From escaping Dunkirk to the surrender of Japan

Dunkirk Survivor, Tom Perrins, from Ramsey,

Dunkirk Survivor, Tom Perrins, from Ramsey, - Credit: Archant

Striding through the freezing waters at Dunkirk in search of a boat to escape on as German aircraft attacked relentlessly from overhead is a memory that has stayed with former solider Tom Perrins.

And the memories came flooding back when he read the story of another veteran, Ivor Jenner, featured in the Hunts Post last month.

Tom, aged 96, from Ramsey, was involved in the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, which saw more than 338,000 soldiers rescued from France.

He said: “I had my friends with me at the time and we all had to wade through the sea to get on a boat. Luckily for me there was a little boat for me and the rest of our section waiting for us to get on it.

“When the German bombs were coming over it was scary but most of the time they missed us and we managed to get away – I was lucky.”

In 1940, Mr Perrins attended a friend’s wedding in Birmingham and was introduced to Eileen who would go on to become his wife.

Mrs Perrins, 92, said: “My friend and neighbour next door were getting married and Tom was the best man at the wedding.

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“After the wedding my dad invited Tom to stay the night on the sofa at our house because he had far to travel – I think it was my dad that started it between us.”

The couple courted while Mr Perrins was re-trained as a signaller with the army, and they married at Hall Green Parish Church, Birmingham, in 1942.

On completion of his training, in 1943, Mr Perrins was transferred to the Royal Corp of Signals.

“I was then put on the HMS Lothian to the Philippines and then we went down the Panama Canal and in 1945 I ended up in the South Pacific.”

Now a grandfather of four with three great-grandchildren, Mr Perrins can recall the moment when the Japanese surrendered and came aboard the ship he was stationed on – the HMS Persimmon.

“This was in 1945 when they came aboard, they didn’t look like soldiers or generals at all we were so surprised.

“There were boats all around us with children on begging for food which we would throw down to them – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

As for VJ Day, he remembers it being a quiet affair as he was still at sea. Mr Perrins knows that he was fortunate to be aboard the Persimmon after his brother was captured by the Japanese.

“My brother was a prisoner of war and was forced to work on the railways. He really suffered.”

Mr Perrins left the army in September 1945 and went home to his wife and daughter. The couple had two more daughters and have been together for 72 years.