The Battle of Dunkirk during World War II ended with the evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe from May 26 to June 4, 1940. A huge force of Allied soldiers were cut off in northern France by the German army as it advanced to the English Channel coast at Calais. Over 330,000 Allied troops trapped there were successfully evacuated by sea to England. Many were evacuated by the fleet of little boats which crossed the channel to rescue the troops.
In nine days, 192,226 British and 139,000 French soldiers – 331,226 in all – were rescued by the 700 little ships and around 220 warships. The rescue operation turned a military disaster into a story of heroism which served to raise the morale of the British.
It was in describing the success of the operation to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940 that Churchill made one of his most famous speeches:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ...
The phrase "Dunkirk spirit" is still used to describe courage and solidarity in adversity.
Fossa: steam engine abandoned at Dunkirk after stranding on beach whilst assisting in evacuation 1940. Salved by German Kriegsmarine and allocated to Port Commandant, Dunkirk.
A beached French coastal patrol craftand a British Universal Carrier abandoned at Dunkirk hours after the evacuation.
Sunk British ships Dunkirk Harbour 1940
A sunken ship (centre) is photographed stranded on the beach at Dunkirk
An abandoned paddle streamer is pictured abandoned elsewhere on the beach at Dunkirk
The Isle of Man steam ferry SS Mona's Queen sinking after striking a mine off Dunkirk
The French destroyer Bourrasque sinking during the evacuation at Dunkirk after hitting a mine, May 1940
HMS Vivacious at Dunkirk, France, in late May 1940 during Operation Dynamo. A sunken ship is in the foreground.
A ship explodes off Cherbourg during the evacuation, June 1940.
(Via www.iwm.org.uk © IWM F 4870)