A 97-Year-Old Dunkirk Vet Saw ‘Dunkirk’ And Has A Tearful Message For Us All

Published July 25, 2017
Updated January 22, 2024

Ken Sturdy fought back tears as he remembered the things he'd seen and the friends he'd lost almost 80 years before.

“In every detail, it told the story just the way it was,” said Calgary’s Ken Sturdy after exiting of a screening of the new film Dunkirk this past Friday. And unlike every other person in the theater that night, Sturdy actually knew whereof he spoke.

Nearly 80 years before, the 97-year-old veteran had survived the very ordeal that the film depicts: the evacuation of some 338,000 British, French, Belgian, and Canadian soldiers from Dunkirk, France across the English Channel to Britain before approaching German forces could wipe them out.

“It all came back to me,” a tearful Sturdy told Global News as he recalled his days at Dunkirk, helping fellow soldiers reach evacuation boats as a member of the Royal Navy.

While Sturdy had been able to help so many and survive himself, many more weren’t so lucky. Approximately 68,000 British soldiers were captured or killed during the evacuation, with many more dying as World War II went on.

Sturdy himself saw several of his own friends and comrades perish. “Watching the movie, I could see my old friends again and a lot of them died later in the war,” Sturdy said. “I had lost so many of my buddies… If you keep living all your friends have gone.”

With the departed in his thoughts, Sturdy advised everyone to truly appreciate the history behind the film and what it says about us today.

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

“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. 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.”


Next, discover more about the Dunkirk evacuation in this photo-laden history. Then, check out some of the most astounding photos of World War II in color.

All That's Interesting
A New York-based publisher established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science to share stories that illuminate our world.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.