Battle of Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan's 2017 blockbuster told the story of the Dunkirk evacuation to a whole new generation. Many of those evacuated were from Northern Ireland.

The evacuation of Dunkirk, codenamed Operation Dynamo saw the rescue of large numbers of Allied soldiers. Between 26th May 1940 and 4th June 1940, 338,226 British, Belgian, and French troops made it safely to England.

During the 6-week long Battle of France, Wehrmacht forces trapped the Allied troops in a corner of Northern France. The British assembled a fleet of over 800 boats as soldiers gathered on the beach and on the harbour’s defensive mole. The Royal Navy supplied 39 Destroyers and the Royal Canadian Navy supplied 4 more. History remembers the “little ships”, the flotilla of merchant ships, fishing boats, pleasure craft, and privately owned yachts.

On 4th June 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the rescue a “miracle of deliverance”. He was, however, keen to emphasise this was not a victory. The British Expeditionary Force lost 68,000 men in northern France in 1940 and abandoned most of their tanks and vehicles. Churchill added “wars are not won by evacuations”, but the world would remember the miracle of the Dunkirk evacuations as one of the enduring stories of the Second World War.

British Army

British Army

Many troops from Northern Ireland served during the Battle of France in 1940 and fought in the rear guard as the British Army retreated to Dunkirk, France.