It seems incredible but next year will be the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk. Any man who fought there legitimately will be heading for his mid 90s at the youngest. The Second World War generation is older now than the First World War generation was when I first started hearing their stories.
Dunkirk is possibly the defining ‘British’ battle of the Second World War. The little ships coming to the rescue of the Allied soldiers, the stoicism waiting for escape, and the perceived arrogance of the enemy in delaying their final assault on the beach itself. Over 10,000 British and Allied servicemen died but hundreds of thousands were able to escape the continent to mainland Britain. The Germans lost 30,000. The phoney war was long gone and now we were into a terrible conflict that would last another half decade.
The memorial in Dunkirk is, like many war memorials, simple. It looks out over the vast beach. Empty when we were there but next year I’m sure we’ll be hearing again about those days when it was full and the future of Europe hinged on what happened on it.