Where Is Dunkirk?
Dunkirk is a seaport of Northern France lying between Calais and the Belgian coast, but for millions of people all over world Dunkirk is the most evocative names of the Second World War. For it was from Dunkirk and its 10-mile stretch of beaches that the British evacuated some 338, 2000 soldiers after the collapse of Belgium and immediately before the collapse of France. Today, Dunkirk has become another name for the supreme heroism that can snatch a victory from defeat.
The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was decided upon when large numbers of Belgian, Canadian, British, and French troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army during the Battle of France.
In a speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the events in France “a colossal military disaster”, saying “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 on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance”
The troop evacuation took place between May 26 and June, 4, 1940. The men were under constant German bombardment both from the land and from the air. At home in England, the British organized an immortal flotilla of small boats. Thames pleasure boats, cabin cruisers, fishing smacks, even rowing boats were pressed into service-all, of course, on a volunteer basis. The “little ships” ferried the troops from the beaches to the waiting Navy ships.
Evacuation first began from the damaged harbor at Dunkirk, but by May 28 heavy German bombing had severely restricted the harbor’s usefulness. By the end of June 1 the greater part of the British Expeditionary force had been removed, although rescue operation continued until June, 04.
The toll of ships was considerable. Out of 41 destroyers used by the British, 6 were sunk and 19 damaged. Most of the expeditionary force’s supplies and materials were lost. The British were reduced to their weakest point. But Dunkirk was the great turning point in the war. Hitler’s Germany had, it seemed, reached its greatest point of menace, and was never to seem so threatening again.