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Dunkirk Operation Dynamo Evacuation Beaches


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#1 Drew5233

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 08:01 PM

I've read several conflicting accounts of the first Ad-Hoc pier (Example Below) being thrown together on the beaches to help with the evacuation of the BEF being the idea of a CMP officer and a Royal Engineer Officer.

Anyone know who's idea it was and more importantly the unit?


Then
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Now
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Edited by Drew5233, 20 December 2010 - 07:24 PM.
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#2 sapper

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 08:45 PM

From my companies history Drew. 246 Field Co RE
Elements of the company constructed two piers for the embarkation of personnel, using abandoned vehicles and timber. This was the last engineering task in France and the company now considerably split up, were evacuated to England during the period June 3/5.
The company reformed at Sutton Venney near Warminster.only 60% were of the original Company.


Shortly after reforming, the Company was inspected by HM King George V1.
Until the end of 1942 coastal defences were constructed at littlehampton and Swanage and combined Ops training with 8th brigade on the Isle of Wight. Extract from 246th Field Company RE History.
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#3 Drew5233

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 04:04 PM

Hi Brian,

Whats the source of the info? Is it a published history with a author?

I only ask as the units war diary paints a slightly different account at Dunkirk.

Cheers
Andy

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#4 sapper

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 06:03 PM

Hi Drew.
It is the official document based on the war diaries of the Royal Engineers. I bought a copy from the RE headquarters. In fact I bought two of them, plus my companies war diaries. Let me tell you why. The second one is titled "The route forward. The history of the Third British Divisional Royal Engineers" What is more it cover damn near everything/ But typed on a worn out army typewriter on war time paper (thin)

In Holland we tried everything to stop the dreadful loss of limbs due to Schu mines. To that end we introduced the "Garden Roller man a roller with spikes and a long handle to roll over the mines.. I knew that no one would believe me, so I sent for the war diaries... Cost me 76 quid. Well spent... in there it said "The garden roller experiment was a washout"
Cheers.
PS In fact I pushed the roller. And in battle conditions in front of Air Vice Marshall Tedder. Monty's 2 IC
If you ever come down to East Dorset? by my guest and have a look for yourself. You are more than welcome.
Cheers brian

Edited by sapper, 20 October 2010 - 06:10 PM.

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#5 cmp

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 06:06 PM

The CMP officer:

Surname: Dibbens
Initials: H.J.
Rank: Lieutenant
Army No.: 120289
Notes: General List. Shown as CMP in LG. SIB & 102 Pro Coy BEF 40. SIB Egypt 41. APM SIB Southern Area Pro Coy.

http://www.corpsofmi...g/soldier/2610/

You can buy his book:

Dibbens' Diaries as a Sailor, Soldier, Policeman, Civil Servant, 1925-1972: Amazon.co.uk: Harold Dibbens: Books
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#6 idler

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 06:11 PM

From the RE History:


The RE of 1st Division built a jetty of 3-ton lorries driven into the sea at low water, close together, side by side, and with gangway planks over the canopy frames. This enabled men to be embarked dryshod, and for larger craft to pick up passengers direct. Similar jetties were built by other units, and, though the sea ends whipped about in an awe-inspiring manner at high tide, greatly assisted the work of embarkation.


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#7 Smudger Jnr

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 06:28 PM

I have to say that it was ingenius as it served to evacuate the troops faster and the vehicles would not have been fit for further service after being emersed in salt water.

Regards
Tom
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#8 Drew5233

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 07:25 PM

The CMP officer:

Surname: Dibbens
Initials: H.J.
Rank: Lieutenant
Army No.: 120289
Notes: General List. Shown as CMP in LG. SIB & 102 Pro Coy BEF 40. SIB Egypt 41. APM SIB Southern Area Pro Coy.

http://www.corpsofmi...g/soldier/2610/

You can buy his book:

Dibbens' Diaries as a Sailor, Soldier, Policeman, Civil Servant, 1925-1972: Amazon.co.uk: Harold Dibbens: Books


Many thanks for that - Book ordered too.

Shame he MiD isn't listed online at the National Archives.
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#9 Drew5233

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 07:32 PM

From Dunkirk -From disaster to Deliverance:

The credit for making jetties on De Panne beach from lorries is credited to Lieutenant Harold Dibbens, RMP. His company, 102 Provost drove the lorries onto the beach and they were held together and modified into a jetty by a group of some 30 Royal Engineers under the command of Captain E H Sykes. They tied the lorries together, slashed tyres and weighed them down with sandbags and heavy objects to stop them moving when the tide came in. Planks of wood were lashed to the roofs of the lorries to enable soldiers to walk out to the waiting boats.
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#10 Rich Payne

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 08:15 PM

The RE Museum states that the piers were built by engineers from 38th Field Company (5th Division) and 1st Division.

"38th Field Company (5th Division) built a 'lorry' pier, as did the divisional engineers of 1st Division."

A 59th website states that 59th Field Company assisted 38th. (They were 4th Div)

There is an interesting account on the net which implies that the 2nd pier at De Panne was at least overseen by Engineers from 4th Division

Three Weeks to La Panne; A Diary of Dunkirk

None of this confirms of course who actually 'thought of it'

I can imagine that CMP, responsible for order on the beaches and getting men away would have been looking for ways to do that and they would have turned to the RE for advice. The engineers had bridging lorries which would have been the obvious solution but of course not enough of them.

There seem to have been two piers at De Panne and two at Bray Dunes. Can anyone confirm this ?
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#11 Drew5233

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 09:25 PM

Since starting this thread I've been racking my brain of another account I read that it was a Royal Naval Officer who 'invented' the lorry piers. I maybe wrong but I think he was from Scotland and did quite a bit of sailing (I'm not thinking I may be talking about an Army Officer) and came up with the idea when he sailed across and saw all the men on the beaches struggling to get to the boats off shore.
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#12 cmp

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 09:41 PM

Dibben had previously been in the Navy, had sailing experience and served as a policeman.
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#13 Drew5233

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 10:28 PM

La Panne

Wednesday 29th May

On the 29th, for instance, the practicability was considered of building piers on the beaches to facilitate embarkation, using lines of barges; but reports from ships that worked off the beaches showed that the very gradual shoaling of the water at all states of the tide would necessitate such piers being inordinately long, and beyond the resources available.

Later in his report, Sub-Lieut. Crosswell says: I joined up with the Army Staff controlling evacuation-there was no other naval officers at La Panne. About 2300 . . . . I requested that piers should be built but was told nothing could be done that night . . . . Lord Gort arrived on the beach on Thursday morning (30th May) and asked what could be done to assist. I again suggested erection of piers, and under Colonel Porter's direction this was begun, the pier at La Panne being ready and in use at 1400.

Friday, 31st May

Work was commenced on a second lorry pier at La Panne by Lieut. Greatwood (The name Greatwood is not in the May 1940 Navy list) RN and the 12th Lancers who had been marshalling the beaches for the past 24 hours.


Bray Dunes

Thursday, 30th May

Meanwhile, during the forenoon also, the sappers and troops of the First Division had built a long pier of lorries off Bray into the sea with plank decking. This was an excellent piece of work, and though not strong enough for use by heavy craft, nor even by small craft in a lop, it was invaluable later for embarking troops into small boats. A similar pier was commenced on the morning of 30th May at La Panne. See above.

Friday, 31st May
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#14 idler

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 10:36 PM

History of the XII Royal Lancers says re: 30 May:

On the beach, however, Lt.-Col. Lumsden was told that on direct orders from the Commander-in-Chief he was to organize the embarkation points in that area. Tired and disappointed, the Regiment settled down to its new task under the black canopy of the smoke from the burning oil-tanks in Dunkirk. By 1 p.m. three embarkation points had been organized, all available rope, and folding boats had been collected, the waiting soldiers had been mustered, and 'A' Squadron had constructed a highly successful jetty of lorries driven into the water and connected by planks.


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#15 Drew5233

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 10:52 PM

30th May 1940

By 1300hrs the Regt. had taken over and re-organised three embarkation points. They then assisted in the collection and forming up of M.T. vehicles as a jetty on the sands and into the sea from which it would be easier to embark troops. Parties were also sent off to collect folding boats and rope from abandoned RE vehicles and those entering the bridgehead so that boats on endless ropes could be arranged to overcome the lack of watermanship in the troops embarking.


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#16 sapper

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 10:21 AM

The Version I have, where my former company built a pier of vehicles and timber was obtained from the RE Museum.
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#17 rewdco

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:11 PM

So we seem to have two jetties in De Panne and one in Bray Dunes. Well, I have found photographic evidence of all of these:

The location of the first pier in De Panne has been found by Drew (see first posting):

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In a 1973 issue of "After the Battle" I found this picture, which was also taken in De Panne:

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The "Kursaal" building on the right hand side of this picture is the same building as can be seen on the left hand side of the first picture. The building is still there today, and can be seen in Drew's "now" picture in the first posting. So this is the second pier in De Panne!

Here are some pictures of German visitors who are inspecting the jetties in De Panne:

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This aerial view also shows one of the piers, but when I compare the buildings in the background with contemporary pictures of De Panne, I can't recognise anything. So this must have been Bray Dunes:

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Some research quickly confirmed this. Here's a pre great war picture of the houses in the middle of the aerial view:

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And this is the same location in the 1950s:

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The WW2 memorial can be seen on this postcard, but there's no mention of this “pier” (which was only 100 yards eastwards) on it though…

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Jan

Edited by rewdco, 21 October 2010 - 07:55 PM.
So this is the second pier in De Panne!

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#18 Rich Payne

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:22 PM

I like the way that the 4th Division Bedford has its AoS plate turned to read 'PASS'. It clearly wasn't going anywhere !
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#19 Drew5233

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:46 PM

Nice one Jan - Glad to see you left the boobies out :lol:
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#20 May1940

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 04:45 AM

Interesting discussion. There is picture evidence of a further pier - at Malo Terminus. This time the vehicles are nose to tail rather than side by side. The pier starts from the Dunkirk side of the Malo Terminus casino and passes by the beached Thames barge 'Ethel Everard' - one of two such barges on the beach near Malo Terminus. Presumably built by another group of men?

Andrew Foulkes

Edited by May1940, 22 October 2010 - 04:50 AM.
typo

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#21 rewdco

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 07:32 AM

You could be right May1940! Could you post these pictures that you have?

I think that these are also pictures of the pier that was built west of the Malo Terminus Casino:

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The second picture must have been taken from the second floor of the Malo Terminus Casino, which can also be seen in this picture (below). Have a look at the “supported” telephone pole in the pictures above and below. The cars seem to have been moved in the picture below, which must have been taken “much later”:

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But do I see another pier on the left hand side in this picture??? If this is the case, there must have been two jetties here, one on each side (west and east) of the Malo Terminus Casino!

To give you a better idea, this is a pre war view of the area. The peek on the first building of the block of houses on the right can be seen in the second picture, which was taken from the second floor of the casino building in the background:

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Jan
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#22 May1940

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 11:28 AM

I am trying to find out how to post pictures / attachments. I think that function is not available to me.

Andrew
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#23 Drew5233

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 02:01 PM

I am trying to find out how to post pictures / attachments. I think that function is not available to me.

Andrew


I was going to send you a vistors message but it appears that function is down too. Hold tight Andrew and I'll contact a Mod.
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#24 Rich Payne

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 02:39 PM

Thanks for your contribution Andrew (Foulkes). It occurred to a couple of us talking off-forum that we'd never found a definitive list of where piers were located so it would be interesting to do that here. I've no doubt that the other Andy will get your photo posting sorted out soon. I believe that there has to be a minimum number of posts first - so get posting !

This is a photo up the beach from the other direction, pinched from eBay ages ago. I don't know if it adds much. It seems that the Malo jetties weren't as durable and they seem to have settled into the sand quickly.

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#25 May1940

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 04:29 PM

It will certainly be interesting to get these piers' locations identified. Jan's pictures were great as I have not seen them before.

Here is my first effort at attaching pictures. They are of the pier to the west of the casino.


It is worth noting that here are two Thames barges on the beach here. The one further to the east (in the foreground in Rich's picture) is probably the Aidie, although I have never seen it named as such in a caption. This has no pier near it. The more westerly barge, closer to the casino, is the Ethel Everard, and that has the lorry pier. The pier has lorries nose to tail on the seaward side of the barge and trailers on the landward side. The trailers are shown on the last but one pic. The colour pic is of the Ethel Everard from some German film of the beach.


If this works I may be able to post some more.


Andrew

Attached Files


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#26 Drew5233

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 04:32 PM

Great pics and thanks for posting them.

For the first time I think I can begin to appeciate how much stuff must still be under the sand.

Hopefully I'll come across some mentions of these piers in diaries at some point.

I wonder what pier the Royal Ulster Rifles were using?

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#27 May1940

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 04:52 PM

Drew

Thanks for getting me up and running.

According to 'Dunkerque' by Eric Lefevre, the Ulster rifles location is Malo Terminus and he gives a photo of them next to (presumably) the same pier as the Life photo. He also gives a 'then and now' comparison with the seafront in 1981. The two relevant pics are attached.

Andrew

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#28 Drew5233

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 05:04 PM

Cheers Andrew,

I have their diary so I'll have a butchers later unless Diane beats me to it.

Andy
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#29 dbf

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 05:57 PM

2 RUR:

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#30 Drew5233

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 06:22 PM

Cheers Diane. I was just uploading it. Interestingly the diary only mentions Malo once in a general mention of three evacuation locations and most seem to have departed via Dunkirk. They did seem to be hanging around for a bit though before being told to head for Dunkirk which does fit with the pictures.

I can just hear the growns and complaints from them after they are told to get on the pier and wait for a boat then told to get back off again and head further down the beach to Dunkirk.
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