Tuesday, 2 June 2015


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Facts About The Dunkirk Evacuation

8 Days of Chaos, Courage and Sacrifice that led to a Miracle of Deliverance.

1. The evacuation of Dunkirk was codenamed Operation Dynamo. It was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France, between the 27th May and 4th June 1940.

The British, French and Belgium troops were surrounded by the German army, cut off from their own force. And hope. They would all perish on the beaches of Dunkirk. What would follow was an unbelievable feat of heroism and sheer determination: A Miracle of Deliverance.

Image result for dunkirk evacuation little ships2. A thousand boats were involved in the evacuation. On the 22nd May 1940, the Allied Forces retreated towards Dunkirk. It was their only option for any chance of salvation. The same day, back in Dover, England, Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay began planning Operation Dynamo. He called on as many naval vessels as he could, and issued a request to the general public to provide as many shallow draught vessels as possible to ferry the soldiers across the English Channel and to safety.

The plea was answered. 933 passenger ferries, hospital ships, fishing boats, fire ships, paddle steamers, private yachts and Belgium barges rendezvoused at Dunkirk for the largest evacuation of its kind in history.

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The Royal Navy dispatched the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Calcutta, as well as 39 destroyers and numerous other vessels. It is unknown how many little boats made the journey on their own initiative. But without them, many thousands of soldiers would have perished on the beaches of Dunkirk.

3. The plan was to evacuate 45,000 men in two days. After that, it was expected the German Army would block any further evacuation.

Day One: May 27th 1940. 7,669 men were rescued.

Day Two: May 28th 1940. 17,331 men were rescued.

Less than 8,000 were rescued on day one. The figure rose on day two, but only 25,000 of the planned rescue of 45,000 men was achieved.

It didn't look good for the remaining soldiers.

Image result for dunkirk evacuation rafEfforts were hampered by the Luftwaffe who bombed the town of Dunkirk and the docks. Over 1,000 civilians were killed, a third of the town's population. The RAF responded by flying over 3,500 sorties, desperate to defend the lives of the Allied soldiers, the fleet, and the civilian townsfolk. They paid a heavy price and lost 14 aircraft on the first day alone.

4. The French First Army delayed the German advance.
Image result for dunkirk evacuation frenchFor four days: between the 28th May and 31st May over 40,000 soldiers of the French First Army battled against seven German divisions.
For four days: they were pounded by heavy artillery. Their hope: to delay the German advance giving those being evacuated a chance of survival.
For four days: they fought and died, the brave men of the French 1st Army. 
The Fourth Day: Out of food. Out of water. Out of ammunition. The remaining French soldiers had no choice but to surrender to the German Force.

Winston Churchill was amazed at the bravery and sacrifice of the French, saying, "This was a splendid contribution to the escape of their more fortunate comrades and of the British Expeditionary Force."

5. The Dunkirk Spirit - to triumph in the face of adversity.
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There was little or no hope for the men retreating to Dunkirk, pushed back to the beaches, fighting with their backs to the sea. They would die, those brave soldiers. To deliver them in any significant numbers from the battlefields in France to the safety of the green pastures of England would be impossible.

Winston Churchill, who had been Prime Minister for less than three weeks, agreed. He told the House of Commons to expect "hard and heavy tidings."

In the darkness, on the edge of nothing, staring into the abyss of disaster, the Dunkirk Spirit emerged. The British public pulled together to overcome the deepest time of adversity. Their voices echoed thunder across the sea. You are our men. Our sons. Our fathers. Our husbands. This disaster won't happen. We're coming to get you.

And they did. A thousand boats set sail to bring those men home. And home the came. It was a disaster turned to triumph. A total of 338,226 soldiers were rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk in those 8 days of Chaos, Courage and Sacrifice. It truly was A Miracle of Deliverance.


Cathleen Townsend said...

Awesome post. I didn't know the part the French 1st played in the evacuation. Thank you. :)

Holly Baker-Shaw said...

Amen and amen