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Vets remember Dunkirk rescue 70 years ago

DUNKIRK, France, May 28 (UPI) -- About a dozen British war veterans returned to the French beaches at Dunkirk, where they were picked up 70 years ago in a huge rescue dubbed Operation Dynamo.

The vets flashed V-for-victory signs and waved flags as they made the ferry crossing from Dover, England, to Dunkirk -- now about 39 nautical miles (45 miles) but minefields and sandbanks extended the evacuation voyage to 55 nautical miles (83 miles), The Times reported Friday in London.

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Michael Weller-Bentall, 89, one of the last soldiers to escape the beaches, told the British newspaper his eyes misted when he saw some of the ships that trolled along the beaches and harbors of Dunkirk in the massive rescue.

"It's hard to believe after so many years that you're still alive," he said.

Only about 3 percent of the 243,000 British military personnel rescued are still alive.

Operation Dynamo began as an evacuation of more than 30,000 troops stranded in Dunkirk after German troops advanced west faster than anticipated. The final tally of military personnel rescued between May 24 and June 4, 1940, was 338,000 Allied troops, including the 243,000 British forces.

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Eric Woodroffe, 92, who was in Britain's Royal Naval Reserve, recalled his first glimpse of Dunkirk's beaches as a crew member aboard a rescue ship.

"We arrived in the half-light of dawn. All you could see were the sandy beaches black with soldiers," Woodroffe told The Times. "There must have been thousands of them on the beach. It was then we realized the scale of the operation we were involved in."

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