Eighty-two years ago, 27 May – 4 June 1940, over 300,000 troops were being evacuated as German forces overran Dunkirk.
Canadian’s role is usually overlooked. “Though Canadian troops joined the British Expeditionary Force in late 1939, there were not large numbers in France in May 1940. The Historic UK website (?) notes some Canadians were evacuated from Dunkirk, along with French, Belgian and British troops.”
That’s according to Canadians and Dunkirk which notes contributions that were certainly not insignificant.
James Campbell Clouston, born and raised in Montreal, attended McGill and joined the Royal Navy in 1918. He assumed the role of pier-master on Day 3 of the evacuation and remained at his post for the next five days and nights. Armed only with a loud-hailer and a pistol (which he had to employ at least once to restore order) Clouston ushered more than 200,000 onto ships. He was relieved, then volunteered to return, only to have the speedboat he was on attacked by dive-bombers and sunk. Clouston and a dozen sailors eventually succumbed to the frigid water and drowned.
Commander James Campbell Clouston is remembered at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
You may also be interested in a post from Family Tree magazine — Dunkirk painting owned by Sir Winston Churchill goes on public display. An extract is used to illustrate this post.