Short interview with an incredible man I was lucky to have tea and biscuits with.
On the first of two retreats from France:
‘We were driving to our co-ordinates when we were stopped by a destroyed bridge, rubble all across the road. The road was set high between the trees, it was like you were half way up 'em with big slopes off either side into the forest. While we were working out a different route, a man brandishing a revolver crept out of the woods. Of course, we had rifles in the lorry so we whipped those out; turned out he was a British officer.
He asked us where we were headed; I showed him, and he laughed explaining how we were driving to a Nazi-held town. We were surrounded on all sides, and there was only one way out; ships passing the beach. I turned tail and made for it; 24 hours straight driving with no breaks. No food, no water, plenty of petrol though as the lorry was full of it.
We stopped off at a NAAFI once when we passed it; orders were to take what we could if we wanted to, because the Germans were going to do it soon enough anyway. They didn’t care much for pipes at the time so I had to make do with some cigarettes while my co-driver, a Scottish chap, collected some whiskey. Soon enough he was blotto in the back.
We finally arrived at the beach, I pulled him out onto the sand and then filled the lorry with dynamite. Didn’t want the Germans using it.
After that, I spent 48 hours laying on the beach waiting for rescue. Completely exposed we were, every day there were fighter planes strafing the beach. I lost a lot of friends there.
Finally a paddle-steamer came past; not too close though, so I had to swim to it. There were ropes draped all down the side, I grabbed one and got pulled on board.
That’s the last thing I remember, I passed out from exhaustion after that. Apparently they put me in the boiler room to dry out, and I finally came to in Harwich.“