The family of Dunkirk veteran Gordon Massey will celebrate his life today at his funeral at Chester Crematorium.
Son-in-law Bill Hancock said: “Gordon was an absolute gentlemen who served his country throughout the Second World War. He joined up in 1939 in the Royal Engineers and was away on duty for the next five years in France, North Africa and Italy.
“I will let him tell his own story as it has been told to us all many times over the years.”
Gordon’s story : “Jerry beat us back to Calais where we were on guard duty in the main square.
A nearby church bell struck out on the hour. Trouble was every time it struck the hour Jerry would home in with a mortar round or two (Jerry was spot on with their mortar shots) and my mate turned to me and said: ‘Do you think we will live to hear the next hour strike.’
Me and Bill Allman, my pal from Chester, were on guard duty another night when we were approached by an officer. It was really dark no lights allowed so we went through the motions: ‘Halt who goes there?’ answer: ‘British officer.’ Bill replies: ‘Show yourself.’ (Bill just did not like officers) Reply from the officer: ‘I am a British officer and I demand to be let in.’ Bill replied: “Well I demand that you escort me to the guardhouse now.” and marched him off with the help of his bayonet point. It turned out that he was in fact a German spy.
The following day we were all lined up, about 100 of us, and the officer informed us that we were there to defend Calais against Jerry and we were all issued with rifles. Well as most of us were engineers, guns were not really for us. Someone messing about with his newly found rifle managed to discharge it within a minute. Jerry started pinpoint shelling and all was chaos so it was time to go.
I ended up driving a wagon load of men and we were heading for Dunkirk not really sure where we were going but to stay was, well, futile.
An officer was with us and we came to a cross roads (no signs, these had been removed) so he went off to see if he could get bearings. We never saw him again. So we struck off and coming towards us on the other side of the road was a German truck full of armed solders. Well what could we do? So we looked the other way and so did the Germans and we passed each other in complete ignorance. Mind you the sergeant then turned to me and said get your bloody foot down Mass.”
We somehow reached Dunkirk . Well, chaos rained and we had to take our chances like all of the others. Finally after what seemed like hours in the water I was picked up by a small fishing boat where I met the bravest man I can recall. The captain manoeuvred his boat towards us whist being shot at and shelled, he never blinked or flinched as he helped us aboard. He got several of us away calm and collected. He should have won the VC for that.
Following a small respite we were shipped out to North Africa building runways for the RAF and American airforce. Man it was hot but if you suffered sunstroke it meant that you were put on a charge so we kept covered up. It was there that I sprained my ankle badly. I could hardly walk but could drive so we set off about three wagons and a German 109 decided to have a go. Well we all ran to a nearby culvert. I was not far behind the leader in the sprint but could hardly walk back and was the last to get there. The 109 did his job only one wagon left running.
One thing that I did learn from North Africa was during lunch on infamous army biscuits and tea, which were so hard as to be almost uneatable. My mate threw one away and out of nowhere six small starving children appeared and started fighting like wild cats over this discarded biscuit. I resolved there and then always to finish a meal and never ever throw good food away. I never forgot that moment.
We adopted a dog in NA just before we were shipped to Italy. It was against rules to have any sort of livestock so we smuggled Muzzo (named after Mussolini) aboard. It was a rough crossing, Jerry shelled and bombed us at every opportunity, funny thing was we were more concerned about Muzzo being discovered than we were about the shells and bombs which we could hear the shrapnel bouncing off the sides of the hull. Muzzo kept us sane on that crossing.”
Sadly Muzzo was run over by a Yank truck in Italy, but we gave him a good send off.
March 1944 Mount Vesuvius erupted and we tried to tow the American planes from the runways as hot ash and flaming rocks were raining down setting them alight. The devastation was far greater than what the Germans did to the planes and runways.
Up through Italy we were held up a little at Monticassino but we had a real good time with Italian families who treated us well gave us food and plenty of wine.
Finally in 1945 I came home just to spend a week in hospital as they could not separate my boots from my feet and they had to be surgically removed.”