Sergeant Eugene Strickland, known as Strick, help save hundreds of thousands of lives by taking brave action against a German advance headed for Dunkirk in 1940 (01202 558833)
Pic: Casemate/BNPS
Pictured: Strick, as major-general, West Germany 1968
The amazing story of a tank hero who kept the Germans at bay for long enough to enable the Dunkirk evacuation is revealed by his son 81 years on.
Major-General Eugene Strickland, of the 4th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, captured 80 German soldiers in one go during the Battle of Arras in May 1940.
There, two British battalions held up the dreaded German Blitzkrieg for three days, halting their advance to the north French coast.
As a result, the Allies were able to bring over 330,000 British Expeditionary Force troops home to fight another day.
His inspirational story is told by his son Tim Strickland in a new book titled Strick, who trawled through hundreds of wartime letters his father wrote to his mother Barbara about his wartime service.
Eugene Strickland, known as Strick, as a major-general, in West Germany in 1968

The bravery of a Second World War tank hero whose actions held up the German advance towards Dunkirk for three days has been revealed 81 years on.

Sergeant Eugene Strickland’s fearlessness during the Battle of Arras on May 21, 1940, helped enable the evacuation of over 330,000 Allied troops just a few days later.

During one engagement Sgt Strickland of 4th Royal Tank Regiment – known simply as Strick – even captured dozens of German troops with the help of one French soldier.

Writing about it later, he said: “I saw some German troops run into the door of a sort of metal barn.

“Telling Jacques to move down the cul-de-sac, I put a number of rounds into the door of the barn.

“Hearing shouting from the barn, I was surprised to see a white cloth waving from the door.

“Shouting out ‘come out’ I was astonished to count something like 80 German troops come out with their hands up. At a sign from me, they fell into ranks and marched off back to the main road.

“I was convinced that these enemy troops would realise that they could easily overpower us, especially if my Vickers [gun] refused to fire.”

The tank hero only revealed his touching and brave tale 81 years after the incredible feat



After Arras his tank was destroyed by friendly fire but he crawled out of the wreckage and reached Dunkirk.

There the evacuation went ahead after the Germans were forced to order a three-day halt to their advance, due to the counter attack by 4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiment near Arras, combined with resistance from the French 1st Army at Lille.

Sgt Strickland’s actions earned him the Military Medal. He later rose to Major-general, which was unusual for a man who began as a Private.

Of the evacuation, he wrote: “How well I remember the burning oil storage tanks of Dunkirk, the beaches to the east of the town dotted with clumps of troops, the extraordinary calm of the sea, the efficiency of the Royal Naval beach parties, but the principal impression was a strange calmness in the air.” Maj Gen Strickland died aged 69 in Winchester, Hants, in 1982.

Now his story has been told by his archaeologist son Tim Strickland, 78, in his book Strick: Tank Hero of Arras.

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