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97-year-old Dunkirk veteran: 'it was just like I was there again'

Among the moviegoers at the premiere of "Dunkirk" on Friday night was a veteran who actually lived through it, and was moved to tears by the cinematic portrayal of the battle.

World War II veteran Ken Sturdy arrived at Calgary’s Westhills Cinemas adorned with his military medals and left in tears over what he said he believed the movie says about the world.

“Tonight I cried because it’s never the end," Sturdy told Global News. "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.”

Sturdy, a native of Wales who served as a signal man for the Royal Navy, thought the movie captured exactly what it was like to be at Dunkirk.

“I never thought I would see that again. It was just like I was there again,” Sturdy said. “It didn’t have a lot of dialogue. It didn’t need any of the dialogue because it told the story visually and it was so real.”

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The movie tells the story of the nine-day battle and the evacuation of allied troops from the city. More than 68,000 British soldiers were captured or killed, and 300,000 were saved in a massive rescue mission.

“I was in those little boats picking them out of the water,” Sturdy said about helping the soldiers reach safety. “I had the privilege of seeing that film tonight and I am saddened by it because of what happened on that beach."

He added: “I was 20 when that happened, but watching the movie, I could see my old friends again and a lot of them died later in the war. I went on convoys after that in the North Atlantic. I had lost so many of my buddies.”

Sturdy described one friend who survived the beach but only faced worse conditions.

“One of my mates was taken prisoner," he said. "He wasn’t killed on the beach. They marched him up to Poland and he spent five years in a German prisoner camp.”

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Many at the premiere were surprised and honored by Sturdy’s presence.

“At the end of the movie I ran down the stairs and he was just wiping his tears away and I was able to shake his hand and give him a proper salute,” Kelly Kwamsoos told Global News. “I really hope that the younger generations can understand what it was like and really count their blessings. We’re so lucky."

Sturdy advises younger generations to keep thinking about the events of Dunkirk.

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