Flintshire veteran recalls Dunkirk evacuation

Reporter:

Matt Jones

A DUNKIRK veteran has spoken of his pride as the nation marks the 70th anniversary of the mass wartime evacuation.

Ray Davies, serving aboard aboard HMS Vimy in May 1940, helped rescue more than 330,000 Allied troops from the French port.

The 89-year-old grandad from Bryn Hilyn Lane, Mold was among thousands of people who risked their lives to help soldiers trapped by the advancing German army.

He said: “I volunteered and I did three months’ training and after that we were based in Dover.

“Then we went to Dunkirk. When we arrived, there were people on the beach and people waist-deep in the water with aeroplanes flying overhead.

“There was a mass of people desperate to get out.

“We were on a jetty. There was shell fire coming in from all around and the ships were using smoke-screens, so the planes couldn’t see where the ships were.”

After four trips across the Channel, the V-Class destroyer was hit by a smaller vessel and had to return to port.

Ray said: “It was very crowded on the boat. We made four trips without any sleep and on the fifth trip out we were rammed by one of the small ships, so there was a hole in the side of the boat and we had to limp back to port.

“It was really important. We took French and British forces, though we didn’t take civilians in case they were spies.

“Those we picked up were very, very grateful.” After Dunkirk, Ray patrolled in the Atlantic, making sure civilian ships crossing the ocean were safe from the threat of German U-boats.

In 1946 he left the Navy and returned to work at Shotton Steelworks, before setting up a small photography business in the 1980s.

He said: “I look back and it was a pleasure. It wasn’t all bad.

“On our last trip, we sailed to Australia and we had leave out there before helping with the end of the war with Japan.

“As a young man, I saw things I never would have.

“People were saying ‘we’ve had it; we’re done for’, but I thought ‘what are they on about?’.

“You don’t see the danger when you’re younger – well I didn’t.”

Despite the heroics displayed by everyone involved with the rescue, Ray said he disagreed with calls for a Dunkirk medal.

And although he would like to go back to the scene of the evacuation, he has never in fact returned.
 

See full story in the Leader

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