WW2 Battles - Battle of Dunkirk

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Battle of Dunkirk

The Battle of Dunkirk lasted from around May 25 to June 3, 1940. After the Phony War, the Battle of France began in earnest on 10 May, 1940. German armour burst through the Ardennes region and advanced rapidly driving north in the so-called "sickle cut". To the east the Germans invaded and subdued the Netherlands and advanced rapidly through Belgium.
The combined British, French and Belgian forces were rapidly split around Armenti?res. The German forces then swept north to capture Calais, holding a large body of Allied soldiers trapped against the coast on the Franco-Belgian border. It became clear to the British that the battle was lost and the question was now how many Allied soldiers could be removed to the relative safety of England before their resistance was crushed.

Battle of Dunkirk - Order of Battle


May 26th 1940– June 4th 1940


Dunkirk France


German victory
Allied evacuation
Battle of Dunkirk - Sides
United Kingdom
Battle of Dunkirk - Commanders
Lord Gort
General Weygand
Gerd von Rundstedt (Army Group A)
Ewald von Kleist (Panzergruppe von Kleist)
Battle of Dunkirk - Strength
338,226 evacuated
Battle of Dunkirk - Casualties and losses
30,000 killed and wounded
33,000 captured
6 destroyers and 200 smaller vessels sunk
175 aircraft (102 Fighters),60 Fighter Pilots killed
52,200 killed or wounded and 8,50 missing
100 aircraft
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From May 22 preparations for the evacuation began, codenamed Operation Dynamo, commanded from Dover by Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay. He called for as many naval vessels as possible as well as every ship capable of carrying 1,000 men within reach. It initially was intended to recover around 45,000 men of the British Expeditionary Force over two days, this was soon stretched to 120,000 men over five days. On May 27 a request was placed to civilians to provide all shallow draught vessels of 30 to 100 feet for the operation, that night was the first rescue attempt. A large number of craft including fishing boats and recreational vessels, together with Merchant Marine and Royal Navy vessels, were gathered at Sheerness and sent to Dunkirk and the surrounding beaches to recover Allied troops. Due to heavy German fire only 8,000 soldiers were recovered.

Another ten destroyers were recalled for May 28 and attempted rescue operations in the early morning but were unable to closely approach the beaches although several thousand were rescued. It was decided that smaller vessels would be more useful and boatyards were scoured for suitable craft, gathering them at Sheerness, Chatham and Dover. The Allied held area was reduced to a 30 sq km block by May 28. Operations over the rest of May 28 were more successful, with a further 16,000 men recovered but German air operations increased and many vessels were sunk or badly damaged, including nine destroyers.

On May 29 there was an unexpected reprieve, the German armour stopped its advance on Dunkirk leaving the operation to the slower infantry, and the Luftwaffe (Hermann G?ring, then in great favour with Adolf Hitler, had promised air power alone could win the battle) but due to problems only 14,000 men were evacuated that day. On the evening of May 30 another major group of smaller vessels was dispatched and returned with around 30,000 men. By May 31 the Allied forces were compressed into a 5 km deep strip from La Panne, through Bray-Dunes to Dunkirk, but on that day over 68,000 troops were evacuated with another 10,000 or so overnight. On June 1 another 65,000 were rescued and the operations continued until June 4, evacuating a total of 338,226 troops aboard around 700 different vessels.

Until the operation was complete the British prognosis had been gloomy, with Churchill warning the House of Commons to expect "hard and heavy tidings". Subsequently the British Prime Minister referred to the outcome as a "miracle" and exhortations to the "Dunkirk spirit" - of triumphing in the face of adversity - are still (occasionally) heard in Britain today.

Battle of Dunkirk Results

A total of five nations took part in the evacuation from Dunkirk — Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland.
British fisherman giving a hand to an Allied soldier while a Stuka's bomb explodes a few meters ahead.

The defence of the perimeter led to the loss or capture of a number of British Army units such as the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, who were involved in the Le Paradis massacre on 26 May.

More than 35,000 French soldiers were taken prisoner. Nevertheless, in the nine days from 27 May to 4 June, 338,226 men escaped, including 139,997 French and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch soldiers.

Number of men rescued in Dunkirk (in chronological order):

* 27 May (7669 men)
* 28 May (17,804 men)
* 29 May (47,310 men)
* 30–31 May (120,927 men)
* 1 June (64,229 men)
* 2–4 June (up to 54,000 men)

Priority was given to men over materiel, so the Allies left behind 2,000 guns, 60,000 trucks, 76,000 tons of ammunition, and 600,000 tons of fuel supplies.

* 10,252 German soldiers lost
* 42,000 wounded
* 8,467 missing

* 1,212,000 Dutch, Belgian, French and British prisoners taken
* 30,000 British dead or wounded
* 34,000 British captured

The Germans gained:

* 1,200 field guns
* 1,250 anti-aircraft guns
* 11,000 machine guns
* 25,000 vehicles

Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

The another Battle of Dunkirk was a siege of the French city of Dunkirk in September 1944 by units of the Second Canadian Division; German units withstood the siege, and as the First Canadian Army moved north into Belgium, the city was "masked" by the Allied troops, notably 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade, and left to the rear. The German garrison in Dunkirk held out until May 1945, denying the Allies the use of the port facilities. Finally, the fortress under command of German Admiral Friedrich Frisius eventually unconditionally surrendered to the commander of the Czechoslovak brigade group commander Brigade General Alois Liška on 9 May 1945.



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WW2 Battles - Battle of Dunkirk
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