University of Oxford
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Sands from Dunkirk, 1940

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 16:51 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

My uncle, Private Geoffrey McCabe enlisted in the Gloucestershire regiment in 1939 for a 12-year engagement. He followed in the footsteps of his Irish grandfather who served in the British army with the Royal Field Artillery for 21 years including service throughout WW1.

The 2nd Battalion Gloucestershire regiment deployed straight to France in December 1939 at the start of WW2. This battalion formed part of the defence line and was lost almost in its entirety during the battle defending Dunkirk Beach. Pte McCabe was one of the few survivors, most soldiers were captured or killed. Geoffrey said he was one of the last to leave the beach and he only survived because he was able to swim out to one of the boats that were collecting the retreating army.

Soldiers have throughout history brought souvenirs back from their travels. Geoffrey brought back a small amount of sand which was presumably still in his clothes after being rescued. He gave the sand to his sister, my mother, Winnie Murfitt (nee McCabe). The sand was in a pillbox which is inscribed "Sands from Dunkirk, N. France 1940".

Pte G McCabe also served in Korea and was wounded in that war.


Item list and details

Box of Sand from Dunkirk

Person the story/items relate to

Geoffrey McCabe

Person who shared the story/items

Terry Murfitt

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor


Type of submission

Shared at Great Missenden Library, Buckinghamshire on 30 September 2023.

Record ID

95099 | GRE013A