Dunkirk and the battle of Britain.

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GCSE History Coursework

Summer 2002

Dunkirk and the battle of Britain 

The sources given are limited use when trying to understand what the battle of Dunkirk was like. The sources are all from the viewpoint of force members who viewed the battle from the sea whereas in order to have a complete picture it would be helpful to see evidence provided which took into account the experience of the foot soldiers, German source material, views from objective bystanders, if there were any, and additional statistical or factual information from a secondary source which would enable the audience to gain a much clearer and more objective understanding from the event s of Dunkirk

At dawn on May 10th 1940, the armies of Nazi Germany burst through the borders of their country to begin a march of conquest across Western Europe. Spearheaded by formidable armada of tanks and closely supported by the most powerful fleet of attract aircraft ever assembled, they set out to do what they didn’t accomplish in world war one, to crush France and humble Britain.

Allied forces quickly crumbled under the onslaught. In less than three weeks, Adolf Hitler achieved the most extraordinary military triumph of modern times. Not only was the French army on the verge of collapse but the British expeditionary force who were sent across the English channel to help stop the Germans, was trapped across the sea at Dunkirk on the north-west coast of France.

It was grimly accepted that virtually all of the army’s heavy equipment, which had accompanied the BEF to France, was lost. But plans were hastily patched together to try to save some of the troops. Ships and boats were assembled to shuttle across the English Channel to bring as many as possible back to England from Dunkirk. There was a radio broadcasting; “Britain needs some help. We need our men back. Do your honor and give us your fishing boats.” German forces were just a few miles away from Dunkirk and not even the most optimistic of British leaders believed the evacuation could be successful.

As an anti-Nazi organization was scathing:

“The old British lion look sore eyed. He can’t even roar”

But the troops never gave up. One General quoted

He talked afterwards about the soldiers who had been ordered to abandon their rifles. He watched them drowning under the weight of their heavy weapons and said he shouted at them not to let go of them. Sadly many didn’t listen”

Operation Dynamo was the code name given to the allied armies from Dunkirk and neighboring beaches between 26th May and 4th June 1940- the celebrated Miracle of Dunkirk. During that short period some 338,000 troops reached safety in England after being evacuated mainly in Royal and Merchant Navy ships. Aided by allied ships and a mixed fleet of little ships, from Dunkirk and from beaches stretching 10 miles eastwards from the entrance to Dunkirk harbor. Most of those saved subsequently took part in operation in various parts of the world and helped liberate Europe in 1944 and 1945. The New York Times of 1st June 1940 wrote, “so long as the English tongue survives the word Dunkirk will be spoken in reverence.” And the phrase Dunkirk spirit has become synonymous with refusing to give up in the time of crisis. The evacuation of British troops from France in 1940 did not end with Dunkirk. British forces were still being rescued two weeks later when Britain’s worst maritime disaster of World War II took place. On 17th June 1940 British troopship lancastria was sunk of the Brittany of port of Saint- Nazaire, more than 3000 people lost their lives.

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Source A is a written source, a naval officer, Commander Thomas Kerr who was sent across the English Channel to organize the evacuation of British troops, wrote it. I presume the source was very close to May/June 1940. But there is very little detail in the source, which therefor does not make the as useful as it could have been. Thomas Kerr see himself as superior to the troops when the evacuation was a team and nations effort and when he says “ The sight of our naval uniform was resorted some order to the rabble” Maybe the troops ...

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