PRELUDE TO OPERATION DYNAMO
The Phoney War & Battle of Britain.
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) moved into France in September 1939.
During the next eight months,
nicknamed the phoney war, most of this time was spent digging field defences.
This period ended with the invasion of France and the Low Countries known as the Battle of France - this lasted less than six weeks- Allied forces highly underestimated Nazi Forces,
Germany attacked in the west on May 10th, 1940. British and French commanders had believed that German forces would attack through central Belgium as they had in World War I, and rushed forces to the Franco-Belgian border to meet the German attack.
The main German attack however, went through the Ardennes Forest in south-eastern Belgium and northern
Luxembourg. German tanks and infantry quickly broke through the French defensive lines and advanced to the coast.
By mid May Hitler’s Armies had swept West from Germany through Holland, Belgium and France forcing the
British & French to retreat.
THIS COUNTRY IS AT WAR WITH GERMANY
3rd September 1939
I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10, Downing
This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin, Nevile
Henderson, handed the German Government a final note
stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock, that
they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from
Poland, that a state of war would exist between us.
I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been
received, and that consequently, this country is at war with
"THE ADMIRALTY HAVE MADE AN ORDER REQUESTING ALL OWNERS OF SELF-PROPELLED PLEASURE CRAFT BETWEEN 30' AND 100' IN LENGTH TO SEND ALL PARTICULARS TO THE ADMIRALTY WITHIN 14 DAYS FROM TODAY IF THEY HAVE NOT ALREADY BEEN OFFERED OR REQUISITIONED"
EVACUATION OF DUNKIRK MAY 27 - JUNE 5 1940
May 27th -30th, the BEF consolidated around Dunkirk with half of the French First Army.
Five French Divisions set up roadblocks at Lille, they held out for four days against German Panzer divisions.
This allowed allied forces to set up a defensive perimeter and wait for evacuation.
The first possibility of an evacuation was considered on May 19th and given the code name Operation Dynamo. Vice-Admiral Ramsey maintained secrecy whilst scouring British docks for vessels to transport troops from French shores to waiting larger transporters.
By May 27th these vessels were consolidated and on their way to France.
BACK IN FRANCE
By May 24th German forces had made tremendous progress however Hitler ordered German Panzer units to halt. Air raids were to continue and the Luftwaffe were to defeat trapped Allied Forces.
May 26th Hitler ordered his Panzer groups to continue their advance.
Many theories behind Hitlers choice to halt advances. It is claimed by many historians as his most critical mistake. This delay however gave Allied forces time to prepare much needed defences.
THE DUNKIRK LITTLE SHIPS
Douglas Tough of Tough Brothers based at Teddington collected many of the Thames based vessels.
The Boats were towed by tugs to Sheerness where they were fueled and checked over then taken to Ramsgate where Naval Officers, ratings and volunteers were boarded and directed to Dunkirk.
The majority of Vessels were requisitioned by the government, some were taken without the owners knowledge, a small percentage were taken over by owners themselves as they volunteered for the rescue mission.
THE WORST DAY - 29th May 1940
Luftwaffe concentrated attacks on the Mole. The most effective day of loss of British Ships
IN THE SKY
Over the nine days of Operation Dynamo, the RAF flew 2,739 fighter
sorties, 651 bombing raids and 171 reconnaissance flights. Fighter
Command claimed 262 enemy aircraft, losing 106 of their own.
WE SHALL FIGHT ON THE BEACHES
30th May Belgium Army had surrendered - applying increased pressure on the evacuating troops.
Docks were by now rendered unusable by German attacks, the Admiralty withdrew their eight best destroyers for
the future defence of the country.
Evacuation was now to proceed via the beaches.
The Luftwaffe also now concentrated air attacks on the waiting troops.
3rd June German forces were 2 miles from Dunkirk and the last of the British Army was evacuated - signal made - Operation Complete.
4th June Churchill insisted the Royal Navy return in one last attempt to rescue as many French rearguard
4th June German forces hoisted the Swastika over the docks.
DUNKIRK IN PHOTOS
The object of the Association is to keep alive and preserve for posterity the memory and identity of those ‘Little Ships’ that went to the aid of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 and took part in Operations Dynamo, Cycle and Aerial. The members, committee and archivist have gathered photos documenting the events surrounding Dunkirk 1940
Approximately 850 private boats sailed from Ramsgate, over 250 were lost.
Churchill and Admiral Ramsey hoped to rescue between 30,000 and 40,000 troops.
The combined efforts of RAF, Navy and the Little Ships rescued 338,000.
For every seven soldiers who escaped through Dunkirk, one man was left behind as a prisoner of war. The majority of these prisoners were sent on forced marches into Germany and Poland. Prisoners reported brutal treatment by their guards, including beatings, starvation, and murder.
The rescue operation turned a military disaster into a story of heroism which
served to raise the morale of the British.
The phrase "Dunkirk Spirit" is still used to describe courage and solidarity in the face of adversity.
FOR THE FALLEN
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.