WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z

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DPanzers attacked in France and began their drive
Through the Ardennes, the English Channel their goal
In grave peril, would the allied force survive
Trapped along the coast, the allies lost control
Evacuate Dunkirk, find the men alive
Get them out quickly, war was taking its toll
Citizens their boats they were honored to tender
Winston Churchill said “We shall never surrender.”

“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

― Winston S. Churchill

 The Dunkirk Evacuation

Code Name Operation Dynamo

Miracle of Dunkirk

Map-expenaded

Each of these names refer to the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk, France, between 27 May and 4 June 1940. In the Battle of France during the second world war, large numbers of British, French and Belgian troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army.  Since it was 1940, the United States had not entered the war yet.  British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill spoke before the House of Commons on June 4th and called the events in France “a colossal military disaster”, saying that “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his We shall fight on the beaches speech, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance.”  Here is an excerpt from the speech.  There are several versions on YouTube where you can find audio of the entire speech.

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Overview

  • September 1939, the Second World War began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

Nazi in Poland

  • The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to aid in the defense of France.
Leading elements of the BEF arrive in France, September 1939 (above). Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939,

Leading elements of the BEF arrive in France, September 1939 (above). Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939,

  • Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands on 10 May 1940.
On 10 May 1940 Germany begin their attacks on Western Europe – Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and France

On 10 May 1940 Germany begin their attacks on Western Europe – Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg and France

  • Three of the Nazi Panzer corps (Tanks) attacked France through the Ardennes and rapidly drove to the English Channel.
The Panzers reach the sea. In 10 days they have traveled 200 miles from the German border to the English Channel.

The Panzers reach the sea. In 10 days they have traveled 200 miles from the German border to the English Channel.

  • By 21 May, the German forces had trapped the BEF, the remains of the Belgian forces, and three French armies in an area along the northern coast of France.
British troops under fire on the beach at Dunkirk

British troops under fire on the beach at Dunkirk

  • Commander of the BEF General John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, immediately saw that evacuation across the Channel was the best course of action, and began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest location with good port facilities.
Vereker, John Standish Surtees Pendergast Viscount Gort

Vereker, John Standish Surtees Pendergast Viscount Gort

  • On 22 May 1940, a Halt Order was issued by the German High Command, with Adolf Hitler’s approval.
  • This halt order gave the trapped Allied forces time to construct defensive works and pull back large numbers of troops toward Dunkirk, to fight the Battle of Dunkirk.
Battle of Dunkirk

Battle of Dunkirk

  • From 28–31 May 1940, in the Siege of Lille, the remaining 40,000 men of the once-formidable French First Army fought a delaying action against seven German divisions, including three armored divisions.
Troops landed in England from Dunkirk, 27 May to 4 June
Date Evacuated
from beaches
Evacuated
from Dunkirk Harbour
Total
27 May 7,669 7,669
28 May 5,390 11,874 17,804
29 May 13,752 33,558 47,310
30 May 29,512 24,311 53,823
31 May 22,942 45,072 68,014
1 June 17,348 47,081 64,429
2 June 6,695 19,561 26,256
3 June 1,870 24,876 26,746
4 June 622 25,553 26,175
Totals 98,671 239,555 338,226

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk_evacuation

As you can see by the chart above, on the first day only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the ninth day, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats. Many of the troops were able to embark from the harbor’s protective mole onto 39 British destroyers and other large ships, while others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in the shoulder-deep water. Some were ferried from the beaches to the larger ships by the famous little ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, and lifeboats called into service for the emergency. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of their tanks, vehicles, and other equipment. In his speech to the House of Commons on 4 June, Churchill reminded the country that

“we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

Dunkirk Evacuation - Troops landing at Dover. Doyle Collection

Dunkirk Evacuation – Troops landing at Dover. Doyle Collection

Evacuation of Dunkirk

Evacuation of Dunkirk

The events at Dunkirk remain a prominent memory in the United Kingdom.

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11 responses

  1. You are going to publish all these pieces in a book, right? Some great title, like World War 11 from A to Z. You can do versions targeted for age appropriate audiences in the school systems and beyond. All this work needs to be marketed and shared.

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    • Thanks but it is too heavily dependent on the research work of others. I find information, abstract, paraphrase etc and look for photographs to enhance which are also not my photographs but most of the time I try to employ the usage rights filters. Just a hobby of which I don’t expect income. I did have a short story published in an Anthology recently and it was WW2 related and I received my first royalty income $4 😜

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  2. Birgit says:

    Churchill was one of my dad’s favourite people ever. he read and reread his books which I have. Dunkirk was horrible but at least they got off. I was wondering if you would do Dunkirk or Dieppe which was a major defeat. You really give a great play by play and one in a way a simple person, like me, can understand

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  3. I love your theme; I’m fascinated by WW2. I just love the fact that even pleasure boats and fishing boats were involved in the evacuation. It’s just amazing how much everyone pulled together and did what needed to be done.

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  4. Sue Archer says:

    Thanks for sharing all the pictures. And those statistics! It’s incredible how many people they were able to evacuate.

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  5. The history of Dunkirk alone is amazing. Many more men could have died. There were several elements that made this evacuation a true miracle – boys from a nearby school held the german tanks at bay (giving wounded soldiers time for retreat to the beaches), boats of all sizes came from England to help ferry the” boys” across the channel, fog rolled in to stop the massive strafing efforts by the german aircorps.

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    • So true. I wish there was time is primary school for indepth studies of certain periods in history. Stories like Dunkirk would have may history come alive for me in school.

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  6. rolandclarke says:

    Another fascinating post, even though knew a fair bit about Dunkirk. My father’s family had colliers back then and some would have been involved.

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