Eighty years ago today my father was celebrating his 25th birthday – somewhere in France. It was a week before the mass evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the French port of Dunkirk.
Unfortunately Sgt. David Pierce, RAMC, did not get to Dunkirk with his ambulance convoy.
My father was studying at the Liverpool College of Pharmacy when war was declared on 3 September 1939. He immediately went and volunteered for the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The second thing he did was to visit his fiancee, Ivy Lloyd, who he had met in Rhyl two years earlier when she was on holiday with her family.
He told her what he had done and asked her to have their wedding earlier than planned – in fact in just six weeks’ time.
He spent those six weeks at an army training centre in the south and returned to Liverpool on Sunday, 15th October, having gained the rank of corporal.
They got married on Monday, 16th October and had a two-day honeymoon in London. Then she returned to Liverpool and he joined the troops heading for Belgium.
Seven months later she did not know if her new husband was dead or a prisoner of the Germans. She did know that he was not one of those evacuated from Dunkirk on the “armada of little ships”.
In fact his ambulance convoy was eventually evacuated from a port on the West coast of France (Brittany).
Following a recently-released film most people are aware the Dunkirk evacuation was called Operation Dynamo.
The last ships left Dunkirk on 4th June and then they had to organise Operation Aerial which took two weeks to get the rest out. Unfortunately the families of those who did not get out at Dunkirk were not informed there was a second chance.
Dad could have reached Dunkirk if he had been willing to leave the ambulances of wounded men to be captured by the Germans. Every single medic and driver refused to leave their charges and struck out for the West.
They managed to stay roughly 24 hours ahead of the German army. Unfortunately the Luftwaffe constantly pursued them and time after time they had to seek cover as the Germans didn’t seem to notice the red crosses when they strafed the road.
Dad made light of this when he told us of his wartime adventures but to this day we knew we were lucky to be here because he was lucky to get home.
It was mid-June before he finally got back to Britain. He was given a short leave and was then posted to the Middle East and my mother didn’t see him again for five years.
But that’s another story.
Happy Birthday Dad.