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How successful was Dunkirk

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Introduction

There are many opinions on how successful Dunkirk was; one point of view can be argued that it was a defeat for the British. There are many meanings to defeat; these include lose of troops and equipment, demoralisation of troops and a disorderly nature of evacuation. From looking at pieces of evidence and from my own knowledge I know that the following definitions of defeat did occur in Dunkirk. There are three main aspects of defeat- Nature of the evacuation which refers to the panic and the disorganisation that takes place, military equipment and finally loss of morale which concerns the disheartenment of troops and civilians. I think the most important aspect of defeat is military due to the fact of heavy bombardment from the Luftwaffe killing many B.E.F and French troops. This view is supported by a number of sources such as source 3. Source 3 is two pictures taken by an unknown person. This first image shows some scattered litter on the ground which is actually equipment abandoned by the B.E.F and also shows shipwrecks on the beach. The second picture shows shipwrecks again abandoned equipment and also dead British soldiers. This source supports military defeat as the scattered equipment illustrates the B.E.F loss of equipment. Also the dead British soldiers on the beach reinforce the military aspect of defeat. The reliability of this source is good in the way that it was taken at Dunkirk at the time of the evacuation therefore making it primary evidence. Also it backs up my own knowledge as I know 243 ships sunk at Dunkirk. On the other hand the reliability of this source should be questioned as the author of the photo is unknown; but probably judging by what the pictures illustrate a German is the most likely to take these photos, therefore making it bias and unreliable. The images only show one part of the beach and so we do not get a full picture of what the 'whole' of Dunkirk was like. ...read more.

Middle

This source contradicts my knowledge; therefore making this source is unreliable. Private W.B.A gaze of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps describes a scene from the beach at Dunkirk. He portrays images of troops crouching in pits and naval officers turning on their troops. The vivid image illustrates and suggests fear and demoralisation. This source is quite reliable as its primary evidence and the writer is British- however at the same time he gives a negative account- suggesting he is not bias towards his country. Also from my own knowledge I know that the 27th May was a bad day for the British as they were heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. However Gaze's job might affect the way he writes and what he included and as he was there he may be demoralised affecting his description. Finally Richard Hillary's book "The Last Battle". This is an account about tired, ragged men who are unhappy. This shows loss of morale due to the fact that men arrived with no equipment, exhausted and unhappy. This account is quite useful as it is an eyewitness account and so the evacuation clear in memory, on the other hand the title of the book suggest drama and exaggeration and as a result it would be his own bias interpretation of events making it less reliable. Overall I think using my own knowledge and looking at all the sources and their reliability I think the main points will could contribute to reasons of why Dunkirk is believed as a defeat are because of the vast amount of abandoned equipment which demonstrates a hurried, disorganised evacuation. It is possible to argue that Dunkirk was a victory for the British. Huge amounts of troops were saved and it remained a calm, orders evacuation. There are many aspects of victory; for the sake of this essay I will separate it into 5 parts: Military due to practically all the B.E.F rescued which was a massive achievement. ...read more.

Conclusion

Next aspect of victory is deliverance. It can be seen that the German's mistakes helped Dunkirk to be successful. A source which backs this is source 9 which mentions Hitler tanks halted which gave an advantage for the British. I know from my own knowledge that German tanks were given the halt order by Hitler. This demonstrates deliverance. The book is specifically concerned with Hitler, so Bullock although not specifically researched events of Dunkirk, would have been well researched in this area. The fact he knows about Hitler's mistakes makes the source reliable. On the other hand this could count as a weakness as he might gloss over information that doesn't fit his theory. An impression of Dunkirk by Charles Cundall an official war artist shows black smoke clouding the skies which shows deliverance. I know from my own knowledge that smoke covered the skies from heavy bombing of the town. This smoke prevented the Luftwaffe from seeing the beach giving Britain a chance to evacuate more troops. This strengths of this source is that Cundall is supposed to give an accurate view of Dunkirk to inform people what is was like, however he wasn't actually there which weakens the source. Finally the last aspect of victory is the fact Dunkirk allowed the British to continue the war when it looked like disaster was imminent. This is supported by American Historian Norman Gelb writing about Dunkirk and its effects. It shows that the victory of Dunkirk allowed British troops to take the first steps in the collapse of Hitler's Nazi empire. This source is written by a historian, so it would be well researched, balanced making it reliable. Also it's useful as the book is specifically on Dunkirk so Gelb should be well informed on the events that took place. However the weaknesses are evident in the book's title "The Incredible Escape.2 This suggests Gelb had already made up his mind on Dunkirk and therefore wrote a one sided argument to back up his view. ...read more.

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