70 years ago, Operation Dynamo began.
Dunkirk, the last town to be liberated in 1945 was also the dramatic scene of a key episode at the beginning of the Second World War, Operation Dynamo that resulted in the evacuation of 340,000 allied soldiers to England.
After the "phoney war" that dragged on endlessly after the declaration of war by Great-Britain and Germany in September 1939, the situation
took a sudden turn when Germany launched an offensive on the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg on 10th May 1940. In just a few days, the German army were pushing the allied armies back into northern France. Judging that the battle had been lost and fearing that their troops would become trapped, Great Britain decided to evacuate its troops, that had withdrawn to Dunkirk, by the sea. From 28th May to 4th June, the French navy worked with the British navy to evacuate the troops. The operation named operation "Dynamo" by the British was led by Admiral Ramsay.
The arrival of the "little ships"
Everything that could float to the south of England was mobilized: warships, merchant ships, fishing boats, pleasure yachts, dinghies and miniscule craft, "little ships", that had never ventured any further than a few nautical miles from the shore. Under continuous aerial attack, over 340,000 allied soldiers, including 120,000 French soldiers and several thousand Belgian soldiers were evacuated through Dunkirk after its fall, almost a third of which were transferred by the beaches. Only 40,000 soldiers could not be evacuated and they were made prisoners. For the most part, they were from divisions whose task it was to slow down the German advance, greatly contributed to the success of the operation.
The allied forces also abandoned all of the their heavy equipment: about 2,000 guns, 60,000 vehicles and tons of ammunition and fuel. Furthermore, the endless Nazi aerial bombardment, the torpedoes and the naval mines caused considerable losses: over 4,000 men were killed and almost 200 boats foundered. Their wrecks are still resting on the bottom not far from the coast.
This glorious episode of the Second World War quickly became a source of inspiration for film-makers and writers. In 1949, Robert Merle accordingly published "Week-end à Zuydcoote" that won the Goncourt prize. Henri Verneuil based his film with the same name, on the book in 1964.
The Mémorial du Souvenir historical centre will give you the opportunity to relive the incredible story of this massive operation that turned Dunkirk into a symbol of the Second World War.
Dunkirk 2013 the Regional Capital of Culture
From 6 April to 28 December, Dunkirk will be the Regional Capital of Culture! Dunkirk 2013 is no mere artistic and cultural event; it is a celebration providing insight into what makes the city’s heart beat, bridging cultural divides.more info All the news articles