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Encyclopedia > Operation Dynamo
French troops rescued by a British merchant ship at Dunkirk
French troops rescued by a British merchant ship at Dunkirk
British evacuation on Dunkirk beach

Operation Dynamo (or Dunkirk Evacuation, the Miracle of Dunkirk or just "Dunkirk") was the name given to the World War II mass evacuation of Allied soldiers from May 26 to June 4, 1940, during the Battle of Dunkirk. British Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay planned the operation and briefed Winston Churchill in the Dynamo Room (a room in the naval headquarters below Dover Castle which contained the dynamo that provided the electricity), giving the operation its name (Holmes 2001:267). Image File history File links French_troop_rescue_ship. ... Image File history File links French_troop_rescue_ship. ... Image File history File links Dunkirk2. ... Image File history File links Dunkirk2. ... Combatants Allied Powers Axis Powers Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000,000 Total dead: 50,000,000 Military dead: 8,000,000 Civilian dead: 4,000,000 Total dead 12,000,000 World War II (abbreviated WWII), or the Second World War, was a worldwide conflict... Look up evacuation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In general, allies are people or groups that have joined an alliance and are working together to achieve some common purpose. ... May 26 is the 146th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (147th in leap years). ... June 4 is the 155th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (156th in leap years), with 210 days remaining. ... Year 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1940 calendar). ... Combatants United Kingdom, France Germany Commanders Lord Gort Gerd von Rundstedt (Army Group A), Ewald von Kleist (Panzergruppe von Kleist) Strength approx. ... Vice Admiral is a naval rank of three star level, equivalent to Lieutenant General in seniority. ... Categories: People stubs | 1883 births | 1945 deaths | Royal Navy admirals | Royal Navy officers | British World War II people ... Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was an English statesman, soldier, and author, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. ... Dover Castle is situated at Dover, Kent and has been described as the Key to England due to its defensive significance throughout history. ... An electrical generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy, generally using electromagnetic induction. ...


In nine days, more than three hundred thousand (338,226) French (120,000) and British (218,226) soldiers were rescued from Dunkirk, France and the surrounding beaches by a hastily assembled fleet of about seven hundred boats. These craft included the famous "Little Ships of Dunkirk", a mixture of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and RNLI lifeboats, whose civilian crews were called into service for the emergency. These small craft ferried troops from the beaches to larger ships waiting offshore. Though the "Miracle of the Little Ships" is a major folk memory in Britain (and a great morale booster of the time), over 80% of the evacuated troops actually embarked from the harbour's protective mole onto the 42 destroyers and other large ships. For other uses of Dunkirk or Dunkerque, see Dunkirk (disambiguation). ... A fishing boat can range from two-person pleasure fishing boats up to 7-8 ton commercial fishers that can haul in over a billion fish at one time. ... Some pleasure craft in Miami Beach, Florida, USA. A pleasure craft (or pleasure boat) is a boat used for personal recreational or sometimes sporting purpose. ... Swanage lifeboat being winched up its slipway The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity based in England dedicated to saving lives at sea around the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. ... A mole is a massive structure, usually of stone, used as a pier, breakwater, or junction between places separated by water. ...

Contents

Preliminary events

British fisherman giving a hand to an allied soldier while a Stuka bomb explodes a few meters ahead (1940).
British fisherman giving a hand to an allied soldier while a Stuka bomb explodes a few meters ahead (1940).

Preparations for the evacuation began on May 22. Vice Admiral Ramsay called for as many naval boats as possible, as well as every ship within reach capable of carrying 1,000 men. The effort expanded to include shallow-draft civilian boats from 30 to 100 feet (9 to 30 m) in length, as of May 27. A large number of craft including fishing boats, fire ships, paddle steamers, private yachts and Belgian barges, plus Merchant Marine and Royal Navy boats, departed from Sheerness, Chatham and Dover over the following days. Some of the boats came from as far away as the Isle of Man and the West Country. Image File history File links British_fisher_boat_dunkirk. ... Image File history File links British_fisher_boat_dunkirk. ... May 22 is the 142nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (143rd in leap years). ... May 27 is the 147th day (148th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 218 days remaining. ... The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of the British armed services (and is therefore the Senior Service). ... Map sources for Sheerness at grid reference TQ919749 Sheerness is a town on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, England. ... Chatham is an English town that developed around an important naval dockyard on the east bank of the River Medway to the east of London in the county of Kent. ... The West Country is an informal term for the area of south-western England encompasing the counties of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. ...


On May 24, German armoured units stopped their advance on Dunkirk, leaving the operation to the slower infantry and the Luftwaffe. This reprieve was partly due to the influence of Hermann Göring, who promised Adolf Hitler air power alone could destroy the surrounded Allied forces. This stop order for the armour was reversed on May 26, when the evacuation began; however all German armour was withdrawn on May 29 to prepare for Fall Rot, the attack on the whole of France. The 18th Army, consisting of incompletely trained troops, continued the attack. May 24 is the 144th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (145th in leap years). ... This does not cite its references or sources. ... Hitler and Göring studying the map Hermann Wilhelm Göring (also Goering in English) (January 12, 1893 – October 15, 1946) was a German politician and military leader, a leading member of the Nazi Party, second in command of the Third Reich, and commander of the Luftwaffe. ... Hitler redirects here. ... May 26 is the 146th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (147th in leap years). ... May 29 is the 149th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (150th in leap years). ... In World War II, Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, executed 10 May 1940 which ended the Phony War. ...


Progress of evacuation

British troops escaping from Dunkirk in lifeboats.
British troops escaping from Dunkirk in lifeboats.
Royal Navy gunner covering retreating troops at Dunkirk (1940).
Royal Navy gunner covering retreating troops at Dunkirk (1940).

Initial plans called for the recovery of 45,000 men from the British Expeditionary Force within two days, at which time it was expected that German troops would be able to block further evacuation. Only 25,000 men escaped during this period, including 8,000 on the first day (Liddell Hart 1970). Ten additional destroyers joined the rescue effort on May 28 and attempted rescue operations in the early morning, but were unable to closely approach the beaches, although several thousand were rescued. However, the pace of evacuation from the shrinking Dunkirk pocket increased steadily. Image File history File links British_troops_lifeboat_dunkerque. ... Image File history File links British_troops_lifeboat_dunkerque. ... Image File history File links British_gunner_ship_dunkirk. ... Image File history File links British_gunner_ship_dunkirk. ... The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was the British army sent to France and Belgium in World War I and British Forces in Europe from 1939 - 1940 during World War II. The BEF was established by Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane following the Second Boer War in case the... Basil Henry Liddell Hart (October 31, 1895 - January 29, 1970) was a military historian and is considered among the great military strategists of the 20th century. ... May 28 is the 148th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (149th in leap years). ...


On May 29, 47,000 British troops were rescued (Keegan 1989:80) in spite of the first heavy air attack from the Luftwaffe in the evening. The next day, an additional 54,000 men (Liddell Hart 1970:79) were embarked, including the first French soldiers (Murray and Millett 2000:80). 68,000 men and the commander of the BEF evacuated on May 31 (Keegan 1989:81). A further 64,000 Allied soldiers departed on June 1 (Murray and Millett 2000), before the increasing air attacks prevented further daylight evacuation (Liddell Hart 1970). The British rearguard departed the night of June 2, along with 60,000 French soldiers (Murray and Millett 2000). An additional 26,000 French troops were retrieved the following night before the operation finally ended (Liddell Hart 1970). May 29 is the 149th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (150th in leap years). ... This does not cite its references or sources. ... May 31 is the 151st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (152nd in leap years), with 214 days remaining. ... June 1 is the 152nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (153rd in leap years), with 213 days remaining. ... June 2 is the 153rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (154th in leap years), with 212 days remaining. ...


Two French divisions remained behind to protect the evacuation. Though they halted the German advance, they were soon captured. The remainder of the rearguard, largely French, surrendered on June 3, 1940. The next day, the BBC reported, "Major-General Harold Alexander [the commander of the rearguard] inspected the shores of Dunkirk from a motorboat this morning to make sure no-one was left behind before boarding the last ship back to Britain." June 3 is the 154th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (155th in leap years), with 211 days remaining. ... Year 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1940 calendar). ... The British Broadcasting Corporation, usually known as the BBC (and also informally known as the Beeb or Auntie) is one of the largest broadcasting corporations in the world in terms of audience numbers, employing 26,000 staff in the UK alone and with a budget of more than £4 billion. ... Field Marshal Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis (December 10, 1891 - June 16, 1969) was a British military commander and Field Marshal, notably during World War II as the commander of the 15th Army Group. ...


Losses

French & British prisoners at Dunkirk, June 1940.

Despite the success of this operation, all the heavy equipment and vehicles were abandoned and several thousand French troops captured in the Dunkirk pocket. Six British and three French destroyers were sunk, along with nine large boats. In addition, 19 destroyers were damaged (Murray and Millett 2000). 200 of the smaller Allied craft were sunk, with an equal number damaged (Holmes 2001). Winston Churchill revealed in his volumes on WW2 that the Royal Air Force played a most important role protecting the retreating troops from the Luftwaffe. Churchill also said that the sand on the beach softened the explosions from the German bombs. The RAF lost 177 planes, compared to 132 for the Luftwaffe (Murray and Millett 2000). However, the retreating troops were largely unaware of this vital assistance because the weather was too foggy to see them, and many bitterly accused the airmen of doing nothing to help., Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1144x1341, 307 KB) Description: British prisoners at Dunkerque, France, June 1940 Source: www. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1144x1341, 307 KB) Description: British prisoners at Dunkerque, France, June 1940 Source: www. ... Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was an English statesman, soldier, and author, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. ... RAF redirects here. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ...


Major ships lost

The Royal Navy's most significant losses in the operation were six destroyers: The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of the British armed services (and is therefore the Senior Service). ...

The French Navy lost three destroyers: HMS Grafton (H89) was a G-class destroyer laid down by John I. Thornycroft and Company at Woolston in Southampton on 30 August 1934, launched on 18 September 1935 and completed on 20 March 1936. ... Unterseeboot 62 or U-62 has been the name of several German submarines or U-boats during the First World War and the Second World War. ... May 29 is the 149th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (150th in leap years). ... HMS Grenade (H86) was a G-class destroyer of the Royal Navy laid down by Alexander Stephen and Sons at Linthouse in Scotland on 3 October 1934, launched on 12 November 1935 and completed on 28 March 1936. ... May 29 is the 149th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (150th in leap years). ... A modern torpedo, historically called a locomotive torpedo, is a self-propelled projectile that (after being launched above or below the water surface) operates underwater and is designed to detonate on contact or in proximity to a target. ... E-boat is the British and American name for the German Schnellboot (S-boot), a small, fast torpedo boat a little larger than the American PT boat and the British MTB. Specification Length - 34. ... May 29 is the 149th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (150th in leap years). ... HMS Basilisk (H11) was a B-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service during World War II. It was sunk off the coast of Dunkirk during Operation Dynamo. ... HMS Keith (D06) was a B-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service during World War II. It was sunk off the coast of Dunkirk during Operation Dynamo. ... June 1 is the 152nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (153rd in leap years), with 213 days remaining. ... The French Navy, officially called the National Navy (French: Marine Nationale) is the maritime arm of the French military. ...

  • Bourrasque, mined off Nieuport on 30 May;
  • Sirocco, sunk by the E-boats S-23 and S-26 on 31 May;
  • Le Foudroyant, sunk by air attack off the beaches on 1 June.

Nieuport was a French aeroplane manufacturer founded in 1909 by Édouard de Nié Port. ... May 30 is the 150th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (151st in leap years). ... May 31 is the 151st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (152nd in leap years), with 214 days remaining. ... June 1 is the 152nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (153rd in leap years), with 213 days remaining. ...

Aftermath

Rescued British troops gathered in a ship at Dunkirk, 1940.
Rescued British troops gathered in a ship at Dunkirk, 1940.
Dunkirk rescued French troops disembarked in England.
Dunkirk rescued French troops disembarked in England.

Before the operation was completed, the prognosis had been gloomy, with Winston Churchill warning the House of Commons to expect "hard and heavy tidings". Subsequently, Churchill referred to the outcome as a "miracle" and exhortations to the "Dunkirk spirit" — of triumphing in the face of adversity — are still (occasionally) heard in Britain today. The British press presented the evacuation as a "Disaster Turned To Triumph" so successfully that Churchill had to remind the country, in a speech to the House of Commons on 4 June, that "we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations." Image File history File links British_troops_ship_dunkerque. ... Image File history File links British_troops_ship_dunkerque. ... Image File history File links Good_to_be_alive_dunkirk_1940. ... Image File history File links Good_to_be_alive_dunkirk_1940. ... Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was an English statesman, soldier, and author, best known as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. ... The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. ... The Dunkirk spirit is a phrase used to describe the tendency of the British public to pull together to overcome times of adversity. ... The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. ... June 4 is the 155th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (156th in leap years), with 210 days remaining. ...


The rescue of the British troops at Dunkirk provided a psychological boost to British morale which ended any possibility that the British would seek peace terms from Germany, since they retained the ability to defend themselves against a possible German invasion. Most of the rescued British troops were assigned to the defence of Britain. Once the threat of invasion receded, they were transferred overseas to the Middle East and other theatres, and also provided the nucleus of the army which returned to France in 1944. Detail from a pillbox embrasure. ...


Some of the evacuated troops, both French and British, returned to the Battle of France through ports in Normandy and Brittany, where most were killed or captured. After the French surrender, a majority of the rescued French troops returned to their homeland [citations needed], but a few chose to join the Free French and continue to fight. Combatants France United Kingdom Canada Czechoslovakia Poland Belgium Netherlands Luxembourg Germany Italy Commanders Maurice Gamelin, Maxime Weygand (French) Lord Gort (British Expeditionary Force) H.G. Winkelman (Dutch) Gerd von Rundstedt (Army Group A) Fedor von Bock (Army Group B) Wilhelm von Leeb (Army Group C) H.R.H. Umberto di... Flag of Normandy Normandy (in French: Normandie, and in Norman: Normaundie) is a geographical region in northern France. ... Brittany has an expansive coastline Flag of Brittany (Gwenn-ha-du) Historical province of Brittany région of Bretagne, see Bretagne. ... The Free French Forces (Forces Françaises Libres in French) were French fighters who decided to go on fighting against Germany after the Fall of France and German occupation and to fight against Vichy France in World War II. General Charles de Gaulle was a member of the French Cabinet...


In France, the perceived preference of the British Navy for evacuating British forces at the expense of the French led to some bitter resentment.


The St George's Cross flown from the jack staff is known as the Dunkirk jack, and is only flown by civilian ships and boats of all sizes which took part in the Dunkirk rescue operation in 1940. The only other ships permitted to fly this flag at the bow are those with an Admiral of the Fleet on board. St Georges cross The St Georges Cross is a red cross on a white background. ... A Maritime flag or Naval Jack is a national flag used exclusively on boats and other watercraft. ...


Trivia

Charles Lightoller, second officer on the RMS Titanic, distinguished himself commanding one of the "Little Ships" during the Dunkirk evacuation. Cmdr. ... RMS Titanic was an Olympic class passenger liner that collided with an iceberg and sank in 1912. ...


See also

Combatants United Kingdom, France Germany Commanders Lord Gort Gerd von Rundstedt (Army Group A), Ewald von Kleist (Panzergruppe von Kleist) Strength approx. ... During World War II, Operation Cycle was the evacuation of Allied troops from Le Havre, France in June, 1940. ... Abbey of Graville, Le Havre Le Havre is a city in Normandy, northern France, on the English Channel, at the mouth of the Seine. ... During World War II, Operation Ariel was the escape of French and British forces from northern France after the collapse of that country. ... Combatants France United Kingdom Canada Czechoslovakia Poland Belgium Netherlands Luxembourg Germany Italy Commanders Maurice Gamelin, Maxime Weygand (French) Lord Gort (British Expeditionary Force) H.G. Winkelman (Dutch) Gerd von Rundstedt (Army Group A) Fedor von Bock (Army Group B) Wilhelm von Leeb (Army Group C) H.R.H. Umberto di... Combatants Allied Powers Axis Powers Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000,000 Total dead: 50,000,000 Military dead: 8,000,000 Civilian dead: 4,000,000 Total dead 12,000,000 World War II (abbreviated WWII), or the Second World War, was a worldwide conflict...

References

  • Holmes, Richard, ed. (2001). "Dunkirk evacuation". The Oxford Companion to Military History, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866209-2.
  • Keegan, John. (1989). The Second World War, New York: Viking Penguin. ISBN 0-670-82359-7.
  • Liddell Hart, B.H. (1970). History of the Second World War, New York: G.P. Putnam.
  • Murray, Williamson and Millett, Allan R. A War to Be Won, Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press. ISBN 0-674-00163-X.
  • Sebag-Montefiore, Hugh. Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man. New York: Viking, 2005 (paperback, ISBN 0-670-91083-X); 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-670-91082-1).
    • Reviewed by Max Hastings in the Telegraph, May 28, 2006.
    • Reviewed by Richard Overy in the Telegraph, May 28, 2006.
  • Weinberg, Gerhard L. (1994). A World at Arms, New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-44317-2.
  • Wilmot, Chester. (1952). The Struggle for Europe, Old Saybrook, Conn.: Konecky & Konecky. ISBN 1-56852-525-7.

External links

  • Association of Dunkirk Little Ships
  • BBC report, on 4 June, 1940
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Operation Dynamo

  Results from FactBites:
 
Operation Dynamo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1398 words)
Operation Dynamo or the Dunkirk Evacuation or simply "Dunkirk" conducted from May 26, 1940 to June 4, 1940, was the name given to the mass evacuation of Allied soldiers during the Battle of Dunkirk, a notable conflict during World War II.
The RAF lost 177 planes during Operation Dynamo, compared to 240 for the Luftwaffe (Murray and Millett 2000).
Until the operation was complete the British prognosis had been gloomy, with Winston Churchill warning the House of Commons to expect "hard and heavy tidings".
Dynamo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (149 words)
Dynamo can refer to more than one item.
Operation Dynamo was the name of the mass evacuation at Dunkirk 1940.
The Dynamo Open Air is a major heavy metal festival held annually in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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