Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the Beaches

From France230509

To Dunkirk to retrace the steps of the doomed British Expeditionary Force almost exactly sixty five years earlier. And to buy wine, oh definitely to buy wine. That's one of the great things about France, the way they sell alcohol there. They let you taste it first. How civilised is that? We bought quite a lot in a cellar in Boulogne then drove up to the Dunkirk area for a night in neighbouring Gravelines.

I kept thinking about the young men who found themselves defeated and exhausted here at the end of a tumultous May in 1940. And of the poor civilians who remained in the town, which was razed to the ground. We wandered around the museum then along the seafront. Could it really be here that a desperate beach commander had driven lorries into the sea to create a makeshift pier for his men to walk along? Among them Ms T's Grandad.

Then driving out across the flat canal filled land at the back of the town where hundreds of French and Allied soldiers laid down their lives in a bitter unequal defence against the Panzer units so as to let their mates escape; people tend to forget that bit. Could all this have happened in this green and tranquil landscape? That's the power of northern France to me, the knowledge of massive sacrifices amid the mundane beauty.

No comments: