Some background to the below. I received a mail today, asking me to send some writing samples to provide the text for a battlefield game based around the evacuation of Dunkirk. One 500 word first person account, one 100 word, one snippet of information. The stuff below is the long sample.
"I didn’t think I was going to get out, mother, really I didn’t. I’d been holed up on that beach for nearly seven days before they got me off. It’s a bloody miracle I’m still alive. Hush, now, mother, for heaven’s sake, I AM alive, aren’t I?
"The noise there was … I don’t know… I don’t think I can begin to describe it. Gunfire, bombs, the moaning of the injured, chaps babbling their prayers over and over. And, would you believe it, one mad bunch of Yorkshiremen was bellowing “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside” at the top of their lungs?
"One fellow near me was chattering on in Frog, constantly. I think he was just cursing most of the time. He’d taken a bullet in the leg, but he seemed angry about it more than anything, not that I could understand a word he was saying. He didn’t make it.
"Tommy Brigham bought it on day one, in the first lot of Luftwaffe strafing, and Peter Booth was in one of the boats they sunk. It went down fast. Most of the chaps got out, but Peter couldn’t swim, you see. It’s a damned shame, he was supposed to get married on his next leave. I should telephone Helen, express my sympathy, but it’s hard. It’s not something you want to talk about, really, is it?
"So, there we were cornered like so many rats, and those bloody Airforce johnnies were nowhere to be seen while the Nazis were strafing us. Maybe that’s not fair –there were planes, but they were bugger all help. If it hadn’t been for the navy we’d all have been done for.
"We were all huddled there, day after day, just waiting to die. There’s a stink about frightened men, you know. Sweet, cloying, it seems to ooze out of their skin. And we were frightened, alright. None of us could believe that they’d get us off, and the longer we waited, the less we could believe it. But then the little boats came.
"Such a rag-tag fleet they looked, steamers and yachts and fishermen. It would have been comical if we hadn’t all been so damned terrified and we hadn’t needed them so badly. Instead it was… splendid.
Every time those little ships came in, and left without me, I was sure that this was the last trip, that we wouldn’t see them again, that they’d cut their losses and just get out of there. But they were magnificent. They kept coming back, as long as there were troops there who could be saved. I’ll never forget the feeling of finally getting in one of those boats, mother, not as long as I live. It was like I’d been on the edge of the pit of hell and a hand plucked me back. You know I’m not a praying chap, but I thanked God with all my heart when that boat pulled away, I can tell you.