This week in history is special. Most particularly, on this day in June 1940, Operation Dynamo saw the remarkable evacuation of 338,226 Allied forces from Dunkirk. And then, four years later (6 June), D-Day commenced. As they say, the rest is history. Everyone now recognises that without the support and sacrifice of our Allies, the UK and Europe would be very different today. Thank you.
However, if there are any Aussies reading this, we don't want you running away with the thought that we Poms have gone all soft! It may have escaped your notice, but, at the time, there was a great deal of relief in the UK that Douglas Jardine, who captained the infamous 'Bodyline' Ashes series in 1932/33, was one of the fortunate ones to be rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk. You didn't warm to him very much, did you. And you kicked up a right ol' stink about it, too. And here we are still talking about it! So, how about a deal. You stop harking on about Bodyline and we will go easy on Messrs Smith and Warner during the World Cup and upcoming Ashes series. No? Well there’s a surprise! So, let the old rivalry begin. But if we all want a lesson in good sporting manners, we need look no further than 4 June 1984, when Arnold Palmer failed, after thirty-two years and sixty-two tour wins (including seven major championship titles) to qualify for the US Golf Open. There was no throwing his clubs into the nearest creek or wrapping his putter around his caddie's neck. But rather, he became golf's greatest-ever ambassador. It is too late now for Mr Jardine to seek redemption. However, who knows what may lie ahead for the two naughty boys from Down Under?
What a grim place Dunkirk must have been back then, not least as, once the Allies had left, they were lumbered with 2,472 guns, 63,879 vehicles, 20,548 motorcycles, 76,097 tons of ammunition and 416,940 tons of stores! But, what about the town now? Well, there’s good news and bad news. Firstly, Christopher Nolan's award-winning 2017 film, which apparently is the highest-grossing World War 2 film at $526 million worldwide, has boosted tourism. Secondly, Dunkirk has the third largest port in France and handled a throughput of 51.6 million tonnes last year. And thirdly, if you want to get about the place, the buses are free!
On the other hand, unemployment stands at a depressing 11.6% and the town is ranked only the 295th best place to live in France… or put another way, the 10th worst! And, of course, they are really fearful of the negative impact of a hard Brexit. Indeed, Xavier Bertrand, President of the Haut-de-France region has said that a two-minute delay on each truck would lead to 27 km tailbacks. As a precaution, they are recruiting 700 more customs officers. Hopefully, this will go some way towards relieving the concerns of the Great British ‘booze cruisers’ who take advantage of the twenty-four ferry crossings each day!
So please, for the sake of the good folk of Dunkirk, wine connoisseurs everywhere and the sanity of the UK at large, let’s hope our new, shortly to be formed Parliamentary executive finally gets a grip!
PS. The deputy editor wanted something to be included on the property market. So… you can buy a two/three-bedroom apartment overlooking the beach at Dunkirk for around €200,000. That’s about the same figure as a three-bedroom house in Middlesborough, its UK twin town.