A Llandudno war veteran who narrowly escaped one of the Second World War’s worst atrocities has gone on camera to tell how he survived the massacre.
Alf Davies, 94, and two of his mates, somehow made it to the Dunkirk beaches and managed to board a ship bound for Margate – but most of their mates weren’t so lucky.
The majority of the 50 or so men Alf was travelling with in a convoy of three trucks were ambushed by the German SS with more than 40 captured and unarmed men being murdered.
The massacre of the British soldiers and around 30 French POWs happened in the French town of Wormhout with which Llandudno is now twinned.
Alf, who was nicknamed Ambush Alf on his return to Llandudno, survived by jumping into a river and escaping across fields before making it to the evacuation beaches at Dunkirk.
The documentary film including Alfred’s incredible story has been made thanks to housing association Cartrefi Conwy and TAPE, a community film and music group based in Old Colwyn.
Bringing Back Memories tells the stories of a group of older people and helps bring their memories of life in the 1940s sharply into focus.
Now the documentary film, starring around 20 of Cartrefi Conwy’s more senior tenants, will be used by Llandudno Museum as a teaching tool for future generations.
The film received an enthusiastic premiere from the packed audience at Kinmel Manor Hotel during Cartrefi Conwy’s annual Older Person’s Day event.
Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person Engagement, was delighted with how the important film was produced.
She said; “We had the idea to record some of the memories of our more senior tenants and decided the 1940s was an era we needed to look at.
“The tenants recorded their memories, of what was a very different time and the 30 minute film was then produced.
“We are so proud of the documentary film which will help educate future generations on what life was like a very different time. That will be our tenants’ and their film’s legacy.”
According to Alf, he often sits quietly thinking about the friends he lost and the horrors he witnessed as a young man.
He said: “I was in the 61st Medium Regiment which was made up of men from Llandudno, Caernarfon, Bangor and Anglesey. After the war started I ended up fighting across Northern France.
“But the Germans advanced and pushed up back. We were part of a gun crew, not a heavy gun but it was big enough. We spiked it so the Germans couldn’t use it as we made our way to Dunkirk.
“The Germans dropped leaflets telling us to lay down our weapons and surrender saying we were surrounded and we knew the only way out was Dunkirk. We only had one rifle between a 10 or 11 man gun crew. We headed for Dunkirk in three vehicles.
“The first, which our captain was in, was smaller than the other two which had about 20 men in each. I was in the truck at the back of the convoy. The Captain came up with the idea of a shortcut to Dunkirk through a place called Wormhout.
“We passed infantry who told us to turn back but we pressed on and when we came into Wormhout the SS were up in buildings and on roofs. They opened fire and it was absolute chaos.
“The Captain and all the crew in the first vehicle were wiped out pretty much straight away. We all jumped down from the trucks and scattered. It was pretty much every man for himself.
“I ended up, with a few other lads, in a garage which had some cars in it. The bullets were hitting the cars and we were just trying to keep down.”
Alf managed to escape from the garage after one of the men smashed a window and they were able to escape through the back of the building.
He said: “Basically we jumped into a river to escape. Some turned left while me and a couple of mates turned the other way and made our way down the river. We later found out that the ones who went the other way were caught and put in a barn with a lot of other British troops.
“The SS called the men out five at a time and shot them in cold blood. It was all down to which way you turned whether you escaped or not. I lost so many good mates and still think about them today.”
Alf and his two mates, Percy Bulger and Herbert Hughes, made their way across fields and eventually reached the beaches of Dunkirk.
He said: “We found we were way down the beaches and had quite a way to go. One of the lads spotted a motorbike and said we should take it, which is what we did.
“We used it to get down the beach, all three of us on it. We got to a ship and there was a big line of men wading out to get on board. We joined the back of the line and thought we were bound to get stopped and asked who we were but no one did, we were just ignored.
“I was exhausted and as soon as we got on board and found somewhere to sit I fell asleep and woke up in Margate.”
But that wasn’t the end of Alf’s wartime heroics and he was soon back overseas, fighting and playing his part in defeating the German war machine
Alf said: “In 1942 we ended up being sent to El Alamein where we fought across to Tripoli and places like that. We ended up at Tunisia but never went as far as Tunis, we were kept close to the border.
“Eventually we joined up with the Americans and went to Italy. We landed at the toe of Italy and went right up to Rome before being sent to Montecassino. We then ended up back in France and I was no more than five miles from Wormhout where I‘d been those few years earlier.
“We were fighting, mopping up really, in France when we heard the war was over. I got sent to Germany to a place called Wuppertal where we guarded German prisoners.”
He added: “It was a terrible time and I saw so many people, good friends die. You can never forget and I think about them all the time. It was horrific, there’s no two ways about it.”
After the war Alf worked asphalting council roads around Happy Valley before becoming a refuse wagon driver and eventually a supervisor.
He retired aged 63 to care for his beloved wife, Alwen, who had become seriously ill.
But things might never have turned out as they have had Alf made a different choice after climbing out of a garage window in Wormhout, which was officially twinned with Llandudno on April 14th, 1989, all those years ago.
He said: “I came home and picked up the pieces of my life. I got married to Alwen in 1946 and she remained my wife until she died in 2001. We had one son, John, and he had two children, Nia and Glyn. And I’ve now got four great-grandchildren, Osian, Lois, Megan and Rhianna.
“I suppose, had I made the wrong choice and turned the other way down that river in Wormhout and ended up been caught by the Germans, things might have turned out just a little bit differently.”