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Defeat, Deliverance or Victory? Which of these best describes Dunkirk?

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Joanna Burton 4th January 2005 Defeat, Deliverance or Victory? Which of these best describes Dunkirk? From what I have learned about Dunkirk, it is possible to say that it could have been seen as a victory and also a defeat for the British. When the Second World War first began in September 1939 Germany had started to invade Poland and as a result of this France and Britain joined in an alliance and declared war on Germany. By the 10th May 1940 Germany had begun their invasion of France using the Blitzkrieg Method. On the 20th May Germany had reached the coast and trapped Britain and France at Dunkirk the only port remaining. Fortunately Operation Dynamo was approved by Churchill allowing ships to cross the channel and rescue troops from Dunkirk this was a critical day for the survival of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Luckily for Britain on the 24th May Germany had made a disastrous mistake as Hitler ordered that his tanks approaching Dunkirk should be stopped for coming operations. This gave British and French troops the crucial time they needed to be evacuated. On the 28th May Britain and France were able to use the beaches to get a bigger amount of troops off Dunkirk. However ships were frequently damaged or sunk by bombs. Finally on the 4th June the evacuation was brought to an end with an astonishing 338,226 troops rescued despite intense bombing and shelling. This allowed Britain to continue the war and the feeling of Dunkirk victory swept the country however Dunkirk had been a lucky escape for Britain. It is possible to argue that Dunkirk was a defeat for the British. This was mainly due to the evacuation being seen as panicked and disorderly. We know that a huge number of men were killed, captured or injured and the soldiers that did survive at Dunkirk were said to have been demoralised. ...read more.


Another source that supports this argument is source 10, which shows the admiralty records quoted in a book (Second World War vol.2 Their Finest Hour) written in 1949. The source shows us how many troops were evacuated from the beach and the harbour. The results contain accurate figures, and as we understand more troops were evacuated from the harbour (239,555), than the beach (98,671). However, the beaches are usually spoken of more frequently because they are seen as more heroic and dramatic. I think that this source is reliable, although it is slightly biased, as it does not say how many troops failed to be evacuated. The next source supporting this theory is written by Major LF Ellis, taken from a book (History of World War 2- The War in France and Flanders) written in 1953. It explains that 366,162 troops were evacuated and that the military significance of this is very important. We know this is correct as without the BEF Britain would have been unable to continue the war. This source is quite reliable, as a historian wrote it and it should be well informed. There is another source that supports this argument. It was written by Allan Bullok, who provides an overview of Hitler and Stalin, but he does not go into depth about Dunkirk. Another important aspect of victory could be seen as Dunkirk's well-improvised, ordered and calm evacuation. We know that Admiral Ramsay and Gort led the evacuation, taking orders from Churchill. The arrival of Royal Naval personnel brought about restoration and order. I know that the help from ships, destroyers, passenger ferries and yachts were also vital; keeping the evacuation well improvised. A source that supports this view is source 6, which contains photographs taken by the British of soldiers being evacuated from Dunkirk. It shows a line of British troops wading out to a rescue steamer and queues of men waiting calmly for rescue boats; it looks like the evacuation is going successfully. ...read more.


In conclusion I think that Dunkirk was a great deliverance as a victory, I think that Britain improvised well and they put a lot of effort and hard work into the evacuation, this view is supported by source number 6 which contains pictures of a the evacuation. I believe that the Dunkirk Spirit helped the British army a lot and the help from rescuers and the public gave the army courage to fight on, JB Priestly supports this argument as in his source he tells us about the lifting of morale. I think that the numbers of troops evacuated was astonishing considering the frequent air attacks from the Germans, this theory is supported by a source written by AJP Taylor, a very well respected Historian. As nearly the whole of the BEF were evacuated safely it allowed Britain to continue the war, which worked out well for the British as approximately all new equipment was made better and worked more efficiently this is backed up by a source written by B Collier. Although I believe that it was also Germany's mistakes that allowed the time for troops to evacuate. However, I understand that the evacuation at Dunkirk can also be seen as a defeat. I think this was mainly due to the loss of troops and equipment, as most of their equipment had to be abandoned. This was backed up by source number 3 which contains photographs of the beach. Further more I know that 68,000 troops failed to be evacuated. As well as this I accept that demoralisation of troops and the panicked and disorderly evacuation, also contributes to why some people may think Dunkirk was a Defeat for the British. Overall I think that Dunkirk made Britain stronger. I think that this was the first step to defeating Hitler in the Second World War. I believe the deliverance of Dunkirk helped Churchill in boosting his leadership, it made the country have faith in the army, as they now believed Churchill could lead them to victory and continue the War. 7 1 ...read more.

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