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80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Frogmogman

Active member
Joined
26 Aug 2012
Messages
477
I've just been watching Dan Snow's documentary on BBC2, and felt that a thread on Operation Dynamo might be of interest to the Scuttlebutters. I hav a particular interest in operation Dynamo, and more specifically, the main man behind the evacuation, Admiral Bertram Ramsay; one of the most unsung heroes of WWII.

I am a huge admirer of Ramsay. Having retired in 1938, he returned to active duty in 1939 as Flag Officer Dover and it was he who led Operation Dynamo, evacuating 340 000 British and French troops. He was extremely forceful in making a reluctant Admiralty provide ships and was instrumental in the success of the operation. Without Ramsay, it's likely that the number taken off the beaches would have been only a tenth of the number finally saved.

He went on to organize the Torch landings on North Africa, then the Operation Husky landings in Sicily and was C in C allied naval forces for the Normandy Landings (Operation Neptune), having over 6000 ships under his command on 6th June 1944.

Following the invasion he set up his headquarters at the Chateau d'Hennemont, just outside Saint Germain en Laye. (The Chateau went on to become the school my kids attended). He was tragically killed on 2nd Jan 1945 when the aircraft which was taking him to a meeting with Monty in Brussels skidded on ice taking off and all aboard were killed. He is buried in the cemetery in Saint Germain en Laye. Few men can have made such a massive individual contribution to the Allied success in the war, yet nobody has heard of him.

A few years ago, we organized a ceremony in the cemetery to honour him. The Paris RNR, the French Navy, the Anciens Combatants, the Royal Navy, The Prefect and the Mayor were all present or represented. In September 2017 we finally succeeded in installing a plaque on the Chateau d'Hennemont in his memory. We managed to get nearly 20 of the Ramsay family to attend, including his son, General Ramsay. Our next objective is to get a Street named in his honour.


General Ramsay and HM Naval attaché Paris

On a personal note, when the film Dunkirk was released, the big thrill for me was a scene where Kenneth Branagh, at the end of the mole, reassured waiting troops as a ship pulled out "Don't worry, Vanquisher will be along in a minute". It was the only one of HM ships mentioned by name in the film. In 1940 my late Godfather, Capt CB Alers Hankey RN or "Hurricane Hank" was Captain of the destroyer Vanquisher. Vanquisher made 7 trips to Dunkirk in 5 days, much of it under fire, rescuing in excess of 3500 troops. Hank was awarded his first DSC and a mention in dispatches for his actions. He had to be taken off the ship suffering from exhaustion at the end of Operation Dynamo.

Just recently I have taken stewardship of my family's historical archive. One of the interesting pieces I have found was a letter to my Dad's Godfather, Brian Guinness, to my Grandfather, the Rev Harry Goulding (Naval Chaplain) relating his experiences at Dunkirk. Here is a transcript....


 
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