"The American author and social reformer, Harriet Beecher Stowe advised us that whenever we get ourselves into a tight corner and everything is seeming to go against us and we are unable to hang on a moment longer, 'never give up, for that is just the time and place that the tide will turn.' Similarly, the British bulldog and war leader, the great Winston Churchill used to say, 'If you're going through hell, keep going!'
On the 20th May 1940 Nazi German troops reached the English Channel at Abbeville in northern France cutting off the British Army. Around 340,000 men, including 121,000 French and Belgian soldiers, retreated to the beaches of Dunkirk. Between the 26th May and 4th June, a ragtag British fleet, ranging from battleships to pleasure boats, braved the sea to rescue the stranded soldiers.This incredible courage shown by British civilians became known as the 'Dunkirk spirit.'
Every time I see an image of those thousands of small boats sailing across the English Channel to Dunkirk to bring home those brave British soldiers who found themselves trapped on the beaches in France, I think how true was the sentiment of Stowe and Churchill. If only Hitler had pressed forward at that precise moment, the entire British Expeditionary Force would have been wiped out before the war had truly begun and the Europe we know today would have been a much different place.
Seventy one years ago to the day, the Normandy landings witnessed the Allied invasion of the French beaches. It was known as Operation 'Overlord' and was the largest seaborne invasion in history. This invasion led to the liberation of France from Nazi control and contributed to the Allied victory in the Second World War. However, without the bravery of the British civilians and their little boats that sailed to Dunkirk four years earlier, the British Army would have been wiped out and history would have told a different story.
Many years ago when I visited schools daily I was simply amazed to learn that our British schools had been discouraged from teaching their pupils anything about the two world wars. This situation had initially been brought to my attention by a serving soldier in the Second World War who went on to become a West Yorkshire headmaster in later years. My immediate thought at the time was one of anger. When any man or woman gives up their life for the freedom of the children of tomorrow, the least we ought to do in respect of their brave deeds is to inform our children of the men and women who died for them! This feeling of anger inspired me to write two books for children in our schools and their parents about the Second World War, and the retired headmaster and war vertran even paid for a 500-limited edition of one of the books to be published from his pension!
These two books that are equally suitable for young persons and adults are called, 'Robin and the Rubicelle Fusiliers' and 'Butterworth's Brigade.' One book tells the story of the Second World War through the eyes and experience of a young Jewish boy who lived through the Blitz in London and the other book tells the story through the experiences of a madcap British Brigadier who refused to hang up his battle boots after the war had ended. Both books can be bought in e-book format from www.smashwords.com or in hard copy from www.amazon and www.lulu.com. All profit goes to charity in perpetuity, as do all my book sales. For those of you who like poetry, there is a war poem I wrote that is accessible below called 'Arthur and Guinevere' about a lady's sweetheart who is killed in battle." William Forde: June 6th, 2015.