Keeping Up Soldierly Appearances
The Miracle of Dunkirk, Walter Lord, 1982
Nineteen-year-old 2nd Lieutenant William Lawson of the Royal Artillery knew that appearances were important, but he felt he had a good excuse for looking a little scruffy. His artillery unit had been badly mauled on the Dyle, again at Arras, and had barely made it back to the perimeter—two rough weeks almost always on the run.
Now at last he was at La Panne, and it was the Navy's turn to worry. Wandering down the beach, he suddenly spied a familiar face. It was his own father, Brigadier the Honorable E.F. Lawson, temporarily serving on General Adam's staff. Young Lawson had no idea his father was even in northern France. He rushed up and saluted.
"What do you mean looking like that!" the old Brigadier thundered. "You're bringing dishonor to the family! Get a haircut and shave at once!"
The son pointed out that at the moment he couldn't possibly comply. Lawson brushed this aside, announcing that his own batman, a family servant in prewar days, would do the job. And so he did—a haircut and shave right on the sands of Dunkirk.
At the mole Commander Clouston had standards, too. Spotting one of the shore patrol with hair far longer than it could have grown in the last three or four days, he ordered the man to get it cut.
"All the barbers are shut, sir," came the unruffled reply. Clouston still insisted. Finally, the sailor drew his bayonet and hacked off a lock. "What do you want me to do with it now," he asked, "put it in a locket?"