the 1940 Dunkirk Veterans Association on the anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk".

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

List of those who were members in 1988 / 1989

Below is a transcription of the list of members belonging to the West Cumbria Branch in 1988 / 1989 that was placed inside the wooden casket before it was presented to the Parish of Whitehaven. Those Dunkirk Veterans who did not join the Branch until after 1989 do not, therefore, appear in this list. Likewise, those Dunkirk Veterans living in West Cumbria who, for one reason or another, never joined the Association are not listed either.

West Cumbria Branch
1940 Dunkirk Veterans Association


Major M.A. Powell, T.D. - Seascale

W. Dixon - Whitehaven

G. Mean - Whitehaven

S. Stanfield - Whitehaven

G.H. Thomas - Egremont

W. Airey - Kendal
H. Barry - Whitehaven
E.J. Brown - Carlisle
T. Brown - Carlisle
G. Chambers - Whitehaven
J.C. Clements - Whitehaven
J.P. Connelly - Kendal
Rev. D.M. Court - Ulverston
H. Dixon - Cockermouth
G.H. Halliday - Barrow
R.W. Hewer - Parton
C.T. Hodgson - Distington
M.C. Hodgson - Whitehaven
G.B. Hogg - Cockermouth
L. Hopkins - Whitehaven
W. Hoyne - Carlisle
G. Hudson, B.E.M. - Barrow
R. Hunter - Egremont
T.L. Irving - Carlisle
W. Lambert - Whitehaven
J. Lewthwaite - Whitehaven
J.L.S. Lowrey - Whitehaven
J.B. Lynn - Whitehaven
F.G. Martin - Frizington
F. Maxwell - Whitehaven
L.W. McDine - Whitehaven
W.W. Milne - Whitehaven
W. Mooney - Whitehaven
W. Morgan - Whitehaven
W. Moses, B.E.M. - Carlisle
R. Norris - Carlisle
I.F. Renwick - Cleator
J. Richardson - Workington
H.S. Roberts - Whitehaven
J. Slater - Frizington
L. Smith - Whitehaven
J. Sowerby - Whitehaven
M. Spedding, B.E.M. - Frizington
H. Steele - St Bees
T. Stephens - Whitehaven
D. Stubbs - Carlisle
G.W. Surtees - Workington
G.H. Taylor - Whitehaven
T.W. Thompson - Whitehaven
A. Thwaites - Whitehaven

G.D. Doyle - Millom
J. Hocking - Whitehaven
H. Powe - Egremont
G. Thomason - Barrow
T. Todd - Whitehaven
R. Wild - Carlisle
J. Gracy - Whitehaven

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Thoughts about returning to Dunkirk

What did some of the Dunkirk Veterans think about before setting off to Dunkirk for the 50th anniversary commemorations of the historic evacuation? Some of the Veterans were interviewed by the reporter from the 'News & Star' (a local evening newspaper in West Cumbria).

Branch Secretary at the time, Mr Sid Stanfield, said:

"We had marched 25 miles under attack all the time from air and ground. There were thousands lined up on the beaches waiting to get off. I'm not sure why, but thank God the Germans halted. They had us in the bag and it could have been a mass surrender if the evacuation hadn't succeeded."

Later in the war, Sid Stanfield returned to N.W. Europe taking part in many more battles, including the Battle of the Bulge.

John Lewthwaite of Kells, Whitehaven was another Dunkirk Veteran who returned to the area for the 50th anniversary. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Mr Lewthwaite was hoping to shoot 15 rolls of film and show them to give a presentation at the Whitehaven Miners' Welfare to a local group of the University of the Third Age.

Mr Robinson Hewer of Parton, Cumbria was thinking about two of his brothers, Ernest and John. Although Mr Hewer was one of those lucky enough to be evacuated in Operation 'Dynamo', his two brothers, Ernest and John Hewer were not so lucky and were captured by the Germans near Calais.

Some of their friends and comrades who did not get evacuated from the Dunkirk beaches in 1940 paid the ultimate price with their lives and would never make it home. Thus, it was extremely important for the party of 48 from West Cumbria to remember their fallen comrades. John Lowrey from Whitehaven, who would later succeed Sid Stanfield as Branch Secretary, was thinking of these many young lads he had known in 1940. During the pilgrimage, John laid a wreath on behalf of the West Cumbria Branch at the main Dunkirk Memorial in the Dunkirk Town Cemetery.

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


For the British troops who were at Dunkirk in May and June 1940 the memory of those days would always remain with them. That is why so many of the Veterans of Dunkirk, along with their family and friends, wished to return to Dunkirk on pilgrimage. Bad as things were in 1940 on the Dunkirk beaches those who survived always believed the fortunes of war would turn in their favour. Nor would they ever forget those who would never make it home.

The 'Miracle of Dunkirk' was a deliverance which really only mitigated what had been a colossal military disaster. Winston Churchill aptly summed it up when he said:

"Wars are not won by evacuations".

As referred to earlier, all the Branch standards of the 1940 Dunkirk Veterans Association were laid up in June 2000, 60 years after the 'Miracle of Dunkirk'. However, it remains one of the most important and defining episodes of the Second World War.

The town of Dunkirk was to remain in German hands for almost five years, even after most of France was liberated. In fact Dunkirk was the last town in France to be free of the German Occupation.


This article is dedicated to the memory of the Dunkirk Veterans and especially who lost their lives so that others were able to be free:

"The years may have passed but the remembrance of those days will live on from one generation to the next."

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further information:

(1) Click on the following link to read the BBC "People's War" article about the 'Miracle of Dunkirk':
Dunkirk (BBC 'People's War')

(2) Click on the following link to go to the Dunkirk Tourist Office article about Operation 'Dynamo', which also includes some rare colour film of the fighting and evacuation of 1940:
Operation Dynamo, the 'Miracle of Dunkirk' (Tourist Information Office)

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


Thanks to the following for information in the preparation of this article:

'News & Star' (Cumberland Newspapers), Cumbria.

Cumbria County Archives and Local Studies Centre,

Mr Stuart Nicholson,
Archivist, Parish of Whitehaven.

Mr Frank Hewer
(For information about his uncle, Mr Robinson Hewer).

BBC "People's War" website

Dunkirk Tourist Information Office
and Remembrance Memorial (Le Mémorial du Souvenir).

Sunday, 04 May, 2014  
Anonymous Gerald said...

War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

Friday, 27 February, 2015  

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