Thursday, 27 May 2010

Bigger and better boat story...





Today is a big day for thinking about this particular place.

Scrobs Senior was brought back with all the others; he rarely talked about it afterwards - except that I can always remember him telling me that they all got fed at Headcorn Station, just a few miles from here, and that he'd come back on one of the larger boats, and had to take his boots off, in case he had to swim for it!

We gave him a commemorative book on the evacuation in 1991, and he recognised several places and mentioned a few terse comments about what he'd done there, which was poignant, but we never really got the whole story!

In 1958, they made the film 'Dunkirk', and I was still at primary school in Rye, where the film makers took over 'The Strand', and several farms close by. The bridge (blown up in the film), was built specially, and we were all allowed to go down and watch some of the shooting. Many of the scenes are easily recognisable in the reconstructed harbour, (Rye Harbour is a village just a mile or so away, and wasn't included). The refugee shots were taken on farms near Camber, where the whole beach was commandeered for the sand shots! It is after all, just over The Channel from Dunkirk, and looks identical. I think the cafe building used as a hospital, is still there on the dunes and hasn't changed much either!

Us sprogs in our school macs, were so close to people like John Mills, we could hear them talking and joking, and one chum even tried to get his autograph, but didn't have a piece of paper!

The scene in the farm, where one of the escapees gets wounded, was shot on a farm in Udimore. We used to see them working from the school bus on the way in and then home in the afternoon! The buildings are exactly as they were then, and I can never look at them without rememembering the chaps hiding in the gap between two oasts, and shooting their way out of trouble. The bit where they left a wounded chum groaning in the orchard still haunts me!

The whole Scrobs family went to one the first showings in 'The Regent' cinema in Rye, and the place was packed for weeks!

May have to contact Lovefilm and change the order around...

24 comments:

Thud said...

Wow...I love that film and the connection with your father must make it doubly special for you.

rvi said...

Very interesting Scrobs. Lots there I did not know.

My parents used to take me and my little bro to Camber from time to time as it was a lovely beach with no pebbles. We used to spend hours playing hide and seek - and only came out when an ice cream was promised! In later years as a teenager a (mixed) group of us went to one of the holiday camps there (about which we'll say no more!).

Trubes said...

Ooh I say, Scrobs senior is dashingly good looking....Do you look at all like him?
We gals need to know!
I've just written on EK's site abouthow my young Uncle Jack was rescued from Dunkirk, only later, in the War, to be 'murdered' by The Germans in a conflict on the Greek Islands.
Apparently, he was trussed, bound, gagged and shot.
Brave chaps, in the German ranks, then!

Philipa said...

Trubes, you read my mind - Scrobs Snr is very dashing. But I don't think I want confirmation that Scrobs is as handsome as his father, his writing is compelling enough for a happily married man without the tease of physical description. I still haven't got over the sight of Idle's legs.

Fascinating post, Scrobs. I was always a fan of John Mills too.

Scrobs... said...

It's a favourite still Thudders - mainly because I just had so many connections like the post says!

Dad kept pretty quiet about it all, so it probably still hurt a bit.

Scrobs... said...

Reevers, we know Camber very well, and if you were at Pontins, then you almost certainly escaped while the guards weren't looking, and ran shrieking into Rye for some peace and quiet.

And I may well have been behind the bar in one of the pubs and served you and your chums...

With Mrs S of course!

Scrobs... said...

Trubes, 'fraid so, but that was taken when he was about 28 or so...

I still have his cap badge, and bits of his Sam Browne, which I've used for various repairs where you need to have proper leather accoutrements etc.

That para about your Uncle Jack is not a welcome note, and is very sad. It must have rankled for many, many years.

I only heard on the TV this morning, how many stayed behind as a rearguard, and were shot for their efforts.

You really do need to be able to forgive - but sometimes it just ain't easy enough is it.

Scrobs... said...

Iders' legs are much more inteersting than the Scrobs physog Pips - at least they get to finer climes occasionally, while we just potter round the Turrets and never get beyond the village boundaries...

John Mills apparently refused to swear in that film, - it was written into his contract!

Electro-Kevin said...

Gramps was at Dunkirk too. REME.

We used to take the piss out of his nervous shake - cups and saucers rattling all the time. Poor sod.

He got shell shock whilst pinned down by a moving barrage once.

Can't begin to imagine.

Philipa said...

Just heard there's a ceremony on the beach of Dunkirk this morning.

Scrobs... said...

There's not a way for kids to understand what he went through Elecs.

My Dad actually gave a talk about the experience to the local school once, and apparently they all lapped it up - but they were in a place where you learnt such things.

It may well have been different to explain it all to a youngster face to face as it were.

Scrobs... said...

Pips, I've missed it!

rvi said...

Scrobs: No, not Pontins. 1960 was a very long time ago and the place was simply called Camber Sands Holiday Camp, I think, consisting of a couple of dozen small chalets and a large ballroom cum restaurant. I have no idea if it is still there or, if not, what became of the site.

I like Rye too, but it is many years since I last passed that way, so I hope it has not been spoilt by reckless 'development' in the interim.

I watched the sad Dunkirk events too. My uncle (Royal Engineers) was one of the evacuees, but he too would never talk about his experiences in the two world wars he was involved in.

Scrobs... said...

It's almost certainly still there Reevers, but probably in a different guise now - possibly Hoseasons took it over.

Pontins actually made a big difference to Rye, because it swelled the coffers considerably in the summer! Much of Camber now is very much the same, and probably a bit tidier. There are several very expensive house there (£950,000 - on the sand!) and some pretty good restaurants too!

Rye suuffer from its 'twee' image a bit, and although the streets are pretty much the same, many of the shops sell junk etc, which may be a good idea if you want to cart a smelly old wardrobe back in the boot, but you have to walk in the streets to get a through passage when the sun's out.

However, Mrs S's Dad made a good business in his pub and retired well - not for the want of a few pints when Mrs S and I looked after the place when they were away...

I was actually at school at the place now known as 'The Saltings', and once we all went back to the place for a drink. The owners were delighted to be told about what went on between 1953 and 1958.

(Julia...are you there...? Maura...I can't put my arm round you because your hair's too long...) etc etc...

idle said...

I would have followed Scrobs Sr willingly, not merely out of curiosity. He has a kindly and honest look about him.

Can't make out the cap badge, but the lapel badges are those of a Sapper, are they not?

rvi said...

Scrobs: Thanks for the update. Holiday camping was fairly new in those days and was what folks did in summer before all those cheap group flights to dearest dreadful Benidorm were invented. We could never afford Pontins or Butlins, so it was usually a week in a caravan at Dymchurch for us - the highlight of which was the ride on the mini railway to Dungeness and back.

"Memories may be wonderful, and yet..."

rvi said...

Re cheap flight to Benidorm this (brazenly stolen from James Haver's blog) is just too good to miss.

Scrobs... said...

Yup Iders, you're right, Royal Engineers they were.

He was very proud of all that, and for years, it was easy to buy him a present, because he always liked wearing an RE tie when it mattered!

He may well have been a Sergeant at Dunkirk, but we just don't know. I know he went to OCTU at Ripon for a spell (before I was born of course), and later, when I was having the pins done up (see Scrobs passim), he was away on a camp building some sort of bridge - as they do...

But it was the sense of duty which shone through, and we actually have a tape recording of a talk he made to some local school-children, (actually, YD persuaded him to do this by blinking a bit), which made it pretty clear that he served others.

May sound a bit trite now, but that's the way he was!

Hasn't done us any harm that.

Scrobs... said...

Reevers, no change there I can assure you!

We recognise the symptoms, and Mrs S spends ages telling me of similar hols too!

Our first caravan holiday was in a borrowed one at Norman's Bay, near Eastbourne.

I had to do school work during this, as it was explained to the school, that as Dad had to work all summer hols (hop-picking work with the old firm), it was the only time we could get away.

Nowadays, we's have all been shot by the Local Authority.

The train still thrives too!

It really is an institution, and although we haven't been on it for years, there are several spots where it can be seen whizzing along. There was a bad accident some time ago, but that's in the past!

rvi said...

The only time in my life I have been stung by a wasp was in 1948 as a nipper "assisting" the adults with a spot of hop picking down in Tenterden. Little fellow was after my jam butty!


wv: rited - as in I just rited that lot above.

Philipa said...

Well I am blogging in a caravan as we er type and I am on a holiday :-)

The good things about it are the same, and the bad things too but the bad things are usually men who are not men but 6 foot toddlers who think it their right to kick a football against your (new and utterly fabulous) awning.

Scrobs... said...

Reevers, that would have been the Tenterden Wasp Outrage of 1948.

You were in fact recorded in the local hospital, as a plucky lad, prone to recklessness, but much loved by the nurses and doctors who released you back into the wild after only three days.

You then apparently, managed to drink The Caxton pub dry, and began to sing the whole of Eskimo Nell in Latin - an impressive project, which has never been bettered.

Tenterden is a favourite town for us, and indeed Pips has been there too, and her recollections caused me some heartache with the Local Plod (not -, but see Scrobs Passim...)

Scrobs... said...

Pips! You dongled OK!

Delighted you are enjoying a well earned break under the awning!

I hope the weather is being a bit kinder to you than it is down here; we have had rain most of the day and have just lit the fire...

rvi said...

Ah, ze fameuse Tenterden Wasp Outrage! Ah yers, ah reememberr eet welll.


Bellum, bellum bellum, belli bello bello.


Must go, got a plane to catch. Bye