Battle of Dunkirk

The Battle of Dunkirk took place during the Second World War. Their significance lies in the fact that it has retained a large number of British and other Allied soldiers from the German prisoner of war. During the German campaign in the West it is the northern French city of Dunkirk was the last port evacuation of British Expeditionary Force. It succeeded the British and French, to defend the bridgehead until the Operation Dynamo before taking the city by the Germans over 330,000 Allied soldiers had been (370,000 in total with the other ports) evacuated.

Situation summary

Despite the warnings of senior officers began Adolf Hitler on 10 May 1940 attack on the Benelux and France (“Case Yellow”). The Army Group B was happening in the north under Colonel General Fedor von Bock by Belgium and the Netherlands.

After surprising the Allies advance of the German Army Group A under Gerd von Rundstedt, the Ardennes and the enforcement of the transition over the Meuse at Sedan ( Battle of Sedan) reached armored forces under General Ewald von Kleist on 19 May the site of the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. At the same time put the German Army Group B in the north their advance through Belgium continued inexorably. Due to the German breakthrough in the south ordered the commander of the Allied Group North Gaston Billotte, the British and Belgian armies were assumed at 16 May, a retreat from the Dyle line to the Scheldt. Hitler and the generals of the Wehrmacht were surprised by the rapidity of the German advance Arschs. By the advance of the XIX Army Corps of Panzer Group Kleist under Heinz Guderian was marked on 18 May from that the main thrust of the attack of Army Group A, neither the Maginot Line was still in southeast Paris in the South: Guderian rolled westward towards the Atlantic coast.

As in the south, the French 3 Army Group largely limited to a defense of the Somme line, she bared by the south-western flank of the Allied northern army group. Thus, it became clear that the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) under Lord Gort, the Belgian army and the French first Army and 7th Army could be separated from the main French army in the south. The German armored divisions were open the way for rolling up the rear areas of the Allied group and the conquest of the North Channel ports Calais and Boulogne. On 19 Began May the Royal Navy on behalf of the British War Cabinet under Winston Churchill and Lord Gort following a proposal to prepare a rescue mission. With the plans Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay was appointed, it was expected in the planning phase to the relief of 300,000 soldiers.

Attempts to close the gap between the Somme in the south and in the north of the Scarpe, who advanced by the German armored forces, remained, as unsuccessful as a British-run counter-attack at Arras on 21 May where the last reserves of the northern army tanks were consumed. On 20 May, it had the second Tank Division of the XIX Army Corps reached the Channel coast near Abbeville. Thus, the northern group was allied with approximately 1,200,000 men (63 Divisions: 29 French, 22 Belgian and 12 British) enclosed by the Army Group A in the South and Army Group B in the East between the Somme and the sea. On the German side now made the decision to turn to the north to tighten the encirclement and to take the Channel ports.

Lord Gort had to make a decision: either stand by the French allies in the fight and set the main military force of Great Britain at risk or to try to escape across the lake. Although he thus the interests of its parent French army leadership acted contrary, he proposed to the British War Minister Anthony Eden sent a telegram to attempt an evacuation. Gort still had the French commander in chief Maxime Weygand over several days in the belief that British troops would participate in a double attack to the reunification of the northern group with the main French forces by the German armored divisions had been in turn cut off from their connections.

Two million eight million Belgian and French refugees were fleeing from the Germans, and hindered the mobility of the allied armies.

The stop command

On 22 May started the Guderian’s Panzer attack in the direction of Calais and were on 24 May just 18km from Dunkirk. Unexpectedly, it was von Rundstedt confirmed by Hitler in a front-visit on the same day, stop the tanks. Such holding commands there had been during the Western campaign, most recently on 17 May They were intended as a break for the previous geeilte often without adequate accompanying measures armored spearheads in order to consolidate with the other military units. There was also concern that a coordinated action of the British in the north and the French could include the tank top in the south. That the last British battle tanks were already parked at Arras, did not know von Rundstedt. Field Marshal Hermann Goering announced also to destroy the troops by air strikes alone. Von Rundstedt was against this proposal because it protected the tank (“Case Red”) for the upcoming Battle of France and exhausted by the rapid advance of troops wanted to take a break.

The reasons for the stop command of 24 May be still controversial. In general, the stop command Hitler is attributed to its own enforcement authority. Since he was left during the previous Western campaign as a military “leaders” completely left out, he used to hold command to consolidate his own authority. Other reasons, such as the trapped British troops could serve as a pledge for possible peace negotiations with the British, are often rejected as explanations.

To von Rundstedt’s amazement the General Colonel Walther von Brauchitsch, the Commander of the Army, the tanks in the south and southwest of the containment were a command to the command of Army Group B subordinate to ask the parties to the encirclement of the enemy forces under a common High Command. This army group, which approached from the east and the Belgian army abdrängte north, decreed by then only about 9 Panzer Division. The Army Group A should now focus their other armies (2nd, 12th and 16th) on securing the Somme-Aisne line, which was a very useful measure of the OKH, but von Brauchitsch had this command without the knowledge or approval issued by Hitler. When Hitler learned of this, he was still at noon on the 24th May this undo command: Army Group B will manage in this section even without armor. Hitler snubbed von Brauchitsch also by leaving the further operational command of Army Group A and thus the OKH sat virtually ineffective. This also contributed to the confusion about the thrust of lying west of the river Aa armored units.

Divisional commander Sepp Dietrich occupied 24 May arbitrarily a hill beyond the Aa (Mount Watten, 235 ft), because this such a good view (and possibly Shot) offered. Heinz Guderian approved it after the fact.



Lord Gort and the French first Army under command of General Blanchard had now of 24 to 27 May, the possibility of establishing a defensive perimeter around Dunkirk. The deteriorating weather made it difficult to use the Air Force and was therefore an advantage for Lord Gort.

On the 10th of May, Panzer Division, which the XIX. Army Corps Guderian was, taken Boulogne. Two British divisions were able to escape by sea there before. The French destroyer Chacal sank after an air attack by Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers (Stukas) of the Air Force. Also in Calais were British troops, was waived their evacuation, they should hold the citadel in the port as long as possible. On the morning of 26 May, the port was attacked by dive bombers and artillery. Around noon, put the tanks of the 10th Armored Division in the attack. By 16 clock 45 20,000 Allied soldiers surrendered, of which about 5,000 British.

On the same day the German tanks were hurriedly put in front of Dunkirk in motion again, when an extensive rescue operation ( Operation Dynamo) loomed.

The Belgian army in the north already approached the collapse and announced on 26 May the Allies that she was not alone able to close the gap that had formed the BEF in space Courtrai.

27th and 28 May

On 27 Mai was the defensive ring around Dunkirk highly competitive. French organizations in the West have been pushed back over the Aa. The tanks of the XIX Army Corps of Spears broke through the front, but always had to wait for MOVED infantry to secure the flanks. The front line was irregular.

In the southwest was the second Division of the BEF Bassée channel to 28 May compared to 7 Panzer Division General Erwin Rommel’s hold. The Allies possessed here had no anti-tank weapons, of the 400 Rommel’s tanks were still 22 lost after the British withdrew to the north back to the Lys.

In the east of Ypres Komen channel against the invading infantry of the Army Group B to 28 was Held in May. Here, the channel 27 was May for exceeded by German grenadiers, reconquered in the following night, however. Both sides suffered heavy losses here. Through these measures, it was possible that poorly armed and inadequately trained for combat troops of the British 23 and 46 to bring division in the corridor to Dunkirk.

On 28 May by 0 clock command surrendered to the Belgian King Leopold III. Trapped in the boiler Dunkirk Belgian Army (22 divisions with approximately 500,000 men). Thus, the eastern flank was exposed against Army Group B. The defense fell to 29th Mai on a channel about 15 kilometers south of Dunkirk back. The collapse of the eastern section was prevented.

On the afternoon of 28 May learned by Lord Gort General Blanchard personally by the transfer of Eden, the British troops from Dunkirk to evacuate. Blanchard wanted to hold a bridgehead to expand and Lille. Large parts of the French first Army were included in the Lille area and made up to 31 May resistor (there then capitulated 35,000 French), part of the German troops ribbon. The III Corps of the 1st Army made his way to Dunkirk and took part in the evacuation.

29th and 30 May

British troops and remnants of the French first Army could have a section west of Dunkirk in Mardyck along a canal to stabilize shortly before Nieuport and lasted for two days. The German tanks were already expected in the ripe for attack by the Luftwaffe bombed the port of Dunkirk. Instead, they treated the city to the south, so as not to interfere with the actions of the Air Force.

Lord Gort was ordered by Winston Churchill to England by a direct order not to fall into German captivity. His successor as commander of the BEF certain Gort Major General Harold Alexander, who should hold together with Admiral Jean Abrial, commander of the French city of Dunkirk, the defensive perimeter around Dunkirk as long as possible. Meanwhile, on the south side of the canal, armored Army Group A had united with the infantry of Army Group B.

31, May to 3 June

On 31 May, the second to last line of defense probably exceeded in several places. The tanks are not involved in this foray, they were already deducted south for the Battle of France.

The German artillery had now conquered the big guns at Gravelines in the West and in the East Nieuwpoort and took from there the harbor entrance and large parts of the approach and departure routes with disruptive. The harbor and the town of Dunkirk were under artillery fire. French and British troops moved to the last line of defense, a five-kilometer-wide strip between La Panne and Dunkirk, returned. The British rearguard was more and more replaced by the French, who did not even think to leave their country. The bulk of this rearguard fell still on 3 June in German captivity.

Until the morning of the 4th June climbed Allied soldiers marine vessels of all kinds Then only Dunkirk was conquered by the 54 Infantry Regiment under Colonel Hermann Recknagel, who for two months later received the Knight’s Cross. The Chief of Staff of the Army, General Franz Halder wrote in his diary: “The city and coast in our hands.French and English are gone.” Actually went about 80,000 allied soldiers, mostly French, in German captivity. 50,000 vehicles of all kinds and other heavy military equipment were captured.

The aircraft operations

Although the port of Dunkirk suffered heavy damage from German air attacks, but for the removal of the soldiers, especially at night, it remained usable. The bomb attacks on the troops who were evacuated from the beaches were not very successful, as the bombs penetrated deep into the soft sand and were strongly attenuated by the sand in the explosion. There also many successful attacks were flown on transport ships and warships. If all the air raids were concentrated on the transport ships, the evacuation of Dunkirk would have been much more lossy. The German bombers suffered their attacks on ships many losses through the flak of warships. Probably thousands have died in the bombings killed.

The Allied shipping losses during the evacuation were 226 marine vessel s of all kinds Most ships were lost in air raids.

The Royal Air Force did what they could do for the air cover of the evacuation,  but they had the disadvantage of long approach path over the North Sea, the flight time of her fighter s, which possessed at the time only a small range, about battle space limited and she was outnumbered. Some Skua – and Roc-hunting aircraft of the Royal Navy, which flew over Dunkirk were air raid, the Royal Air Force mistakenly shot down by Spitfires and Hurricanes, who held the unfamiliar aircraft for German machinery. The RAF lost 106 fighters and also the Royal Navy lost fighter aircraft for use over Dunkirk while the German losses on all types of aircraft totaled 132. Of these, but about 50-60 machines have been shot down by anti-aircraft guns of the Allied ground forces and the anti-aircraft guns of the French and English war ships. 

The number of German fighter sorties over Dunkirk was exactly in 2000, with a loss of 37 fighters that flew RAF 1764 fighter missions over the combat area.


A total of 338 226 Allied troops could be ferried to England at Dunkirk. On the mainland the evacuation, leaving a feeling of “In Stitches left-Being.” War-weariness and the desire for an early stoppage weapons among the civilian population and the military was the result. The Battle of France began immediately after the capture of Dunkirk and ended just two weeks later on 17 June 1940. Until then, the French navy had thousands of French soldiers who were rescued from Dunkirk, transported back to continue fighting from Southampton to France and these soldiers became still in German prisoner of war.

In Britain, the first battle led to a tightening of Defence Regulation 18B, with the help of a wave of arrests was initiated to distract the public from the debacle. Sympathizers of the enemy as Archibald Maule Ramsay, as well as other Members of the U.S. code writer Tyler Kent were arrested.

The result, however, the unexpectedly successful operation led to an enormous relief. The lost battle was celebrated under the state of emergency by the steered by the Ministry of Information press as a victory. There was talk of the miracle of Dunkirk. Winston Churchill said in his famous speech We Shall Fight on the Beaches in the House, that they could not win a war with an evacuation.

The retaining command of 24 – 26 May, regarded by some writers as a capital-tactical error by other than military routine. The capture of the entire British Expeditionary Force would, at any rate impairs the force Britain to continue the war against Hitler crucial. Goering’s announcement, to destroy the encircled troops by air strikes alone, the Air Force could not meet. The reasons for this lie in an overestimation of the capabilities of the air war at that military-industrial stage of development and in the defense of the Royal Air Force.


•Ralph Baker: The RAF in the war. Bechtermunz publisher, Eltville, 1993, ISBN 3-86047-051-5

•Richard Collier: Dunkirk. Heyne Verlag, 1982, ISBN 3-453-01164-3

•Karl-Heinz Frieser: Blitzkrieg legend.The western campaign in 1940, Oldenbourg, 3 Edition, 2005 Google Books

•Hugh Sebag-Montefiore: Dunkirk – Fight to the last man. Penguin, 2007. ISBN 0-14-102437-2

Movies on the Battle of Dunkirk

•1964 Dunkirk, 2 June 1940 by directors Paul Dufour and Henri Verneuil.

•1991 Dunkirk – Battle for France (ASIN: B00004RL9F)

•2009 Dunkirk by Leslie Norman (ASIN: B002SIMZPA)

Battle of the Second World War

West campaign




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