Dunkirk, St Valery, Hazebrouk, Cassel

The best way to see the Dunkirk evacuation beaches is by light aeroplane. It is the only way to get a sense of distance, of the scale of the thing. At low tide you can see the wrecks of the MTB, paddle steamers etc; and you can always see the moles – which are in the same position (but different); the dunes look the same, as does the famous Fort des Dunes. We stay at Cassel and study the 1940 battle there, where the Ox & Bucks and Glosters fought such a gallant rearguard action, sacrificing themselves in the process. And we go on to the nearby and fascinating V1 site outside Hazebrouck, and the VI site of La Coupole. Hazebrock is intact despite almost nightly bomber raids before and after D-Day. Before that we visit perhaps the most impressive of Lutyens’ cemeteries, Etaples. Then we go on to St Valery which the BEF used as a major base. Outside is the charming cemetery of Noyelles, Lutyens’ tribute to the Chinese labourers who died clearing the land of the detritus of war.

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