The complete story of Dunkirk Evacuation:
No Man is an island,entire of itself.
Each is a piece of a Continent,A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,Europe is the less.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
These famous words by John Donne seemed appropriate to describe what happened at Dunkirk. The allies were on the verge of losing the second World War with Germans. The miraculous event took place in the springs of 1940 and portrayed the victory of brotherhood and humanity over the desires of a madman. What happened at Dunkirk shaped the history of the world we are living in .
Imagine a world where the most powerful countries suffocating under a fascist regime of a madman , a self Proclaimed “ FUEHRER”.
Well, this could have been true if not for the valor of Britishers and the blunder by the Germans during Dunkirk Evacuation.
On September first 1939, the invasion of Poland by Nazis marked the beginning of World War 2, And for the next 8 months there were no major military operations. This period of stagnation known as ‘phony war’ was broken by the invasion of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg by the Germans.The French were living in fear of the ferocity of Germans , and were standing in defense on Maginot lines . And on May 10th, Germany launched the invasion of France and low countries. Since, France had no natural defense the Allied forces entered into Belgium to face the Nazis.The Allied Forces were confident of tackling the Germans but they were taken aback when they could not withstand the pace with which the Nazis were moving ahead, crushing everything into dust.
The Retreat of the allies :
The allied forces failed miserably to understand the German warfare tactics – ‘Blitzkrieg’ , a Nazi strategy to bring maximum damage, by using small division of mobile forces and locally concentrated firepower . As a consequence, the allied forces retreated and started moving towards the French Border, and soon more than half a million soldiers found themselves trapped in a pocket, centered on the port of Dunkirk. All that could be seen was myriad of helpless soldiers, waiting for death .
Before them lied a mighty Sea and behind , The agents of death. If Germans would have attacked immediately, think what might have happened. But they did not, and that is where the whole story of Dunkirk lies.
The German Blunder:
The German panzers chose to halt outside Dunkirk following the reckless rampage of two weeks. They knew they had already won the war. On the other hand when the trapped allied troops were silently waiting to die, the head of German Air force ‘Luftwaffe”, Hermann Goring was getting restless. He saw an opportunity to earn the credit for the victory, and persuaded Hitler to give him this opportunity of executing the enemies through air attacks.
Meanwhile In Britain:
After receiving Help calls from the British Commanders at Dunkirk. Churchill, who was elected as a Prime Minister merely 16 days ago, was being persuaded by his Ministers on signing a peace treaty with Germany to avoid further damage to the nation. The trapped army was going to die anyway.The ministers were sure that they are going to lose the war but the stubborn Churchill gave up the thought of giving up and told them:
The British Prime Minister Churchill.
“Nations that go down fighting, rises again. And if this is to be the end , let it end when each one of us is choking in his own blood upon the ground”. And he immediately ordered a secret rescue mission to be code named ‘Operation Dynamo’.
The Battle of Dunkirk :
Hitler being confident of the triumph, at Dunkirk, gave orders to Luftwaffe to destroy the allies at Dunkirk, and The German Air Force responded quickly. They launched air attacks at the port, which forced the troops to run for their lives. The evacuation mission had also started . Ships started to arrive at Dunkirk backed by the Royal Air Force of The great Britain. Scenes of havoc were painted brutally in the sky and The battle of Dunkirk began .
Days of Evacuation and the little ships:
27 may, 1940 – 4 June, 1940 On first day merely 7,600 Soldiers were evacuated but the numbers kept rising on the days that followed as a result of negligence of Hitler .The song of bravery will be sung for ages. The fishermen too joined the rescue with their boats which later referred to be the “little ships”.
“Only fishing boats are arriving, I hope the tommies can swim well” , the Luftwaffe head told Hitler and they both erupted into laughter. Anything that could swim was a part of evacuation, the total number of vessels involved was 933. The smallest boat to take part was Tamzine , a 14 feet open boat. By the end of May, almost 200,000 soldiers were rescued. Many died of hunger and many succumbed to injuries. The Luftwaffe was still exploding the ground but could not shake the spirit of British rescue team. They continued anyway. The operations were carried out even at night and by the end of 4th May 1940, 338,226 were rescued including the stranded troops of France and Belgium. And thus , The Dunkirk evacuation went down in history as a miracle of deliverance, and was hailed as the event that shaped our history.
The prisoners of war:
But history has tended to overlook the fate of British soldiers who never made it back across the channel . 40,000 of them were marched off by the Nazis to captivity. To boost national morale, the British Press only wrote about those who escaped rather than those who were left behind, but the latter suffered a miserable fate. A lot of those 40,000 men were marched hundreds of miles into Germany and Poland and spent the rest of the war working in mines , fields and factories as a slave.For every seven soldiers who escaped through Dunkirk, one man was left behind as a prisoner of war.
This proved to be a disastrous decision by Hitler, and gave him every reason to regret until he lived. There was a wave of happiness in the Great Britain. Churchill reminded the country that “we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”
And then the Great Britain came back with all it’s might leading to the defeat putting an end to the existence of Nazi Army and emerged victorious. Since then “Dunkirk spirit” has become a part of the language used in time of adversities and the miracle of deliverance cannot be forgotten.
resources : BBC Documentary on Dunkirk Evacuation