Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Pride of Veteran’s son as Dunkirk ships come to town

THE Dunkirk Little Ships which visit Henley this weekend as part of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival hold special

THE Dunkirk Little Ships which visit Henley this weekend as part of the Thames Traditional Boat Festival hold special significance for Brian Hughes.

Mr Hughes, 83, of Harpsden, Road, Henley, made the trip to Dunkirk for a parade of the Little Ships during the 75th anniversary of the evacuation.

Sergeant William Thomas Hughes, Mr Hughes’s father who was part of the Royal Engineers regiment, was saved by a little ship at Dunkirk.

Mr Hughes, standard bearer for the Henley branch of the Royal British Legion, said: “The little ships were like a ferry service out to the larger ones. They made all the difference.

“They were accompanied by a naval ship for the anniversary service at Dunkirk just in case they broke down going across the Channel.

“When I saw the little ships it really brought it home; it’s great they’re coming to Henley.”

Mr Hughes attended the event with James Nelson — the chairman of the Henley Dunkirk Veterans group.

Mr Nelson’s father-in-law, James Hazeldine, was also saved by a little ship during the evacuation in 1940, which was nicknamed Operation Dynamo and which led to 338,000 soldiers being rescued.

The group of 13, who were all part of the veterans group, made the trip to Dunkirk in May.

They were joined by the group’s two veterans of Dunkirk — George Burton, 97, from Caversham, and Ted Oates, 95, from Wendover, near Aylesbury, as they went over for the Remembrance service.

They attended four services during their five-day trip. The largest of these was a parade and service on Dunkirk beach on May 23.

Mr Hughes, who did National Service in the Fifties, said: “It was a very large parade and service which included a large military band, French army and navy contingents, veterans, standard bearers and other associations.

“Wreaths were laid and a very passionate reading was given by a young French girl about the horror that was hell on earth at Dunkirk. Into this inferno the little ships went with their brave crews and rescued thousands of stranded service personnel.

“The speech by the young girl was very emotional — even though I couldn’t understand what she was saying.

“For someone so young to convey that about Dunkirk brought it home to me. It made me realise, standing there, how lucky I was to be alive.”

The group’s veterans, Mr Oates and Mr Burton, were given Dunkirk Plaques by Prince Michael of Kent in a service at Dunkirk town hall on May 24.

Mr Hughes said: “Previously I had not met Prince Michael but after this weekend I almost cheekily said, ‘we need to stop meeting like this’, as we saw him at three different services in Dunkirk.”

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