ASTONISHING recollections of the Second World War and the evacuation of Dunkirk have been shared with the Chronicle by veteran Danny Smith who remembers ‘blowing up’ his vehicle to ensure the enemy could not make use of it.
Danny Smith, born Edwin Verdun Smith, featured in the Chronicle last week as he celebrated his 103rd birthday, and the veteran of Dunkirk shared some of his experiences.
Born in 1916 in Leicester, Danny was 23 when war broke out in 1939. He joined the army in early 1940, and while he wanted to join the RAF, he was deployed in the Royal Army Service Corps because he could drive. He was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) where he became a driver for the army.
In May 1940, Danny was driving a breakdown lorry when he stopped to haul another lorry out of a ditch when he became separated from his company.
Danny’s daughter, Elaine, said: “They were ordered to leave vehicles and put a hand grenade under the bonnet and walk to Dunkirk, which took him a couple of days.”
Danny had to spend several days on the beaches before he was evacuated on a small boat called the Ben McRae.
Following his evacuation at Dunkirk, Danny was posted to The Middle East and then North Africa where he remained until the end of the war in 1945.
As a long serving member of the army, Danny was amongst the first troops to return to England and travelled from Africa by boat. Once aboard the boat he was told that there were some other men from Leicester aboard another part of the ship and so Danny went in search of them.
It was then, to his amazement, that he was reunited with his brother Charlie, whom he hadn’t seen in five years.
Charlie had been posted to Burma with the the Leicestershire Regiment and had not seen his brother since 1940. For the rest of the five day trip, Danny and Charlie would meet every evening to talk in one of the corridors and to catch up.
After the war, Danny settled down with his wife, Ivy, who he had also not seen for five years, and went back to his job at the hosiery factory, Charnos Ltd. Not many men can say they’ve blown up their car, been evacuated from Dunkirk and made it to 103, but Danny Smith can.