A day later, my father drove our Austin up to Dunkirk to see the famous beaches.

It was a grey, cold day and the sand was grey and there was some unrecognisable, rusting junk along the promenade and several of the old beach hotels were still under repair. History had passed this way and the Brits had returned to other beaches 250 miles further west four years later and Hitler killed himself and we dropped atoms bombs on Japan and, by the time I reached Dunkirk, we’d lost soldiers in Korea and the poor old French were just starting their doomed war to hold onto Algeria.

In the photograph, the right-hand side of the Boulogne jetty remains, in dilapidated, post-war France, just as it was when British soldiers scrambled aboard the last ships to Britain, the concrete, right-hand side of the mole collapsed into the sea, just a few old hawsers showing where it stood.

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The Brits had already been softened up to hate their French allies by General Mason-Macfarlane, who gave an off-the-record briefing to journalists in London on in which he told them to blame French troops for the demise of the British Expeditionary Force; reporters ran “exclusives” next day – no sources, of course (as usual) – precisely reflecting the words of the general.

Mason-Macfarlane was, I suppose, a Farage of his time.

In the decades to come, British historians would denigrate French troops in 1940 as drunkards and cowards although they also wrote of the looting and binge drinking by the Brits in Dunkirk town – a theme clearly hinted at in the magnificent five-and-a-half minute Dunkirk beach “take” in Joe Wright’s .

Intriguingly, there were more French soldiers – shooting their horses, marching with discipline to the beaches, one of them dying in a London hospital – in Wright’s film, in which Dunkirk was only an episode, than in Nolan’s epic.

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