Was Dunkirk a defeat?

Authors Avatar


Was Dunkirk a defeat?

Hitler was a determined, harsh, and powerful leader. Who was full of corrupted ideas, ideas of dominating other countries. He had already invaded Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and was planning to conquer Poland. When he did, this has caused a spark for the beginning of WWII. In April 1940, both Norway and Denmark had fallen and on the 10th of May the German army invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. France was his next target. By the 27th of May the German Army had successfully advanced towards the beaches of Dunkirk and with help from their Luftwaffe, he had been able to trap the BEF there. On the 27th of May the British Government launched “Operation Dynamo”, it was an evacuation plan to rescue soldiers trapped on the beach. The evacuation continued for a whole week. Nearly 340,000 men were saved including 140,000 French troops, but they were very demoralised. The aftermath of Dunkirk Britain was very relived and elated. The evacuation was treated as a typical British “meddling-through”. Winston Churchill had made many patriotic and stirring speeches to substantiate that Dunkirk was a Victory, which used to help lift the Dunkirk Spirit. Newspapers talked of the “Dunkirk miracle” and the “Dunkirk Spirit”. Many British people had felt that Dunkirk was a great victory.

You could say Dunkirk was a defeat because Britain had lost a lot of ground, machinery, lives and morale in the forces, and the British public was severely damaged. But there are 3 key aspects of defeat we need to taken to account to, and they are the defeat in the nature of the evacuation, a military defeat, and the defeat for morale.

In my opinion the most important aspect of defeat was the nature of the evacuation, it seems that the retreat of the evacuation was disorderly, and panicked. From my studies I know that men scrambled desperately to escape from Dunkirk, troops were left to fend for themselves, and regiments were split up. There are many sources that backs up Dunkirk were a defeat in terms of how the evacuation was conducted.

Private W.B.A Graze, informs us of how men was panicking while being bombed, it talks about men queuing for boats up to their necks in water, they were disorderly at sea and had struggled. Luckily the atmosphere was covered with heavy smoke, and that is what had saved them but not themselves. When a boats did come men were fighting to get aboard them, it got so out of control naval officers had to use their revolvers, this shows the panicked nature of the evacuation. This source came from a British Private and is very negative towards Britain; so this would suggest that it is not biased. This source is also backed up by source 8 about the smoke. This is only one person’s account and he might be traumatised by the events, therefore this questions the reliability of this source.

Charles Cundall drawing shows, men lining up and down the beach in rows, the boats appears to be overcrowded, it looks as if it is going to buckle over with the weight. He shows smoke from the burning crafts. This shows panic and confusion because so many soldiers were desperate to get on the boat that it was overcrowded and it nearly buckled over. This painting is an artist impression therefore it may be exaggerated, and because he is an official war artist the painting might be controlled by the government, and that he should paint what the government what him to.

An account by an RAF pilot, shot down near Dunkirk, shows that, exhausted soldiers are lining up on the beach when an air attack takes place, the soldiers was panicking and running for cover, shooting aimlessly at planes. The beaches were swamped with bombs and machine gun fire. During the attacks he says many soldiers had died, this shows a loss of life and the disorderly panic of soldiers. This source links in with sources 7 and 8, which both states that the soldiers were lined up and down the beach, this makes the source seem more reliable. This source is backed up by source 7 about men panicking and struggling to defend against the Luftwaffe. The other sources backs up this source are 6, 7, 8, 19, 20, and 21. This source is written by an RAF pilot therefore it is only one person’s account and he also might have been traumatised by the whole event. From my own knowledge I know that on the first day of evacuation, the 27th of May, there were ferocious air attacks from the opposition.

Join now!

It is possible to say that Dunkirk was also a military defeat due to the amount of weapons lost. There are many sources that back up this idea.

Source 3, photographs of the Dunkirk beaches shows the sunken beached vessels and damaged vehicles, the machinery and weapons left, the beach looks very messy, and just off shore there are a few sunken vessels that tried to help in the evacuation. This shows that there was a lot of machinery lost, and the bombing tactics from the Luftwaffe were successful because there are many sinking rescue ships, this also suggests death ...

This is a preview of the whole essay