Monday, March 16, 2009

The Miracle of Dunkirk

The Dunkirk evacuation, code named “Operation Dynamo” by the British, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between May 26 and June 4 1940, when British, French and Canadian troops were cut off by the German army during the Battle of Dunkirk.

In a speech to the House of Commons, which has since come to be known as “We Shall Fight on the Beaches,” Winston Churchill called it the greatest military defeat for many centuries, warning that “the whole root, the core, and brain of the British Army” was stranded in Dunkirk. He hailed their subsequent rescue as a "miracle of deliverance."

On the first day only 7,010 men were evacuated but by the ninth day a total of 338,226 soldiers — 198,229 British and 139,997 French — were rescued by the hastily-assembled fleet of 860 boats. Many of the troops were able to embark from the harbor’s protective mole onto 42 British destroyers and other large ships, while others had to wade from the beaches toward the ships, waiting for hours to board, shoulder-deep in water. Others were ferried from the beaches to the larger ships, and thousands were carried back to England, by the famous "little ships of Dunkirk," a flotilla of around 700 merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboats.

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