Dunkirk evacuation


  • Intro

    It was a defeat that felt like a victory: the miraculous rescue of 300,000 British and allied troops in France from the Germans during World War II. It happened in May and June 1940, when the British Expeditionary Force, together with French and Belgian forces, had been sent to fight off the advancing Germans who had already run through the Netherlands and Belgium. But the British had underestimated the strength, sophistication and firepower of the Germans, who rapidly surrounded them.


    The only escape route was the harbour and beaches of Dunkirk - beaches too shallow for military craft. But countless little steamers, yachts and fishing boats, some taken over by the navy, some piloted by their citizen owners, ferried the trapped soldiers to bigger vessels at sea, and then in safety back home. At a time when invasion of Britain by the Germans seemed imminent, the celebrated escape from Dunkirk came as reassurance and encouragement that they were not all-powerful.


    Image Copyright: John Frost Newspaper Archive


    Shelfmark: British Library Newspaper Archive

Explore more timeline content: