WWII veteran has emotional flashbacks during ‘Dunkirk’ movie premier

As countless moviegoers flock to the box office to learn Dunkirk’s epic tale, a 97-year-old moviegoer in Calgary is living proof that it’s not Hollywood who makes heroes.

People at the premiere Friday night had a rare opportunity to great a real war hero, shake his hand and take in a few words of wisdom. He speaks from real-world experience — he was, as a 20-year-old young man, there in 1940.

Smartly dressed in a blue blazer adorned with medals, Ken Sturdy tells Global News the film — for him — is like a time machine.

“I never thought I would see that again. It was just like I was there again,” he said. “It didn’t have a lot of dialogue, it didn’t need any of the dialogue because it told the story visually, and it was so real.”

Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of allied troops from the French city of Dunkirk.

Sturdy tells Global News he participated in the evacuation, and he remembers picking men out of the water.

“I had the privilege of seeing that film tonight, and I am saddened by it because of what happened on that beach,” Sturdy, then a 20-year-old signalman with the Royal Navy, said. “I was in those little boats picking them out of the water.”

More than 68,000 British soldiers were captured or killed during the battle and retreat and over 300,000 were rescued over nine days.

The film’s traumatic scenes took Sturdy back to the nine-day period when more than 68,000 British soldiers were captured or killed and more than 300,000 were rescued.

Sturdy tells Global News the beach was filled with terrified soldiers.

“I was 20 when that happened, but watching the movie … I could see my old friends again and a lot of them died later in the war,” he said.

People at the premier tell Global News they are honored to meet Sturdy.

“At the end of the movie, I ran down the stairs and he was just wiping his tears away and I was able to shake his hand and give him a proper salute,” Kelly Kwamsoos said while fighting back tears. She continued, “I really hope that the younger generations can understand what it was like and really count their blessings. We’re so lucky.”
Sturdy tells Global News he hopes the movie sends a message to a new audience … war is sad, and unfortunately, the human race has an inherent ability to avoid it.

“Don’t just go to the movie for entertainment. Think about it. And when you become adults, keep thinking,” Sturdy advised.

“Tonight I cried because it’s never the end. It won’t happen. We the human species are so intelligent, and we do such astonishing things. We can fly to the moon, but we still do stupid things,” Sturdy told Global News. “So when I see the film tonight, I see it with a certain kind of sadness. Because what happened back then in 1940 — it’s not the end.”

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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