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Sun May 26, 2019, 07:19 AM

79 Years Ago Today; Operation Dynamo - The Evacuation at Dunkirk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkirk_evacuation



The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers during World War II from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, in the north of France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940. The operation commenced after large numbers of Belgian, British, and French troops were cut off and surrounded by German troops during the six-week long Battle of France. In a speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called this "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".

After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France and the British Empire declared war on Germany and imposed an economic blockade. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to help defend France. After the Phoney War of October 1939 to April 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and France on 10 May 1940. Three of their panzer corps attacked through the Ardennes and drove northwest to the English Channel. By 21 May German forces had trapped the BEF, the remains of the Belgian forces, and three French field armies along the northern coast of France. The commander of the BEF, General Viscount Gort, immediately saw evacuation across the Channel as the best course of action, and began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest good port.

Late on 23 May, a halt order was issued by Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group A. Adolf Hitler approved the order the next day and had the German High Command send confirmation to the front. Destroying the trapped BEF, French, and Belgian armies was left to the Luftwaffe until the order was rescinded on 26 May. This gave trapped Allied forces time to construct defensive works and pull back large numbers of troops to fight the Battle of Dunkirk. From 28 to 31 May, 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 armoured divisions.

On the first day only 7,669 Allied soldiers were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 of them had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats. Many troops were able to embark from the harbour's protective mole onto 39 British Royal Navy destroyers, four Royal Canadian Navy destroyers, and a variety of civilian merchant ships, while others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in shoulder-deep water. Some were ferried to the larger ships by what came to be known as the Little Ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, yachts, and lifeboats called into service from Britain. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of its tanks, vehicles, and 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."

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Evacuation
2627 May

The retreat was undertaken amid chaotic conditions, with abandoned vehicles blocking the roads and a flood of refugees heading in the opposite direction. Due to wartime censorship and the desire to keep up British morale, the full extent of the unfolding disaster at Dunkirk was not initially publicised. A special service attended by King George VI was held in Westminster Abbey on 26 May, which was declared a national day of prayer. The Archbishop of Canterbury led prayers "for our soldiers in dire peril in France". Similar prayers were offered in synagogues and churches throughout the UK that day, confirming to the public their suspicion of the desperate plight of the troops. Just before 19:00 on 26 May, Churchill ordered Dynamo to begin, by which time 28,000 men had already departed. Initial plans called for the recovery of 45,000 men from the BEF within two days, at which time German troops were expected to block further evacuation. Only 25,000 men escaped during this period, including 7,669 on the first day.


Troops evacuated from Dunkirk arrive at Dover, 31 May 1940

On 27 May, the first full day of the evacuation, one cruiser, eight destroyers, and 26 other craft were active. Admiralty officers combed nearby boatyards for small craft that could ferry personnel from the beaches out to larger craft in the harbour, as well as larger vessels that could load from the docks. An emergency call was put out for additional help, and by 31 May nearly four hundred small craft were voluntarily and enthusiastically taking part in the effort.

The same day, the Luftwaffe heavily bombed Dunkirk, both the town and the dock installations. As the water supply was knocked out, the resulting fires could not be extinguished. An estimated thousand civilians were killed, one-third of the remaining population of the town. The Luftwaffe was met by 16 squadrons of the Royal Air Force, who claimed 38 kills on 27 May while losing 14 aircraft. Many more RAF fighters sustained damage and were subsequently written off. On the German side, Kampfgeschwader 2 (KG 2) and KG 3 suffered the heaviest casualties. German losses amounted to 23 Dornier Do 17s. KG 1 and KG 4 bombed the beach and harbour and KG 54 sank the 8,000-ton steamer Aden. Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers sank the troopship Cote d' Azur. The Luftwaffe engaged with 300 bombers which were protected by 550 fighter sorties, and attacked Dunkirk in twelve raids. They dropped 15,000 high explosive and 30,000 incendiary bombs, destroying the oil tanks and wrecking the harbour.[74] No. 11 Group RAF flew 22 patrols with 287 aircraft this day, in formations of up to 20 aircraft.

Altogether, over 3,500 sorties were flown in support of Operation Dynamo. The RAF continued to take a heavy toll on the German bombers throughout the week. Soldiers being bombed and strafed while awaiting transport were for the most part unaware of the efforts of the RAF to protect them, as most of the dogfights took place far from the beaches. As a result, many British soldiers bitterly accused the airmen of doing nothing to help.

On 25 and 26 May, the Luftwaffe focused their attention on Allied pockets holding out at Calais, Lille, and Amiens, and did not attack Dunkirk. Calais, held by the BEF, surrendered on 26 May. Remnants of the French First Army, surrounded at Lille, fought off seven German divisions (several of them armoured) until 31 May, when the remaining 35,000 soldiers were forced to surrender after running out of food and ammunition. The Germans accorded the honours of war to the defenders of Lille in recognition of their bravery.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2019, 07:52 AM

1. It was an amazing feat that was pulled off

by the Royal Navy and all the little boats that pitched in to help.

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Response to Sherman A1 (Reply #1)

Sun May 26, 2019, 08:18 AM

2. One of the little boats was captained by Charles Lightoller, the highest-ranking officer...

...to survive RMS Titanic's sinking:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lightoller

Charles Herbert Lightoller, DSC & Bar, RD, RNR (30 March 1874 8 December 1952) was the second officer on board the RMS Titanic and a decorated Royal Navy officer. He was the most senior member of the crew to survive the Titanic disaster.

As the officer in charge of loading passengers into lifeboats on the port side, Lightoller strictly enforced the "women and children first" protocol, not allowing any male passengers to board the lifeboats unless they were needed as auxiliary seamen. Lightoller stayed until the last, was sucked against a grate and held under water, but then was blown from the grate by a rush of warm air as a boiler exploded. He found refuge on an upturned collapsible boat with 30 others, showing his fellow survivors how to shift their weight to avoid being swamped, until their rescue at dawn.

Lightoller served as a commanding officer of the Royal Navy during World War I and was twice decorated for gallantry. First while in command of a motor torpedo boat he engaged German Zeppelin L31 during a night time raid on Southern England. Second whilst in command of destroyer HMS Garry protecting a merchant convoy, Lightoller's ship rammed and sank the German U-Boat UB-110. The captain of UB-110 later claimed that some of the German survivors were massacred by Lightoller's crew, an allegation never officially substantiated. In his 1935 memoir 'Titanic and Other Ships', Lightoller wrote of the incident that he "refused to accept the hands-up business", but did not go into further detail on the matter.

Later, in retirement, he further distinguished himself in World War II, by providing and sailing as a volunteer on one of the "little ships" that played a part in the Dunkirk evacuation. Rather than allow his motoryacht to be requisitioned by the Admiralty, he sailed the vessel to Dunkirk personally and repatriated 127 British servicemen.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundowner_(yacht)



Sundowner is a motor yacht formerly owned by Charles Lightoller, the second officer of RMS Titanic and the most senior officer to survive her sinking in 1912.

She participated in the Dunkirk evacuation as one of the "little ships" as well as a number of commemorations of the event, and is now a museum ship at the Ramsgate Maritime Museum in Southern England.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #2)

Sun May 26, 2019, 09:04 AM

5. Fascinating. Thanks for posting this.

Here's a "tiny-url" that DU can't break: http://tinyurl.com/zbu5h39

It goes to the "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundowner_(yacht)" link

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Response to NurseJackie (Reply #5)

Sun May 26, 2019, 09:06 AM

6. I tried to embed the link via the DU word processor link tool, which usually works...

...it didn't this time, though.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #6)

Sun May 26, 2019, 09:11 AM

7. It's aggravating...

... just ONE "illegal" character (as far as DU is concerned) can mess things up. Seems like it happens more often after DU tightened-up its security because of the election-day break-in/hack.

Anyway... the tiny-url service seems to be a reliable workaround solution.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2019, 08:23 AM

3. The movie Dunkirk aptly illustrates the dilemma they faced

The British might have lost almost their entire remaining forces, if this evacuation hadn't been carried out. I never understood the gravity of the situation until I saw Dunkirk a few years ago.


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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2019, 09:00 AM

4. Approximately 10 years ago, I took a boat ride on the river in York.

The boat had a plaque that said it was used in the Dunkirk evacuation.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun May 26, 2019, 10:25 AM

8. There are conflicting ideas of why Hitler held off a final assault that would have destroyed any

chance of evacuation. Some think Hitler wanted to leave the door open for negotiations, some sort of treaty with England & feared a massacre would have put that chance to an end. Another theory is that his commanders were against it because German troops needed a badly needed rest, were exhausted. They had the capability but it wasn't used.

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Response to yaesu (Reply #8)

Sun May 26, 2019, 10:30 AM

9. Reminds me of this scene from "The Battle of Britain" (1969)

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