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Dunkirk Source-Based Coursework

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Introduction

Dunkirk source-based coursework 1. How useful are Sources A, B and C in understanding what the Battle for Dunkirk was like? Explain your answer. [10] Source A depicts an amalgamation of scenes from the evacuation of the Dunkirk beaches. In the background, great plumes of black smoke billow from the town; these were so huge that contemporary sources claim they could be seen from Dover. This is the only real insight that we are given to the Battle for Dunkirk: this evacuation scene does not show what was going on elsewhere. We can see, however, that the bombardment of the port was extremely heavy. The large number of aircraft depicted serve as evidence that aerial warfare played a significant role in the fighting. Source B is a photograph that shows many soldiers lined up uniformly on a beach. This demonstrates how disciplined the military were in patiently waiting for ships to evacuate them, however it does not show much about the Battle for Dunkirk. It does make us realise that there were many men who were not involved in defending the port town, and that the focus was not on fighting the Germans back but, instead, on getting everyone out. This suggests that the military command had given up any hope of regaining French land, instead submitting to an all-out retreat. ...read more.

Middle

As Cundall had been at Dunkirk, he would have experienced the events firsthand. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that his depiction is exactly true. Firstly, Source A is a portmanteau - an assimilation of a number of different scenes combined to form one image. Therefore, the painting was not an exact depiction of how things were, however it was based on the accounts of different soldiers who were there at the time. These accounts, and Cundall's interpretation of them, may not have been entirely accurate, thus affecting the painting. The artist probably faced challenges with scale, trying to fit as much detail into the painting as possible. Consequently, some of the proportions are not accurate, changing our perception of the scene. For example, I know from my geographical knowledge of the area that the town of Dunkirk is not as close to the beaches as the source seems to suggest. The ships in the picture are very crowded together, in order to give an impression of the scale of events. It is unlikely that they were really that cramped, otherwise movement would have been challenging. I also believe that the ships would have been much further from the coast than shown, due to the shallowness of the beach. ...read more.

Conclusion

It also states that the army had "gained immeasurably in experience of warfare and in self-confidence", showing that there may have been other benefits from Dunkirk. In the overall context of the war, however, the outlook was not so positive. Churchill commented: "Evacuations do not win wars," showing that he knew the rout was a backwards step in terms of defeating the Germans. Sources A, B and C show that the Allies had been defencelessly at the mercy of the Germans, and had had no hope of claiming a military victory at the time. Despite being an optimistic, inspiring speech, even Source D acknowledges that there were "great losses in equipment" (line 2) as a result of Dunkirk, hinting at the problems and downfalls of Operation Dynamo. This loss of equipment was extremely significant: Source F tells us that the BEF had "lost virtually all its guns, tanks, and other heavy equipment", that rifles had been abandoned, damage to ships had been heavy, and the RAF lost 474 planes. This proves that Dunkirk was by no means an unequivocal success. In conclusion, I think that Sources A to F strongly support Taylor's interpretation of events. The prevention of loss of human life was massive, however the military had lost much of its mechanical resources, and the Germans had all but conquered mainland Europe - a disaster for the Allied war effort. Word count: 1250 ?? ?? ?? ?? Christopher Lewis 12/03/07 ...read more.

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