Battle of Dunkirk

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Battle of Dunkirk

Previous week Christopher Nolan came up with his film Dunkirk which narrates about soldier evacuation. Here we take a look at how the event unfolded.

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Christopher Nolan hits theaters with his movie 'Dunkirk' and mind his words its not a movie which would narrate the history rather would dive into survival of soldiers. So, here we revisit the battle and understand how the event unfolded.

In September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Britain and France declared war on Hitler’s Nazi state and this led to the start of World War II. After invading Poland in its east, the Nazi Army redeployed all of their forces to the west facing France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. The French deployed their army along the Maginot Line facing Nazi forces. Britain being an ally of France sent in British Expeditionary Force (BEF) along with the French army and deployed along the Luxembourg and Belgium border. Belgium being a neutral force held their defenses for certain period. As a matter of fact, Britain had most of their land-based forces in France at this time. Expecting a repeat of the Schlieffen Plan, once Nazi forces entered Belgium the allies would move north in the Low Countries area and meet them. On 10th May, 1940 this is exactly what happened but the cream of the Nazi army, their Panzer IV army was able to move through the Ardennes forest an area thought impenetrable by motorized units. They were able to move past the line guarded by only Second-class French soldiers and flanked the entire allied army entering Belgium with the French soldiers in the Maginot Line unable to do anything about this Nazi breakthrough. The allies in Belgium fell back. With the cream of both Great Britain and French soldiers cut-off and surrounded in Belgium, the French Prime Minister Paul Renauld telephoned Winston Churchill and said their army has been trapped. Unable to regroup with the rest of the French Army to the south of trapped armies and losing their grounds quickly in front of surrounded attack of Nazi forces, Winston Churchill immediately activated Operation Dynamo for the evacuation of the BEFs. In six weeks, the French army was defeated and the Nazi army captured France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

On 22nd May preparations for Operation Dynamo began. Vice-Admiral of that time Bertram Ramsey was commanded to call for as many naval vessels as possible as well as every ship capable of carrying 1000 men. Nearly all of the ground forces of Great Britain were in France at that time, the evacuation must had to be successful to keep Great Britain alive in the war. Civilians were requested to provide shallow draught vessels for the operation and the answer to the call were fishing boats, private yachts, fire ships and Belgian barges. On 27th May, the first attempt of evacuation was made but only 7,699 troops were saved due to heavy firing from the Nazi army. On May 28, amidst of heavy firing of the Luftwaffe a major attempt for rescue was made where many vessels were sunk or badly damaged, including 9 destroyers. But around 16,000 men were recovered. During this battle, the sky was lit up with fighter planes engaging in tremendous altercation. On that day the RAF (British) lost 177 airplanes and the Luftwaffe (Nazi) lost 132 airplanes over Dunkirk.


29th of May witnessed an unexpected change of fate, Hitler ordered to hold their advancement towards Dunkirk and called back the panzer divisions to other parts of France. He was convinced that the Luftwaffe and some slower infantries would be able to destroy the army stuck at the beaches. As the German side weakened, this gave the allies an opportunity to rescue 30,000 men, while on the next day over 65,000 men. On June 1 another 65,000 were rescued. By June 4, when Operation Dynamo ended, a total of 338,226 British and French soldiers has been saved from Dunkirk. Churchill referred to this outcome as a "miracle".

This Battle was one of the most important event for the 2nd World War, for if those troops had not been able to evacuate then the whole British military would have been decimated in the beaches and the Nazi would have won the war before its start.