After an uneventful evening Eurotunnel crossing and establishment of the FOB in the IBIS Central in Dunkirk, the intrepid party set off for the Crisis Wargames show in Antwerp. This was a first for us and turned out to be like Salute, but with cheaper parking and the option to have lunch included in the entry price of 20€!! Plenty of traders, a good selection of games, a ‘bring and sell’ section that one could actually get into(!), as well as a nice friendly atmosphere. Recommended.
Intrepid travellers before joining the mammoth entry queue.
Richard Clark looking pensive!
Some familiar faces at the Sharpe Practice 2 table.
Day 2: Dunkirk outer perimeter tour: After causing major disruption in the local boulangerie by having the effrontery to order coffee and croissants early on a Sunday morning, the team set off for Veurne. In May 1940 this town was one of the key points on the Dunkirk defence perimeter. The tour started respectfully in the CWGC cemetery in Veurne, but almost came unstuck when the team was forced to shelter under trees in the corner of the graveyard for almost 15 minutes, while an unexpected “light shower” passed over! We then moved on to the canal defence line and thus planting the seed of a 20mm Early War German engineering assault section, complete with rubber boats, firmly in Greg’s mind!?
After Veurne it was on to an old Maginot Line bunker on the France-Belgium border.
Then came a spot of lively battlefield archaeology, while the team debated which was actually Langley’s cottage, leading Simon to decree that local planning permission should not allow properties to be modified / altered, where such properties appear in published battlefield guide books!
After a brief stop at the site of Ervine-Andrews’ VC winning action, it was onto Bergues, a nice old walled town which formed an important part of the Western end of the Dunkirk perimeter defence. We slogged our way through a coffee and biscuit in a cosy café on the town square, before heading down to then Cassel gate, the area of most of the 1940s action.
After Bergues, it was off to the Wormhout barm massacre site, for a solid reminder of man’s inhumanity to their fellow men! After this sombre reflection, an unscheduled excursion to the Esquelbecq CWGC cemetery, to pay some deserved respects to the victims.
We then headed down to the bunker at Peckel, the site of Cresswell’s epic 3 day siege in 1940.
Next stop was Cassel. The long climb up the cobbled road to the top (in a modern car!) serving as a good reminder of the military significance of the only bit of high ground in the area. Indeed, Cassel has been the site of three battles through the years, even if no-one could name the other two. After lunch in a delightful little café (which could easily have served as the set of ‘Allo ‘Allo!), we pressed on up to the 3 battles monument, spectacular panoramic views and rather more dubious ‘Roman wall’ remains!
Before setting off to our last visit of the day, we drown down past the location of where a knocked-out German Panzer 35t was photographed in 1940, knocked out by a 2 pounder located further up Cassel hill.
Our last stop of the day, was a deviation to the Dunkirk 1940 theme, the V2 preparation / launching bunker at Eperlecques, the aptly named the “Blockhaus”!
The scale of construction is both awe inspiring and depressing and was well worth the deviation from the main tour theme. Despite the grand plans, it was interesting to reflect that Eperlecques never actually launched a V2! The sheer obvious scale of the facility attracting some very severe Allied bombing, including everything up to the 22,000 lb Tallboy and "Disney" bombs. The facility did however continue to process V2 rockets for mobile launchers.
Day 2: Dunkirk and the beaches: The day opened gloriously, with a blue, lightly clouded sky and sunshine, which compensated for the early (well for Rob!) to get out to the beach at low tide. We located the wreck of the Crested Eagle, causing another sombre moment of reflection for the 300 lives lost during her sinking.
After a short diversion to an “Atlantic Wall” bunker sticking out of the dunes, it was back to Dunkirk and the CWGC Dunkirk cemetery, to reflect upon the 5500+ names of Commonwealth Servicemen lost in two World Wars.
After a brief return to the hotel, to check-out, we embarked upon the walking tour of Dukirk, an interesting idea, clearly inspired to fill a bit of a publicity gap after the recent film’s release. Anyway, the many themed blue display boards gave us a nice walk, with Dave claiming that we had walked over 14km all-told that day.
Yet another Atlantic Wall Bunker
On the Mole
The day ended with a visit to the Dunkirk museum, with its interesting and sometimes eclectic mix of exhibits, including model Landrovers on the beach in 1940! Anyway, a great trip. Sedan anyone!