Dunkirk veteran saluted

Jack Danby shows the bullet hole in his D-Day helmet

Christopher Nolan’s movie Dunkirk tells the story of the British Army’s miraculous escape from the advancing German army from three perspectives: Land, Sea and Air. In weaving together three different timelines, Nolan successfully depicts the chaos of what was a colossal military defeat; the viewer is plunged right into the middle of the action where the fear and tension is amplified by Hans Zimmer’s intense musical score.
This movie is timely as, more than 75 years after the rescue that entered British folklore, so few Dunkirk veterans remain. One who has passed away is Jack Danby, of Selby. He survived Dunkirk and, four years later, returned to France in the first wave of D-Day where he was nearly killed; while trying to rescue a wounded comrade, a German bullet passed through his helmet inflicting a flesh wound.
Watching Dunkirk brought home to me the bravery of men like Jack. After the war, Jack was headmaster of four different schools in the East Riding where, after experiencing the horror of Dunkirk and D-Day, his motivation was to help build a better post-war world. His distinguished service included 12 years as the first head of Etton Pasture boarding school for disabled children; his pioneering work there was recognised by the award of an MBE in 1965.


Author: rjefoster

I am a budding musician and poet hoping to bloom.

4 thoughts on “Dunkirk veteran saluted”

  1. Hi
    I have just come across your article about Jack Danby. I knew Jack and worked with him at North Ferriby for 4 years but subsequently lost touch about 10 years later. I have been trying find information about him and obviously looked through Yorkshire Dialect Society pages. He was my inspirational mentor whose values I cherished and in a small way continued through my own career in teaching and teacher training. How did you encounter Jack and Anita?
    David Cox

    1. Thanks for your message. Jack Danby was a remarkable man. I met him in June 1988 in Sunk Island at the launch of his book “Enjoying Lesser Known East Yorkshire”. The text was handwritten by Jack; he also illustrated it with his own drawings. To mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day I interviewed Jack for York’s daily newspaper The Press about his war experiences which he had recorded in a series of scrapbooks. I visited Jack and Anita at their home in Selby on several occasions; they were a lovely couple.

      1. Thanks for this. Do you still have access to the article? could you email me it?

        Jack and Anita’s life was marred by a terrible tragedy when his son Colin was killed in a mining accident in Australia. Jack felt unable to continue his work at Etton Pasture Special School and took on the less arduous task of headteacher at North Ferriby. Sorry to say that the majority of the staff he inherited didn’t recognise the genius he was. When he appointed me he took me under his wing and i sort of became his first lieutenant. He was a very widely read, a highly accomplished artist, calligrapher, broadcaster, secretary of Yorkshire Dialect, a JP and later secretary of the John Clare Appreciation Society. He was also a countryman who could name birds, flowers, trees and almost all natural life.
        I owe him a huge debt and often think of him when driving through East Yorkshire.
        thanks for your response!

  2. Regrettably I don’t have access to the D-Day article featuring Jack; it was published in June 1994 before The Press had digitised its archive. He told me Colin was named after a character in one of Jack’s favourite books, The Secret Garden, and his fieldwork is commemorated in the naming of a fossil MONOGRAPTUS DANBYI.

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