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Spirit of Dunkirk

From "miracle" to the Spirit of Dunkirk

Heritage of 1940

In May and June of 1940, Dunkirk was the scene of a major turning point in history. During the Second World War, the famous Operation Dynamo succeeded in evacuating more than 338,000 soldiers to England, in only nine days.

The relative calm of the “Phoney War” period that followed the 1939 declaration of war between Britain and Germany suddenly ended on 10th May 1940, when Germany launched an attack on Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. In the space of just a few days, the German army had pushed through and the allies were retreating towards the North. Fearing that its troops would be trapped, and judging the battle to be lost, Britain decided to evacuate the troops retreating on Dunkirk by sea. Admiral Ramsay led the evacuation, which the British called ‘Operation Dynamo’.

England sent over everything and anything that could float: warships, commercial vessels, fishing boats, sailing boats, barges and “little ships” that had never before been more than a few miles off the coast. Under continual aerial attack, more than 330,000 allied soldiers, including 120,000 French and a few thousand Belgian soldiers were evacuated through Dunkirk, and about a third of the soldiers left from the beaches. 40,000 soldiers were left behind and taken prisoner. Most of them belonged to the divisions in charge of slowing down Germany’s advance, a crucial element in the operation’s success.

This glorious moment in the Second World War has inspired many filmmakers and writers. As early as 1949, Robert Merle published “Weekend at Zuydcoote” which won the Prix Goncourt. Henri Verneuil took this novel as the inspiration for his 1964 film, “Weekend at Dunkirk”, and there’s a new film by Christopher Nolan, released in 2017, called “Dunkirk”.

More than a century later, you can hunt down the traces of this unique episode in history at a great number of sites and exhibitions.

On the paths of remembrance – Visitor guide

We made this visitor guide for you so could can see eveything related to Operation Dynamo and WWII in Dunkirk. From a famous museum to a simple headstone, from a walk on the beach to discover shipwrecks to a 30 minutes drive to pay your respects to the victims of a nazi crime, we did our best to offer you this guide which will help you build your program in and around Dunkirk.

Leon’s Journal– History Notebook

Dunkirk, North Sea 1940 – 1945

Leon’s Journal recounts the story of a young 11-year-old boy, a resident of Dunkirk, at the outbreak of the Second World War. His story is also the story of his family and friends. It describes daily life, school rooms, classwork and comic-book heroes of this era. But it also describes the painful moments experienced by the inhabitants of Dunkirk: the fear of being bombed, the occupation by the German army, hunger and oppression. Our town was almost completely destroyed during the war. In fact, there were only several hundred residents left. At the war’s end, the Glacis district was the site of emergency wooden barracks for the thousands of refugee families returning to Dunkirk.