Liverpool football in Dunkirk epic


Tuesday, June 25 – 1940
His vessel defied non-stop bombing.
Liverpool Football Club’s full back, Jim Harley – now Seaman Harley of the Royal Navy – is home on leave after taking part in the epic of Dunkirk.

His home is at Helmingham-road, Lower Tranmere, Birkenhead. As soon as war broke out, Harley applied to join the Royal Navy.

He told an Evening Express representative today of the heroism of the British evacuation of Dunkirk as he saw it from his post on the deck of a vessel which was engaged in the operations.

“We made seven trips and practically all the time we were bombed from the air and shot at. It was a continuous performance. On one occasion, in the thick of the fight, we were bombed by ‘planes, bombarded by shore batteries, machine gunned from the air, and had torpedoes from motor torpedo boats fired on us.”

Still the work of evacuating troops from the Dunkirk beaches went on.

While the guns were blazing away, soldiers were busy constructing jetties for the landing of small boats, and many of them refused to leave their work until it was done.

“We had about two hours’ sleep in a week,” said Harley, “and most of our rations we gave to the hungry and tired soldiers who were picked up. As soon as the men got aboard they began blazing away at the enemy with every available weapon. Three enemy ‘planes and possibly a fourth, were brought down on one trip.”

All available boats were taken ashore for the troops, and Harley was one of two naval men who brought a boat laden with wounded men back to the ship. It took them an hour-and-a-half to cover a distance of 400 yards. All the time they were being machine-gunned.

Harley summed up the adventure by saying that it was “the toughest spot” he had ever been in.
(Evening Express, 25-06-1940)

1940 Jim Harley
Jim Harley (right) is seen bidding farewell today to Herman Van den Berg, the Liverpool F.C. forward, who is returning to South Africa.

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