Arthur Taylor set down his treasured blue cap and glanced out of the ferry window at the Spitfire and Hurricane that soared through the grey drizzle over the channel. "I said I'd never come back because there was too much devastation and death," he said, as the familiar shapes of the planes hurtled low over the decks above. "I can still see it now."
But in the end, Taylor relented, and today joined a dozen fellow veterans in making the bittersweet pilgrimage to Dunkirk to revisit the beaches where Churchill's "miracle of deliverance" was granted by the flotilla of little ships that plucked more than 300,000 servicemen from the jaws of the Nazi war machine.
The veterans, who were mostly teenagers when they left the strafed beaches and burning buildings of the French port 70 years ago this week, returned to the scene as old men to reminisce, remember the dead, and welcome again some of the boats that saved their lives during Operation Dynamo. This time they crossed the channel by ferry.