The stories behind the story
May 11 1940
"I felt quite bucked to be in France yesterday when we are facing a most critical time in our history. 5 a.m reveille on a Sunday morning and a hard day’s work in front … "
Sample of Major Petch's handwritten diary
The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, was the dramatic escape of Allied soldiers from France between 26 May and 4 June 1940, during World War 2, following the German invasion on May 10th.
The recently discovered personal WW2 diary and letters home from Major Petch offer a unique glimpse into the lives of the British soldiers before and after Germany invaded in 1940. A dramatic blow by blow account of the Major's writings. Would they get off the beaches at Dunkirk? Furious - Fascinating - Funny!
June 2 1940
"It was glorious to be able to ring you up and hear your voice again after about 3 weeks of the hardest time of my life"
Bill Cheall explores the sand dunes at Bray Dunes. C1994.
The beach and sand dunes at Bray Dunes, Dunkirk some 5 miles distant.
The beach from Redcar to Saltburn Major Petch's home area in Yorkshire. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Bray Dunes!
The East Mole at Dunkirk where the troops boarded the Lady of Mann
Video of the graves, at Hinges, of the brave rearguard killed at Dunkirk
"Major Petch was a tower of strength to us all and I could almost feel him suffering inwardly for the safety of his lads." Bill Cheall, Batman
After the war, Major Petch continued with a successful career in horse racing and presided over a number of northern racetracks with great success as manager, director or managing director, including Catterick, Redcar and York. In later years, he was awarded the OBE. Major Petch's connection with Catterick lasted 35 years, from 1948 until he passed away in 1983.
Bill Cheall, left, with comrades after Dunkirk. "We had been through a hard time"
The beach and sand dunes at Bray Dunes, Carmichael had a lucky escape.
Soldiers in the sea at Bray Dunes, looking to be rescued.
Postcard from Valliquerville, showing the "Au Point du Jour" hotel. Happier times before 10 May
Brave 2nd Lt John Hewson, killed at Gravelines, buried at Longueness
Major Petch C 1940
Major Petch in later years
Major Petch in WW1, in the Navy section of what is now the RAF.
Bill Cheall. Major Petch's batman at Dunkirk. First photo in uniform, 1939, aged 22
Major Petch's call up papers
A letter home - soldiers couldn't always write an essay
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Officers of 6 Green Howards 1944, around D-Day. Does anyone recognise any of these men? Please get in touch. Major Petch not shown.
Bill Cheall's published memoirs, which depict his Dunkirk exploits and much more. £20 or much less!
Useful WW2 Links
Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg - Companion web site to the published book. Many stories and photos.
Miracle of Dunkirk – Walter Lord - Great book, full of the action and exploits at sea, on the beaches and inland.
Note: I will receive a small commission from any purchases made which helps with the expenses from producing the show. Items will NOT cost you any more.
Bill Cheall's published memoirs, which depict his Dunkirk exploits and much more.