what happened in dunkirk

Newly fortified, British soldiers fought against advances in North Africa and the Middle East by the Axis forces. By the time he resumed attacks, the evacuation had begun. Not Everyone Escaped at Dunkirk. Please select which sections you would like to print: While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please attempt to sign up again. By the next day motorized divisions had taken over the line of the Somme from Péronne to Abbeville, forming a strong defensive flank. William Tennant with its tactical oversight. By signing up you are agreeing to our. Paris fell on June 14. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). The British light tanks proved to be surprisingly effective against German antitank weapons, and this small drive into the corridor momentarily shook the nerve of the German High Command. The 7th Panzer Division, led by Erwin Rommel, finally broke through in the west and charged 20 miles south of the Somme to cut off one British division, which retreated and later evacuated. Please try again later. He described his two forced marches, one when he was captured in 1940 and the second in 1945, in his book, Survivor of the Long March: Five Years as a POW: “[The first march] was in hot weather and I was still wearing my greatcoat but I was in good physical shape. “The Kommandant, a German we called the ‘Purple Emperor,’ told us, ‘If you look out of the window you are going to be shot.’ One officer said he was still going to do it — and he was shot. A third of a million British soldiers were facing annihilation but just days later the majority had been rescued. The Dunkirk evacuation represented massive losses in materials and equipment for the British army. The cease-fire was sounded early the next morning. You didn’t have time to analyze yourself. Here's a Formula That Explains Where We Need to Invest in Climate Innovation, Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know now on politics, health and more, © 2021 TIME USA, LLC. That same day, Gen. Henri Giraud assumed command of the French Ninth Army and drew up a plan for a counteroffensive on a line 25 miles (40 km) west of the Meuse. Kleist’s southern flank was progressively lined by his motorized divisions, which in turn were relieved by the infantry corps that were marching on as fast as possible. As the Wehrmacht swept through western Europe in the spring of 1940, using Blitzkrieg, both the French and British armies could not stop the … An unexpected error has occurred with your sign up. This was happening all the time. Two were dropped from the air and one arrived by ship and stormed the beaches beside its American allies. Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest . On May 20 they swept on and reached Abbeville, thus blocking all communications between north and south. An evacuation is the process of moving people away from where they are in danger to a safer place. Meanwhile, the French military was in tatters and seemed poised for defeat. There are going to be some Dunkirk spoilers, so go and watch it and then come back. By evening more reassuring reports had come from the Aisne, and Reynaud broadcast a denial of “the most absurd rumours that the government is preparing to leave Paris.” At the same time, he seized the opportunity to replace Gamelin and for that purpose summoned Gen. Maxime Weygand from Syria. During World War II, in May–June 1940, the British Expeditionary Force and other Allied troops, cut off by the Germans, were evacuated from Dunkirk to England by naval vessels and hundreds of civilian boats. As the war dragged on, forced marches became more common, sometimes with very little food or none at all — one British battalion reported receiving only two sugar lumps and two tablespoons of a mixture of carrots and potatoes a day. The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces from the beach at Dunkirk, France, 26 May to 4 June 1940. More dangerous still was the backdoor approach of Guderian, whose armoured forces were sweeping north past Boulogne and Calais. The Germans cut off various Allied escape ports along the English Channel and quickly shrunk their defensive lines. After crossing the Oise on May 17, German Gen. Heinz Guderian’s advance troops reached Amiens two days later. It had taken the Germans just 18 days after Dunkirk to capture France. This weakened German side made it possible for the Allies to rescue 30,000 men, w… The opposite was the case. The Dunkirk evacuation moved about 340,000 British, French, and Belgian (Allied) soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, across the English Channel to England. What happened at Dunkirk in May and June 1940 must rank as one of the greatest maritime evacuations in history, let alone World War II.Soldiers, sailors, and civilians were caught up in the events of those desperate days in the race against time to save Allied armies trapped in France. During the evacuation, 126 civilian sailors were killed. World War II, the biggest news story of the 20th century, continues to attract filmmakers 72 years after it ended. Once again he was too late, for the German panzer divisions outran his retreating troops and were across that barrier on May 17. Gen. Paul Ludwig von Kleist surprised the Allies by advancing through Luxembourg and into France over the course of five days. The Dutch defenders fell back westward, and by noon on May 12 German tanks were on the outskirts of Rotterdam. Beginning on May 26th and ending on June 4th, the plan was to evacuate at least 45,000 troops -- the number thought to be needed to protect England from invasion -- but in the end more than 300,000 … The Battle of Dunkirk, and subsequent evacuation of the French seaside town, … The harbor at Dunkirk was bombed out of use, and smaller civilian vessels had to ferry the soldiers from the beaches to the warships waiting at sea. The Luftwaffe bombed the beach throughout the evacuation, significantly slowing down the process. Without Dunkirk, none of this would have been possible, nor would Britain have been able to hold out until December 1941 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the Americans into the war as a critical ally. The next day, however, orders came from the British Cabinet that the BEF was to march south on Amiens. You can unsubscribe at any time. The wounded were jeered at. When this riposte was launched on May 21, it comprised no more than two tank battalions backed by two infantry battalions, while elements of one French light mechanized division covered its flanks. As the film depicts early on, pilots had to carefully conserve fuel on the Channel crossing and, even then, could only operate for less than an hour over Dunkirk itself. However, Dunkirk’s beach was too shallow for Royal Navy battleships to safely approach, so the British admiralty assembled approximately 700 civilian craft that would transport troops to battleships waiting in the North Sea. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. On May 16 Giraud found that the forces for such an undertaking were not available, while the Germans had advanced in strength far beyond that line. The French government, which had been in a state of crisis for weeks, signed an armistice on June 22. The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in May 1940 from Dunkirk by a flotilla of small ships has entered British folklore. The German strategy, called blitzkrieg, relied on sustained and concentrated forward momentum to ensure a swift victory before the enemy could respond. Hitler tentatively planned for a British invasion, code-named Operation Sea Lion, but he knew that such an incursion would be risky, difficult and very costly, and so he waited for a British peace offer. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. An official checking the papers of French refugees during the Dunkirk evacuation, May–June 1940. Updates? After the last rescue boats left Dunkirk harbor on June 4, 1940, the Germans captured some 40,000 French troops who’d been left behind as well as at least 40,000 British soldiers in the Dunkirk vicinity. From May 26 to June 4, over 338,000 British and French troops were safely evacuated from Dunkirk. General Alan Brooke returned to France to command the few remaining British units and judged the situation untenable. More than 930 ships took part in the evacuation. Dunkirk's timeline is so intricately woven that it would take a whole other article to fully explore, but to explain the ending we do need to have a strong grounding of everything that's happened thus far, so here's a quick recap.. The British transformed the Dunkirk evacuation into a moment of national pride and perseverance. 19 Jan 2021. On May 10 the German blitzkrieg attack on the Netherlands began with the capture by parachutists of key bridges deep within the country, with the aim of opening the way for mobile ground forces. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. The next day they crossed the Meuse, and on May 15 they broke through the French defenses into open country, turning westward in the direction of the English Channel. Two more divisions were allotted for Weygand’s renewed project of a Franco-British drive down into the German corridor. The immediate context of the Dunkirk evacuation was Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries and northern France in May 1940. To remedy this, he directed the soldiers to board rescue ships from a 1,400-yard (1.3-km)-long breakwater to the east. Dunkirk evacuation, (1940) in World War II, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops from the French seaport of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) to England. The Battle of Arras and the Belgian surrender, https://www.britannica.com/event/Dunkirk-evacuation, Social Studies for Kids - The Dunkirk Evacuation, Military History Encyclopedia on the Web - Dunkirk Evacuation, Dunkirk evacuation - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11). He finally was rescued in April by Allied forces as the war was drawing to a close. German troops and French prisoners of war crossing the Meuse River after the Battle of Sedan, May 15, 1940. A similar
 atrocity unfolded on the 
same day with the 2nd
 Battalion of the Royal
 Warwickshire Regiment,
 which had been captured 
near Wormhout. From the day of the German invasion on May 10 through the evacuation of Dunkirk, France had lost 24 infantry divisions, including six of seven motorized divisions. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership. Read more in TIME-LIFE’s new special edition, World War II: Dunkirk, available on Amazon. On May 28, the SS Totenkopf Division marched about 100 members of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, which had just surrendered, to a pit in a farm in Le Paradis and murdered them with machine gun spray. Hundreds of thousands of troops were rescued from the German advance in the nick of time. The French government panicked and nearly evacuated Paris; their worries were compounded by further German advances into Belgium on May 17. Within Reynaud’s cabinet, there was an appeasement faction, coalescing around Deputy Premier Marshal Pétain, which was considering a potential deal with Adolf Hitler. What Happens to Them Now? On May 19 Gen. John Gort, commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), began to consider the necessity of evacuating his forces by sea and the preparatory steps that such an endeavour would require. Nazi Germany invaded northern France and the Low Countries in May 1940 during the early years of World War II. Brilliantly spinning the defeat at Dunkirk into an expression of the “Dunkirk spirit,” Churchill urged his people to display the grit of the British troops and the can-do attitude of civilians who volunteered their ships for the rescue operation. Their sacrifice had brought the salvation of the British nation. Critical to this process was the British Royal Air Force, which intercepted German bombers above the beach. Corrections? Britain now stood alone against the Nazis and many wondered whether it would be the next to concede. A Battle of Britain hero thought to have been the real life inspiration for Tom Hardy's character in the film Dunkirk has been revealed after his bravery medals emerged for sale. The Allied armies in Belgium wheeled back to the line of the Scheldt. But you took it because it was part of life. With their country overrun and their backs to the sea, in a small strip crowded with refugees, the Belgians were driven to sue for an armistice that evening. Overview of the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, 1940. Dunkirk evacuation, (1940) in World War II, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops from the French seaport of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) to England. This lining of the Aisne had an important indirect effect of playing on the most instinctive fear of the French. At Amiens, 90 miles northwest of Paris, the German 10th Panzer Division lost two thirds of its tanks in just three days. Instead, 20 German planes were damaged and another 60 shot down. While the governments and commanders got into a tangle of divergent views and orders, the cut-off armies in the north fell back on a slant closer to the coast under increasing pressure from Gen. Walther von Reichenau’s advance through Belgium. Updated: March 26, 2018 2:27 PM ET | Originally published: July 21, 2017 6:29 PM EDT. Guderian’s corps then turned north up the coast in a drive for Calais and Dunkirk on May 22. With Belgium’s surrender on May 28, an evacuation of French and British troops from the European mainland became imperative. Several factors were at play, one potentially being Hitler’s belief that the British would more readily negotiate if he exhibited clemency. That’s what happened at Dunkirk — a small town on the northern coast of France — in the early stages of World War II, before the US had entered the war. Tennant observed that evacuating troops directly from the beach would be an arduous and potentially costly process. "A miracle" - is the best description of what happened at Dunkirk in May and June 1940. After this flash in the pan the Allied armies in the north made no further effort to break out of the trap, while the belated relieving push from the south was so feeble as to be almost farcical. However, once you know what happened in Dunkirk, it all makes sense. The victory that followed was sweet for all involved, but for the British, it was more than that. Theirs is a story that is often overlooked, but for the next five years, until the war’s end, large numbers of these POWs would be mistreated and abused in violation of Geneva Convention guidelines governing the sick, wounded, prisoners of war and civilians. Churchill was having none of it. The 73-year-old veteran of World War I was better at expounding outdated theory than grasping the realities of a rapidly changing, increasingly motorized battlefield. Between May 26 and June 4, 1940, some 340,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the French seaport of Dunkirk to England. On arriving at train stations the POWs were loaded into cattle cars for trips to work sites in Germany and Poland. The film is told in three timelines that unfold concurrently but are in fact of varying in … As noted by Longden: “These dreadful days were never forgotten by those who endured them. By the time they arrived on May 27, the Belgian centre had cracked, and there were no reserves to fill this fresh gap. His grandiloquent orders had no more chance of being translated into practical terms than those of Reynaud or new British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Hulton Archive/Getty. Wars are terrible and brutal things. None of this might have happened but for the miracle of Dunkirk. When the Allied forces landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, three of the eight divisions that took part were British. Consequently, three of Gort’s divisions were withdrawn from the front and sent south to strengthen the line of canals that covered Dunkirk and the Allies’ rear. During the next five years, Churchill and the British leadership were able to expand the size of the British army, add new planes to the resources of the RAF, repair and replace the ships lost at Dunkirk and reestablish the British Navy as one of the most powerful in the world. Could Amsterdam's New Economic Theory Replace Capitalism? Dunkirk, and the evacuation associated with the troops trapped on Dunkirk, was called a “miracle” by Winston Churchill. The year 2020 will mark the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of more than 300,000 Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France between May 26th and June 4th 1940, during World War II. British soldier Charlie Waite’s story was not uncommon. The town was liberated by the U.S. Army in May 1945, but more than three-quarters of its houses were destroyed in … It was redemption. Just 20 when he was captured, Wagstaff and his fellow POWs were threatened by their Nazi captors. The French were further hampered by a lack of strategic clarity. On May 11 the Belgian front was broken, and German tanks ran on westward while Belgian, French, and British divisions fell back to a line between Antwerp and Namur. Gort argued that such a long-range drive in reverse was not practicable, either tactically or administratively. The German invasion of France hinged on Gen. Paul Ludwig von Kleist’s surprise advance through the hilly and dense Ardennes Forest. As described in Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind, by Sean Longden, some were summarily executed. German dictator Adolf Hitler’s blitzkrieg strategy depended on maintaining concentrated forward momentum in its invasion of France and Belgium; Germany had overrun the region by May 1940. Omissions? ‎What happened at Dunkirk in May 1940 was one of the greatest escapes of all time. While Allied leaders were still hoping for an attack that would cut off the expanding “bulge,” German armoured forces raced to the Channel and cut off the Allied forces in Belgium. In the frigid winter of 1944–45, on a forced march of nearly a thousand miles from Poland to just outside of Berlin, Waite almost died. Allied planners had hoped to check the Germans at the Dyle Line—a defensive line that ran from Antwerp south to the French frontier, north of Sedan—but by May 16 Gamelin had determined that such a stand was impracticable. On September 15, the Luftwaffe launched over 1,000 aircraft in the campaign’s most concentrated bombing raid yet against London. On May 29 there was an unexpected change of fate; the German army stopped its advance on Dunkirk and the panzer divisions were called back. The agreement divided France into two parts, the northern half under direct German occupation and the south under a puppet regime led by Pétain. * The request timed out and you did not successfully sign up. On June 4 Prime Minister Winston Churchill roused his country by declaring: “[We] shall not flag or fail. But in 1945, we had the additional challenges of one of the coldest winters on record that January, of having suffered years of misery, fear, exhaustion and starvation and of watching fellow men die and helping to bury them by the roadside. France did not have the strength to mount an immediate counteroffensive. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”. The History Learning Site, 20 Apr 2015. The prevailing confusion was increased by Weygand’s arrival to take over supreme command. However, for many troops, Dunkirk was only the beginning. On August 20, as the aerial conflict entered its most intense stage, Churchill took to the airways to pay tribute to the courageous pilots of the RAF: “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. British, French, Canadian, and Belgian troops had been forced back to Dunkirk by the advancing German army. As the days proceeded, Rommel simply directed his Panzers around the remaining Hedgehogs, and the French were unable to mount an effective counterattack. Naval vessels and hundreds of civilian boats were used in the evacuation, which began on May 26. Queen Wilhelmina and her government left the country for England on May 13, and the next day the Dutch army surrendered to the Germans. The following is an excerpt from TIME-LIFE’s new special edition, World War II: Dunkirk, available on Amazon. The invasion of Belgium also began on May 10, when German airborne troops landed on the fortress of Eben Emael, immediately opposite Maastricht, and on bridges over the Albert Canal. It didn’t take long for the Germans, whose Panzers were rolling rapidly through the country, to wear down the French. Gen. Georg-Hans Reinhardt swung south of the British rear position at Arras, headed for the same objective—the last escape port that remained open for the British. Yet they had been forgotten while those who escaped and made their way back home were hailed as heroes.”. When the Belgians’ extended right flank, adjoining the British, gave way under pressure from Reichenau, these two divisions were rushed north again. He began currying a relationship with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who signaled his intention to assist the British in any way he could. He was moved from place to place and kept prisoner on a farm in Poland and forced to work the fields with Nazi guards watching. Even if the French had been able to mount a counteroffensive, they would not have found it easy to crush the invader. All Rights Reserved. Premier Paul Reynaud favored a Dunkirk-like evacuation to North Africa, where the army could be protected by the French Fleet and the Royal Navy while it reconstituted itself, gathered additional forces from the French colonial empire and took delivery on a fleet of planes from the U.S. Even before the German military forced Belgium’s surrender on May 28, 1940, the British government had been quietly preparing for an evacuation of its ground forces and other Allied troops under the code name Operation Dynamo. Instead of four armored divisions equipped with 200 tanks each, the country now had three, each equipped with 40. The Dunkirk evacuation was an event of World War II (1939–45). The RAF had stood up to the Luftwaffe and won. To lower officer morale, the Nazis told British officers that they would lose their rank and be sent to the salt mines to work. Commander Weygand, however, opposed such a move and vowed to remain on French soil to defend his homeland. Convinced that the area could be captured by the German air force alone, Hitler reduced his arsenal in Northern France to slower infantry, with the help of the Luffwaffe in the skies above. Soon, as Churchill predicted, the “tide of the world war” would shift toward the forces of freedom. The assault failed to produce the desired results, with the British capital escaping serious harm. They determined that the beach at the French seaport of Dunkirk would best serve this purpose. Although it takes place in one of the most dramatic chapters of World War II, Dunkirk isn’t really about conflict, or violence, or the horrors of combat. You accepted it. The Battle of Dunkirk (French: Bataille de Dunkerque) was fought in Dunkirk (Dunkerque), France, during the Second World War, between the Allies and Nazi Germany.As the Allies were losing the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation to Britain of British and other … In the Dunkirk movie, the Royal Air Force pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) engages in aerial battles to help prevent the Luftwaffe from assaulting the men stranded on the beach and sinking the boats in the water. In the film (based upon true events) the British army has fallen back to Dunkirk and is trapped there until a flotilla of small boats helps remove 350,000 troops mixed British, French, Belgians armies. This Is What Happened After the Rescue. Dunkirk was a critical turning point in World War II. Some members of the British government, beginning to regret the rise of the uncompromising Churchill, considered what sort of an agreement might be reached with the German leader. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. The following is an excerpt from TIME-LIFE’s new special edition, World War II: Dunkirk, available on Amazon. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook . Weygand did not arrive until May 19, and thus for three critical days the Supreme Command was without direction. Trump's Presidency Divided Families. He now decided to withdraw to the line of the Oise, 30 miles (48 km) farther back, and to block the Germans there. Naval vessels and hundreds of civilian boats were used in the evacuation, which began on May 26. Together with the civilians who aided the Royal Navy, they saved countless lives. Fall of France The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo and 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. And in July, when Hitler’s bombers began attacking English cities in an effort to force surrender, Churchill prepared the nation for the three-month-long siege that would come to be called the Battle of Britain. The POWs were denied food and medical treatment. All he could manage was an attack by two divisions, which had just been rushed south to Arras, led by a brigade of infantry tanks, the only armoured troops he had. They were forced into a barn and massacred with grenades. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. By the time they arrived there, the position had been undermined by the cutting of their communications. What happened at Dunkirk? They destroy lives, expend countless resources and often push humanity into dark realms. , Rommel covered 150 miles westward and on June 17, Rommel covered miles! Civilians who aided the Royal Navy, they would not have found it easy to crush the invader was. 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