Earlier this month I went to see Dunkirk, a fantastic film giving a new perspective on those nine days back in 1940 when with the help of 39 British destroyers, a fleet of 800 ‘little ships’ and a huge slug of bravery the British Army turned disaster in to the ‘Dunkirk Miracle’.
338,226 troops were rescued and ferried back to Blighty. A friend of mine who owns one of those little ships and who helps run the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships appeared in the film and it always a delighted to be invited on his little piece of history when he takes ‘Hilfranau’ out on the Thames.
Little known is that four Royal Canadian destroyers played an important role in the operation at Dunkirk and it is the strong Canadian link with Worthing that we again came together to celebrate at the Canada Memorial on the beach at the bottom of Grand Avenue on Sunday.
It was particularly poignant this year as the day before marked the 75th anniversary of the ill-fated Operation Dynamo.
Less well known than Dunkirk, definitely less successful but certainly no less courageous, the Dieppe Raid as it came to be known saw 5,000 Canadian troops, 1,000 British and 50 US Rangers launch an assault on the French Port.
Thousands of Canadian troops had been stationed at Worthing and Shoreham and in towns and villages across Sussex preparing for this and other operations. After almost six hours in the face of well prepared and intense German fire and an RAF air operation which was bigger than the Battle of Britain the retreat was signalled.
Out of 6,086 men who made it ashore, 3623 were killed, wounded or captured.
It was a catastrophic disaster with heavy Canadian losses and it was nearly two years before the eventual liberation of the Continent was recommenced with D-Day.
So it was good to see such a strong turnout for this annual service in Worthing organised by Pam Vowles who does such a sterling job with the charity Canadian Roots, of which I am proud to be a patron. So far the charity has reunited 147 children with Canadian families whose fathers served in Sussex and in some cases were part of Operation Jubilee. You can find more details at www.canadianrootsuk.org
This year we also celebrated 150 years since the formation of the semi-autonomous Federal Dominion of Canada. We share a Queen, a language and a democracy with that great nation.
During two world wars our forefathers shared a close camaraderie too and this week it was humbling and fitting to renew that close and enduring friendship at Worthing in this important year for Canada.
• If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at email@example.com
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