What would you do if you were left behind by your troops as you were evacuating from the territory of the enemies who obviously wanted you dead? For Bill Lacey, who would happen to be the last man to ever escape Dunkirk, he did what perhaps anyone in the same situation would try to do: Survive. So he thrived all by himself in France for four months. This was his amazing story.

The Dunkirk Evacuation

The Dunkirk evacuation happened during World War II when the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied Forces from the seaport of Dunkirk in France evacuated to England after Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries and northern France in May 1940.

Germany’s invasion began on May 10 when the German blitzkrieg attacked the Netherlands and captured the key bridges deep in the country, with the goal of opening the way for mobile ground forces. The Dutch assigned to defend the area fell back westward, and by May 12, the German tanks were on Rotterdam. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her government fled to England on May 13, and the Dutch army surrendered to the Nazis the day after.

Hundreds of civilian boats and naval vessels were used in the evacuation called Operation Dynamo, which began on May 26. About 340,000 soldiers were rescued after it ended on June 4. Bill Lacey was not one of them.

The Man Who Was Left Behind

20-year-old Bill Lacey was one of the BEF backed up against the Channel. He was a rifleman in the Gloucestershire Regiment who also wanted to get back home, and he almost did. He was already aboarded  one of the evacuating boats after fighting his way and escaping death with the Germans on the way. The last German soldier that he killed was with his bayonet. However, a wounded man came aboard, and he decided to give his space to him. He leaped off the boat and walked back to the shore, watching as the last of the boats left.

The British Army in the UK- Evacuation From Dunkirk, May-June 1940.
A wounded soldier on a stretcher is given a drink on the quayside at Dover on 31 May 1940. (Puttnam (Mr) and Malindine (Mr), War Office official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Soon after, German troops began flooding onto the beach, capturing or killing those left behind. He knew he had to survive, and his best chance was to run literally for his life.

In an article by Mirror, he recalled,

I could see German troops pouring on to the beach, so I ran in the opposite direction, towards the roadway, then crossed into a patch of woodland. My only plan was to head south in the hope that I might find British troops there.