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Was Dunkirk really a battle?

Discussion in 'Battle of Dunkirk' started by dfisher, Oct 28, 2007.

  1. dfisher

    dfisher New Member

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    From what I know from school history, Dunkirk wasn't really a battle - it was the mass retreat of the BEF and the remains of the French military. Or was there actually a battle there?
     
  2. fpbeast

    fpbeast New Member

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    The Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of the British and Allied forces that had been separated from the main body of the French defences by the German advance.

    After the Phoney War, the Battle of France began in earnest on 10 May 1940. To the east, the German Army Group B invaded and subdued the Netherlands and advanced westward through Belgium. On the 14 May Army Group A burst through the Ardennes region and advanced rapidly to the west toward Sedan, then turned northward to the English Channel, in what Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein called the "sickle cut" (known as the Manstein Plan).

    A series of Allied counterattacks, including the Battle of Arras, failed to sever the German spearhead, which reached the coast on May 20, separating the British Expeditionary Force near Armentières, the French First Army, and the Belgian army further to the north from the majority of French troops south of the German penetration. After reaching the Channel the Germans swung north along the coast, threatening to capture the ports and trap the British and French forces before they could evacuate to Britain.
    On 24 May Hitler visited General Gerd von Rundstedts headquarters at Charleville. Von Rundstedt advised him that the infantry should attack the British forces at Arras, where they had shown themselves capable of significant action, while Kleist's armour held the line West and South of Dunkirk in order to pounce on the Allied Forces retreating before Army Group B[5]. This order allowed the Germans to consolidate their gains and prepare for a southward advance against the remaining French forces. In addition, the terrain around Dunkirk was considered unsuitable for armour[6] , so the destruction of the Allied forces was initially assigned to the Luftwaffe and the German infantry organised in Army Group B. The true reason for Hitler's decision to halt the German armour is a matter of debate. The most popular theory is that Von Rundstedt and Hitler agreed to conserve the armour for future operations further South - namely for Fall Rot[7].

    On 25 May 1940, General Lord Gort, the commander of the BEF, decided to evacuate British forces. From 25th to 28th of May, British troops retreated about 30 miles northwest into a pocket along the France-Belgian border extending from Dunkirk on the coast to the Belgian town of Poperinge. The Belgians surrendered on May 28, followed the next day by elements of the French 1st Army trapped outside the Dunkirk Pocket.

    Starting on May 27, the famous evacuation of Dunkirk began. The German Panzer Divisions were ordered to resume their advance the same day, but improved defences halted their initial offensive, although the remaining Allied forces were compressed into a 5 km wide coastal strip from De Panne through Bray-Dunes to Dunkirk by May 31.

    A total of five nations took part in the successful evacuation from Dunkirk — Britain, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Poland.


    British fisherman giving a hand to an Allied soldier while a Stuka's bomb explodes a few metres ahead .The necessary defence of the perimeter led to the loss or capture of a number of British Army units such as the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment who were involved in the Le Paradis massacre on 26 May. 35,000 French soldiers were made prisoners. Between May 27 and June 4, 338,226 men left France including 120,000 French and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch troops.

    Number of men rescued (in chronological order):

    27 May (7669 men)
    28 May (17,804 men)
    29 May (47,310 men)
    30–31 May (120,927 men)
    1 June (64,229 men)
    2–4 June (up to 54,000 men)
    In accordance to military principle where priority is given to men over arms, the Allies left behind 2,000 guns, 60,000 trucks, 76,000 tons of ammunition and 600,000 tons of fuel supplies.

    10,252 German soldiers lost
    42,000 wounded
    8,467 missing
    1,212,000 Dutch, Belgian, French and British prisoners taken
    30,000 British died
    338,000 men saved in the evacuation
    The Germans gained:

    1,200 field guns
    1,250 anti-aircraft guns
    11,000 machine guns
    25,000 vehicles
    Aftermath

    The successful evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk ended the first phase in the Battle of France. It provided a great boost to British morale, but left the remaining French to stand alone against a renewed German assault southwards. German troops entered Paris on June 14 and accepted the surrender of France on June 22.

    A marble memorial was established at Dunkirk (Dunkerque), it translates in English as: "To the glorious memory of the pilots, mariners, and soldiers of the French and Allied armies who sacrificed themselves in the Battle of Dunkirk May June 1940"

    The loss of so much materiel on the beaches meant that the British Army needed months to resupply properly and some planned introductions of new equipment were halted while industrial resources concentrated on making good the losses.

    hope that has given u the answer too ur question
     
  3. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    It was a rout but the rearguard was withering, according to my history teacher.

    See HERE Mr. Fisher.
     
  4. fpbeast

    fpbeast New Member

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    Ill have too keep my eye out for that
     
  5. dfisher

    dfisher New Member

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    Thanks for the info FPBeast - very comprehensive!

    1.2 Million prisoners taken in such a short period - must have been a nightmare for both sides. But I guess tactically it was the right thing for the allies to do - better than staying put and getting annihilated.
     
  6. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    I have never been able to understand why so many ships were able to get so many men from Dunkirk, surely Hitler knew that he was letting these soldiers free to fight another day when all he needed to do was send in a few more Stuka's?
     
  7. dfisher

    dfisher New Member

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    I guess he was more focused on taking France - I think sorting out Britain was next on his agenda, and once he'd forced us out of the mainland he had us nicely pinned down in an island - little did he know :happy:
     
  8. fpbeast

    fpbeast New Member

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    i wonder wot the world would have been like if he did take over. not a nice as it is today :lame:
     
  9. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    The book I linked to stresses the fighting that took place, and the often overlooked part in the success of the evacuation played by those that were left behind to fight on while the rest of the armies retreated.

    It's shocking to discover that French General Georges - who was in charge of the BEF aswell as French and Belgian forces - broke down and sobbed at the news that his Sedan front was breached on 14th May.

    There is also a lot of detail about the exploits of British soldiers in French brothels.....
    :lol:
     
  10. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    I wonder if they thought of "Dear Old Blighty" at the time dave .. :wink:
     
  11. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    lol, if they were thinking at all, it was more about french letters than about letters home...

    To say something for Montgomery, he did a lot to help the soldiers in this regard (no sniggering at the back :happy:) with some straight talking that shocked some of the more reserved, typically British top brass. A frustrated army is a poor one, said Monty !
    :lol:
     
  12. shading-scars

    shading-scars New Member

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    Its called a miracle for a reason. The army was saved from a massacre. Howeer many believe Hitler let them go to try and actually be sympathetic and seem merciful. Kind of an emotional tactic.
     
  13. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Hello Shades, :thumb: I tend to agree with you and Stalin on this, why scare a mouse into the corner only to let it go.. :fag: I am sure if he would have been able to see into the future not as many men would have left Dunkirk alive. :eek:i:
     
  14. Gecko

    Gecko New Member

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    If it was decided to put the full force of Luftwaffe on the retreating boats, it could have turned the moral, as well as the future, for the British Isles.
     
  15. Bigtony War44

    Bigtony War44 New Member

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    not only the above is true but how many of us would have been born if they had not rescued the army !
    i for one would not be here my grandfather got off the beach in the first day but only by swimming 1 mile out to a small fishing boat with 10 others, and yes it is a true story because we have a picture of him landing in dover .
     
  16. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    I believe this to be another mystery of the top German brass as i still believe that if wanted the Germans could have left Dunkiirk without a soldier been rescued and many dead British soldiers. :ahg:
     
  17. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

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    This photo of a dead British soldier was taken by Hermann Weper, a German troop commander and wireless operator.

    [​IMG]
    ENLARGE
     
  18. FREEDOM War44

    FREEDOM War44 New Member

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    Evacuations from Dunkirk

    When a total of five nations took part in evacuations from Dunkirk that itself was a great accomplishment.I watched the documentary on this war.That was a lot of armor,guns and fuel that was left behind in the evacuation from Dunkirk.
     
  19. History-buff1944

    History-buff1944 New Member

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    The best book I have ever read that is about what led up to and happened at Dunkirk--is: Miracle At Dunkirk by: Walter Lord--the same Author who did an excellent work on the Titanic called: A Night To Remember. That book is the best ive read ever-on what happened there.

    Dunkirk was indeed an actual battle. For arguments sake--it COULD also be classified as a whole series of battles--however you wish to look at it?
     
  20. brianw

    brianw Member

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    It's often forgotten, even by those brave soldiers who were there that the Battle of Dunkirk was probably the first time that the Luftwaffe met an aerial defence flown by some resolute and highly skilled pilots, and the first time they came up against the legendary Spitfire, up until then, the air component of the BEF was armed with Hurricanes, Defiants and a few other types which weren't really up to the job.

    The pilots of RAF Fighter Command flew numerous sorties against the Luftwaffe's Stukas and ME 109s, successfully keeping many of them away from the evacuation beaches.

    But because these air battles were so often above the clouds and out of sight of the soldiers on the ground the apparent "No-show" of the RAF did lead to some animosity, and at least one downed pilot being thrown back into the water by "the Pongos" when they realised he was RAF.


    NB. Pongo is a sort of affectionate RAF term for army personnel
     

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