Ken Sturdy, a 97-year-old Royal Navy veteran and Dunkirk survivor, broke down in tears at the premier of Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk this weekend.
“I never thought I would see that again, it was just like I was there again,” Sturdy said while blinking away tears.
The Dunkirk evacuation was a turning point in WWII that saved the lives of more than 340,000 allied troops who were trapped and surrounded on the wrong side of the English channel by German forces. It was a monumental success in a moment of a colossal military failure. “Wars are not won by evacuations,” said Winston Churchill. His famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech on June 4th, 1940 was in response to the evacuation at Dunkirk. Over 60,000 British soldiers were captured or killed during the retreat.
Sturdy was a 20-year-old signal man with the Royal Navy helping evacuate soldiers from the beaches. Sturdy remembers the shallow waters filling with sunken ships and boats. He was one of the many Royal Navy men ordered to commandeer small pleasure crafts that could navigate the shallow waters and ferry soldiers to larger ships. “I was in those little boats, picking them out of the water,” he remembers.
He created a stir at the theater as moviegoers realized he was a Dunkirk suvivor. Viewers lined up to thank Sturdy for his service and shake his hands after he wiped away his tears.
“Tonight I cried because its never the end,” he said. “It will happen, we are as human species, we are so intelligent with with these astonishing things, we can fly to the moon… but we still do stupid things.”
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