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One Of The True Heroes Of Dunkirk

29 Jul

Source: One Of The True Heroes Of Dunkirk

 

Due to the recent film about Dunkirk. I have re-posted this article.

This is a short story about one man of many, who were sacrificed at Dunkirk in 1940 so that over 300,000 men were saved to fight another day. His name was Samuel Harold Renney; you will not find his name etched in the annals of history, because he was an ordinary man just doing his duty.
Samuel Harold Renney was born in 1909 at Barrow-in-Furness. He lived in King Alfred Street on Walney Island, where he grew up. Like the rest of Great Britain, times were very hard with the First World War and the depression that followed. On leaving school work was hard to find and just the same as many others he joined the Army at the age of 19. Samuel enlisted in the Royal Artillery on the 4th April 1928 Army number 780142. After various postings and training courses he was sent to Meerut in India January 1931. Meerut in the state of Uttar Pradesh is the 17th largest city in India where he served for just over 4 years. The temperatures could rise to over 45 degrees centigrade in the hot season; prickly heat was random amongst the troops which was no picnic. As the saying goes a mad dog is an Englishman, who goes out in the mid-day Sun
On arriving home from India, Samuel was honourably discharged on the completion of his service and was put on the Army Reserve in February 1935. He met Edna Parker in his home town of Barrow-in-Furness, they married and later had a son named Raymond who was born in 1939
It does not end there, because of that evil Hitler and his infamous henchmen. In 1939 Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war on Germany. Samuel had been on the emergency reserve since leaving the Army in 1935. The British government quickly mobilised its reservist to join the regular army and join the British Expeditionary Force being sent to France. Samuel was back in the Royal Artillery.
After a quiet start to the war, Germany invaded France and Belgium. The speed and might of the German forces pushed back the poorly equipped French and British forces very quickly. As history shows Belgium capitulated leaving the B.E.F. stranded in the Dunkirk area. A rear guard action had to be employed to save the many men stranded at Dunkirk. Those picked out for the rear-guard knew their war was over. Being told you were in this action must have been agonising, knowing you would be killed or taken prisoner. The British Army prides itself with discipline, and bravely these chosen men were men indeed. The rear-guard formed by many regiments and Corps, held back the Germans for days on end, until they were overrun and taken prisoner. For the rear-guards brave action, over 300,000 British and French troops were safely evacuated from the Dunkirk beaches in Operation Dynamo. In the evacuation, there were 11000 men, who lost their lives during and being in the rear-guard and sadly 40,000 troops were taken prisoner. Samuel Harold Renney was one of those forgotten brave men.
The overwhelming majority of prisoners were marched away in columns some were beaten, starved and in some cases if the SS were in charge, murdered. At the end of being force marched the POWs were sent to various Prisoner of war camps throughout Germany and Poland. The officers went to Oflags the rank and file were sent to Stalags. It was StalagXXB which was in Marienburg, Poland that Samuel was sent has POW 7716 L/BDR. He spent the next four and a half years at this camp, with his fellow internee’s. All suffered through lack of food, care, cold nights and the list is endless. Most of all, the worry of loved ones back home prayed on their minds.
In the early months of 1945 The Russian Army were making big gains in Poland. With this happening the POWs of StalagXXB were sent on a forced march into Germany, in what was the coldest winter on record. One must remember these POWs on the march, had no transport, insufficient clothing and survived on little food. The march which lasted over 8 weeks, where they slept in open fields at times, with groups huddled together trying to get some warmth in the cold hostile weather. Many POW’s were left behind if they fell ill and most certainly died of exposure. What these men went through must have been horrendous. The march was known as the Death March and lasted a long eight weeks or more.
The nightmare that Samuel Renney and his fellow Prisoners of War endured came to an end in late April early May. They were thankfully liberated by American troops in Germany. Samuel was repatriated to England and spent quite a long time in hospital before being demobilised in early 1946.
Returning to his loving wife Edna and his son Ray, They all felt strangers as one can imagine, each trying hard to pick up the pieces of being away for such a long time. His son Ray was 2 years old last time he saw his dad now he was seven, but pick up the pieces they did. Samuel settled down and went back to working as a bricklayer; he and Edna had two further children Michael and Jeanette. Over the years his health never fully recovered due to the ordeals he had been through and sadly Samuel Harold Renney died in 1959 at 50 years of age.
Like thousands of others the war ruined his life, there was no counselling during those post war years, it was in the army one day and demobilised the next. There was no help for heroes or any hand outs; it was you’re on your own Jack. All the ex-servicemen returning from the War were just glad to be out of uniform and from that day on many struggled, with the main struggle being their health.
The men of the rear-guard who fought and held the Germans back at Dunkirk. They gave just enough time for the saving of 328,000 men during Operation Dynamo. History hardly mentions these brave men who sacrificed their own freedom and endured hardships, so their fellow countrymen could carry on the fight against Nazi Germany, until ultimate victory.
Samuel Harold Renney was only one of the 40,000 true heroes of Dunkirk. Those true heroes should never be forgotten for the debt they paid, in keeping this great country of ours free.
Alan

 

 

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