Tampa Bay area veteran remembers Dunkirk, doesn’t care for Hollywood’s version

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – He was born nearly a century ago.

Yet when Fred Clutterbuck shares the details of one the most historic moments in time, his eyes twinkle as though it was yesterday.

“I was lucky in many ways, really,” said the 97-year-old.

So, what are the true keys to longevity?

Doing the right thing and living a normal life, he tells us.

However, for this World War II veteran, life was anything but normal as he struggled to survive the Battle at Dunkirk, where he was a young British communications expert in May 1940.

It is a moment in history now told in detail on the big screen where British forces, including a then 20-year-old Clutterbuck, scrambled to escape the coast of France as German bombers flew overhead.

“We were all young, you know, it was a new experience for us,” he said.

It was new and indeed terrifying, admits the 97-year-old, who nearly lost his right hand when enemy bombs dropped nearby. He shared the details of how he waited for days in a medic tent among hundreds and hundreds of badly wounded men.

He was suffering from a raw, painful, open wound with shrapnel lodged in his palm. Eventually, a British officer would get him to a ship headed back to the U.K.

In the process, he explained, he was given the best cup of tea he’s ever had.

When we asked him if he thinks that young people really understand what war is all about, he described it as “hell.”

“You don’t know it until you experience it,” he said.

Clutterbuck also admits that he does not care for the Hollywood version of the event, which is now receiving Oscar buzz.

“In my experience, I was disappointed. For me, Dunkirk was on the land, and this was all water, boats and all that, which was quite different in my memory,” he explained.

He chuckled when we asked him, so maybe Hollywood doesn’t always get it right?

That twinkle in his eyes appeared again.

“No, they don’t,” he smiled. “They surely don’t.”

He and his wife ended up in Florida after a doctor in the United Kingdom advised them to move to a warmer climate. Luckily, she had relatives in the Tampa Bay area.

He has lived in Gulfport and Treasure Island his entire adult life and tells us it’s one of the best decision he has ever made.

Follow Melanie Michael on Facebook

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