Last week I went to see the film ‘Dunkirk’. It was at a small cinema, an afternoon showing in the second week. There were less than twenty people watching. Looking round I guessed I was the only one there alive in 1940. Two weeks after my first birthday I was blissfully unaware of the time we were living through. My mother, married for eight years with two sons, 5 and 1, and her husband in France not knowing whether she would see him again.
My father did get home. Captured by the encircling enemy, he seized a firearm, shot his captor, jumped from a window and fled on foot getting back to his regiment and to the Dunkirk beaches. He got a place on a British paddle steamer that was bombed and sunk mid channel. He stripped off and swam eventually getting rescued, stark naked, by a French warship, which explains why he arrived in Dover dressed as a French sailor.
My brother must have had some understanding of what was happening, but it was only years later that I understood how harrowing a time it had been for my parents and so many families, many less fortunate than ourselves. All through the film I was thinking of the crisis the country, so many families and my mother and father had lived through. It was an emotional journey and strange to leave the cinema into the summer daylight to find the small town outside going about its day-to-day business.