All day the sounds of gunfire, exploding shells, screaming planes,
chattering machine guns, exploding bombs – all causing death and
destruction. Long lines of soldiers leaving the flimsy safety of the
sand dunes, the lucky ones boarding boats, and being rowed out to
larger craft and survival.
This was the scene on the beach at Dunkirk, with the British Army, and
their French allies desperately trying to escape, and avoid capture.
After dark the noisy sounds of warfare gradually decreased, with just
the movement of solitary soldiers standing on watch for incoming
I was one of those soldiers, and remember the strange feeling of a
complete lull from all the noise, as though the whole World had been
stilled. Then as I looked around me observing the ships on fire, the
smoking Town behind me, the only sound that of the waves hissing and
sighing at my feet, with bits of equipment, and dead bodies of
Soldiers, and Seamen being gently washed ashore.
In that brief spell just before dawn when all is silent, and awaiting
that first burst of life. Amongst all that carnage of death and
destruction, I suddenly realized I was looking at an incredible scene
of indescribable beauty. The effervescent sand sparkled with colour
like a field of diamonds, with the movement of the ebb and flow of the
tide all along the shore line. The bodies of the dead lying on the
water’s edge all edged with effervescence*, as though encased in a
sparkling Halo of reverence.
The quietness, the effervescence, the smoke and flames, all combined
to give a feeling, that just for that brief time some unseen hand had
created a picture of intense beauty, and I was left with the feeling
that I was being privileged to experience something very special, even
in that time of great stress.
Then suddenly a shout, as more boats appeared, the vision vanished,
and the mayhem started again.
*I now realize the effervescence was in fact caused by all the oil
leaking from the sunken ships