The early years of World War Two were very dark for the Allied forces. On May 10th, 1940, the German forces began an attack against Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Luxembourg. The British Expeditionary Forces (BEF), along with French forces, moved into Belgium where they were cut off by the Germans. The advancing German forces had captured more than a million Allied prisoners in only three weeks—at a cost of 60,000 casualties. There was a fear that the entire BEF could be lost, leading to the war itself being lost as well. The British Admiralty conceived a bold plan, called Operation Dynamo, to rescue uncaptured Allied troops from the continent—the result came to be known as the Miracle of Dunkirk.
Did you know?
- Fleeing the German advance, 215,000 British, 123,000 French, and a small number of other nationalities made their way to the port of Dunkirk in France.
- Under attack by the Germans, the admiralty launched what was supposed to be a two-day evacuation; envisioned to save 45,000 soldiers.
- The Navy put out a call for all boats to assist, and 700 civilian “small ships” answered.
- The 933-ship fleet participated in the greatest evacuation in military history—the Miracle of Dunkirk.
- Around 240 ships were lost in the effort, and dozens more were damaged as the port was battered by the Germans.
- Operation Dynamo lasted for nine days instead of two and saved 338,226 Allied soldiers instead of 45,000.
- The Miracle of Dunkirk partly came about because the Germans didn’t press their attack as hard as they could have, but the achievement is no less impressive.
- While the darkest hours of the war were still to follow, the Miracle of Dunkirk helped stiffen the resolve of the British populace and made the war more real and personal.
- France surrendered to the invading German forces later that month.
- While much of their equipment was lost, the surviving soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force formed the core of the rebuilt British Army.