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The last post sounds for a true Redditch hero
1:30pm Friday 4th October 2013 in News
THE last post has sounded for a Dunkirk veteran and true hero, who died at his Redditch home last week.
Bert Evans, aged 92, of St David's House, Batchley, was part of D Company, 2nd Warwickshire Regiment, which fought a tough rearguard action against the Nazis in 1940, when Mr Evans was just 19.
On May 28, some of the company's men were captured by the SS and herded into a barn in Esquelbecq, near Wormhout in northern France, where nearly 100 of them were brutally massacred.
Mr Evans was one of the lucky few who escaped the atrocity after he was dragged from the front of the barn by Captain James Frazer Lynn-Allen.
But he was severely wounded by grenades thrown into the barn and later had his right arm amputated when he was recaptured by the Germans.
His captain was killed instantly after being shot in the head as he and Mr Evans tried to hide in a pond. Mr Evans has never forgotten what his captain did for him. He could have run on his own, but he chose to risk his own life to take injured Mr Evans with him.
In 2005, Mr Evans was invited to Coventry Cathedral by the International Friendship and Reconciliation Trust and asked to shake hands with the German and Japanese ambassadors in a show of forgiveness for the actions of the two countries during the war. Something which Mr Evans did willingly, despite the horrors he had experienced, and which remained with every day.
At the time, he told the Advertiser: "It's important we look to the future, not the past.
"I know many people don't feel ready to forgive the countries yet, but I felt it was something I wanted to do. I can never forget what happened though."
Friend Ian Hall, who has known Mr Evans for many years, first as a volunteer carer, and later as a friend, said: “He could never forget, and for him, the biggest regret was that his captain never got official recognition for his heroic actions. Bert always remembered that without Captain Lynn-Allen, he would never have survived that horrific day.
“Despite what he went through, and could never forget, Bert was a really cheerful person, always having a joke, and a truly wonderful friend who I will never forget.”
Mr Evans funeral will take place at Redditch Crematorium on Thursday, October 10, from 2.45pm. Present will be many soldiers, in full military uniform, paying their respects to the last man to survive this brutal event in history.
*UP until ill health prevented him doing so, Mr Evans made an annual, highly emotional pilgrimage to the barn where so many of his comrades had been brutally slaughtered.
The reconstructed barn is now a memorial to those who so bravely fought for others.
On these visits, he would meet with Guy Rommelaere, the former deputy major of Esquelbecq, and author of The Forgotten Massacre, the story of what happened on that day on May 28, 1940.
With the proceeds from the sale of the book, Mr Rommelaere helped save the meadow where so many soldiers lost their lives, and paid for the reconstruction of the barn.
When he was deputy mayor, Mr Rommelaere also had Mr Evans named ‘Citizen of Honour’ of Esquelbecq.
Mr Rommelaere told the Advertiser: “Near the pond at the meadow, he would remember sadly Captain Lynn-Allen who saved him from the barn and was shot where they took shelter together, and he would cry silently.
“Every French person who was there knew that this man was remembering the tragedy, minute by minute.
“Bert was a gentleman and had a smile for everyone. He had a special place among the others veterans who knew his miraculous story.
“Here, everybody knows now how hard the fight was to preserve the main road to Dunkirk and the horrible end which met the soldiers made prisoners by the SS.”
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