Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Dunkerque, Only Without Nazis

An earlier evacuation of Britons from a European beach (1940)

It was touch and go at first, but plucky British resolve eventually saved the day.

Navy rescues stranded UK holidaymakers:

It had all the makings of a mutiny. When stranded Britons were told they weren't allowed to board the Royal Navy ship they believed had been sent to rescue them, their exhaustion and frustration spilled over.

They had struggled by coach, train and car through the night to reach the northern Spanish port of Santander.

After all, Gordon Brown had sent the HMS Albion to ferry them home with soldiers returning from Afghanistan. They had heard it on TV and the radio.

But after watching the troops board followed by 200 'vulnerable' Britons, they were told the ship was full.

As tempers boiled over, Captain Chris Wait, from the Royal Marines, explained : 'We're absolutely full. We can't take any more people.'

Publican Denis Ryan, 51, from Greenwich, South East London, who had reached Santander at 1am after a 36-hour train and bus journey from Malaga, summed up the feeling.

'Gordon Brown's been on television saying he's sending this ship to northern Spain to bring us home and David Milliband's been doing the same thing,' he protested.

'We made this horrendous journey to get here only to discover a select few people that are being allowed on the boat. I don't understand why they told us to come.'

While they argued and some claimed they had been told by the British Embassy in Madrid to travel to Santander, diplomats and senior officers discussed the crisis.

Suddenly there was a U-turn and Commander Geoff Wintle said: 'We're going to get everyone on. Nobody is being left behind.'

Britannia still rules the waves.

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