We escaped from Belgium 19 May 1940* after some bombs fell on the port of Ostend where my family then lived. There were rumours that the retreating troops would sink all the boats in the harbour there. In the evening we entered Calais, mooring alongside the station where we passed the whole night in the cellars under the station. We left the cellars in the morning during a bombardment. I remember there was a train loaded with wounded soldiers waiting to be embarked but there was no ship to take them.
We embarked and left the port. Someone shot at us with a machine gun but later on made a sign that we could keep going. Passing Boulogne, we could see a lot of boats lying at anchor because it was forbidden to navigate to the east. We kept going and came to Dieppe in the morning. A launch belonging to the French Marines stopped us and said we could not enter the port but my father started to discuss that with them and when we entered port, we could see it was filled with boats of all sizes and types. We moored alongside a Belgian trawler the O.288 Normandie. On board our vessel, we had two more families and a young couple with a baby just a few days old. As my father had spent the first war in France, he had the same idea. They wanted to go to Canada where they had family, so they asked the skipper of the other boat if they could go with him to England.
They soon embarked and the ship left the port. Minutes later we heard an explosion and my father ran to the entrance of the port to see what had happened.
on deck to see what had happened. There was the Normandie with her her keel above water - she had struck a mine. All this time I was standing in the wheelhouse, looking at the boats in port and the movement of the crowds on the quay - the scene was that of a perfect vacation resort in high summer.
* This was the point in WW2 at which Lord Gort was withdrawing the survivors of the British Expeditionary Force back to the Channel Ports in the hope of being able to evacuate them back to England. He did not then know that flotillas of small boats would risk sailing across the Channel to carry out this monumental task.