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Fighting through from Dunkirk to Hamburg

Posted by Sarah Dunkley on Jul 30, 2018 2:29:12 PM

Fighting through from Dunkirk to Hamburg

Synopsis of a presentation on what we can learn from one man’s Second World War fighting experiences.


The son of a Second World War veteran is giving talks to businesses based on his father’s war experiences.
Sixty-five years after the end of the war, Dunkirk and D-Day fighter Bill Cheall’s memoirs have been published by Pen and Sword. His son, Paul, editor of the book and insurance management professional, has learnt some clear lessons about the motivation of the troops and has applied them to the modern working environment.
Paul is offering illustrated presentations of his Dad's story to explain these findings and provide a call to action to businesses regarding their team motivation strategy.

About Bill Cheall

Bill Cheall joined the Territorial Army in April 1939. He was called up just before the outbreak of war and became a Green Howard, a north-eastern regiment. He was a batman, despatch rider, No 1 on Bren and mortar at various times and fought in bloody episodes at Dunkirk, North Africa and Sicily and was in the first wave landing on Gold Beach on D-Day. After recovering from his D-Day wounds he was assigned to the Regimental Police of the East Lancashire Regiment in Germany. He was discharged on 8 January 1946. Bill passed away peacefully in 1999 following a battle with prostate cancer.

About the talk

Bill survived the war by the skin of his teeth. Time and time again he was thrown into violent situations where only a guardian angel kept him alive. He and his comrades had to endure great hardships and fights of endurance when they attacked the enemy in one battle after another. Apart from following orders, what was it that made these brave young lads go into battle and cross open plains under heavy shell fire? What gave them the courage to jump off a landing craft under enemy machine gun fire on the Dunkirk beaches? How did they maintain their morale in the face of comrades being wounded and sometimes being blown to bits in front of their eyes?

Paul reads a number of passages from the book which depict some of the sometimes harrowing, sometime humorous, scenes.

There are several threads throughout Bill’s story which provide an insight into what motivates a soldier during the fighting. We find out why they fought with a relish for the battle and why “they would not let their pals and officers down no matter what”. Maybe we can bottle that knowledge and use it in business today  

A summary of the key components is:

  • Pride in belonging to the Green Howards regiment and loyalty to the battalion

  • Camaraderie

  • Belief in the cause

  • Leadership - Knew what was expected of them

  • (Lousy pay!)

Paul reflects on these points and summarises with the conclusion that the soldiers belonged to something very special – and they would do everything possible to succeed in their task. The result was a “grim determination” to complete a job to be done.

There are numerous management theories which have been expounded over the years which seek to motivate teams. But all are in danger of underperforming if that essential “Be Special” element is missing.

Paul reflects on his personal experiences and practices of belonging to or managing a special team or business and provides examples of what it meant. How do you achieve a spirit that ensures people give of their very best and don’t let the side down? Paul is realistic in his assessment and concedes that he has not always been perfect in his own practices, so this is no evangelical presentation. But researching his Dad’s memoirs has helped him see the issues more clearly.

The overall conclusion is that to be special is to strive to excel in some way, whether in customer service, sales or perhaps technological leadership. Alternatively, it may be to do things differently to everyone else. But the really special element is combining this with the other features of good teamwork as gleaned from Bill’s memoirs.

Discussion time will allow the audience to reflect on their own circumstances and possible calls to action

About Paul Cheall

Paul is editor of his father’s war memoirs - Fighting Through from Dunkirk to Hamburg.
Paul is a Chartered Insurer by profession and is a project manager. He started his career in underwriting with Norwich Union and held a variety of management roles in electronic trading and the internet.

He later became self-employed to manage e-commerce projects for large enterprises before becoming Managing Director of a new, Norwich-based intermediary - its4me online car insurance - winning several industry awards including the British Insurance Award for E-Business.

In 2011, Paul had his father’s war memoirs published by Pen and Sword and is conducting a series of talks as a result.

More about the book

When Bill Cheall joined up in April 1939, he could not have imagined the drama, trauma, rewards and near continuous action that lay in store. First and foremost a Green Howard, as a member of the British Expeditionary Force, he saw the sharp end of Hitler’s May 1940 Blitzkrieg and was evacuated exhausted from Dunkirk.

His next move was to North Africa, courtesy of the Queen Mary, to be part of Monty’s 8th Army. After eventual victory in Tunisia, the Sicily invasion followed. Alongside a number of other battle-hardened units, the Green Howards were ordered back to England to form the vanguard of the Normandy Invasion. In the fierce fighting that followed the D-Day landing on GOLD Beach, he was wounded and evacuated. His comrade Sergeant Major Stan Hollis, won the only VC to be awarded on 6 June 1944.

Once fit, he returned to the war zone and he finished the war with the East Lancs as a Regimental Policeman in devastated occupied Germany. For all this he earned seven medals and a wounded-in-action stripe.

Bill experienced many adventures during those action-packed years and thankfully he survived to share these with us. Told with humility and humour, Fighting Through From Dunkirk to Hamburg is, by any measure, a superb fighting soldier’s memoir. Bill passed away peacefully in 1999.

Feedback on previous talks by Paul Cheall

“The lecture was a great success. Some of the illustrations were highly poignant, helping to describe an enthralling story”.
"Great talk, excellent delivery".
“Paul thoroughly enthralled and entertained us with his excellent talk. One of the best speakers we’ve had for a long time”.
“I liked the way that Paul interspersed his own narrative with passages from the book. Plenty of humour as well as drama, with good slides and illustrations”.

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