The Dunkirk Evacuation

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.

Royal Navy Rescue

The famous "little ships" made up a small part of a fleet that included ships from both the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy. On board were many seaman with connections to Northern Ireland.

John Gilmore

Able Seaman | C/SSX 18758

Killyleagh born John Gilmore died on 12th June 1942 as HMS Grove was torpedoed by U-77 off the North African coast while en route from Egypt to Malta.

Allan Lamont

Able Seaman | D/SSX 17853

Allan Lamont never met his father who was killed by a sniper during World War One. Lamont would see action himself in the Royal Navy during World War Two.

The British Expeditionary Force

Men from Ireland and Northern Ireland served in the British Expeditionary Force in 1940. Many of these men in the British Army evacuated from Dunkirk. Others never made it home.

John Arlow

Rifleman | 7014039

John Arlow died on 29th May 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles held off enemy attacks furing the BEF's retreat that would end at Dunkirk, France.

John Cassells Browne

Major | 89229

Major John Cassells Browne died on 9th August 1944 when 'D' Company 6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry came under machine-gun attack in Normandy, France.

Joseph Burns

Fusilier | 6976036

Fusilier Joseph Burns of Cookstown, Co. Tyrone died on 19th May 1940 while serving in Belgium as 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers came under attack.

Cecil Howard Butler

Fusilier | 6975545

Fusilier Cecil Howard Butler of Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh died on 27th May 1940 during the British Expeditionary Force's fighting retreat to Dunkirk.

James Cabrey

Gunner | 1489733

Gunner James Cabrey of Belfast, Co. Antrim died in England on 28th July 1940 while undergoing treatment for wounds received in the retreat from Dunkirk.

John Devenish Condy

Lieutenant | 87458

Lieutenant John Devenish Condy died on 27th May 1940 during the evacuation of Dunkirk. He was a qualified barrister who served in the Royal Artillery.

Samuel Craig

Rifleman | 7011030

Rifleman Samuel Craig of Glynn, Co. Antrim died between 28th May 1940 and 2nd June 1940. He served with 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles at Dunkirk.

Edward Crangle

Fusilier | 6979409

Fusilier Edward Crangle of Belfast died on 23rd May 1940 as the Royal Irish Fusiliers fell back to defend the La Bassée Canal on the retreat to Dunkirk.

Robert Crawford

Gunner | 1473864

Gunner Robert Crawford served with 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He saw action across Europe and survived Dunkirk.

Edward Devine

Lance Corporal | 7010080

Lance Corporal Edward Devine died on 30th May 1940 during 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles' fight in the British Expeditionary Force's retreat to Dunkirk.

James Jackson Ewart

Fusilier | 7043495

Fusilier James Jackson Ewart was born in Portadown, Co. Armagh. He died on 24th May 1940 taking part in the British Expeditionary Force retreat to Dunkirk.

Rifleman Andrew Fullerton

Andrew Fullerton

Rifleman | 7013832

Rifleman Andrew Fullerton of Gilford, Co. Down died between 29th May 1940 and 2nd June 1940 during the British Expeditionary Force's retreat to Dunkirk.

William James Gillespie

Fusilier | 6975630

Fusilier William James Gillespie of Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone died on 19th May 1940 while serving in Belgium with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, BEF.

James Hamilton

Rifleman | 7011031

Rifleman James Hamilton died between 30th May 1940 and 2nd June 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles fought in during the withdrawal toward Dunkirk.

Norman Victor Henderson

Sergeant

Sergeant Norman Victor Henderson served in 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles during World War Two. He lived in Copperfield Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim.

Robert Johnston

Fusilier | 6975687

Fusilier Robert Johnston of Belfast died on 19th May 1940 while serving with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

Robert Millar Keenan

Private

Private Robert Millar Keenan from Belfast, Co. Antrim served from Dunkirk, France through North Africa and Italy with the British Army during World War Two.

James Knox

Gunner | 147640

Gunner James Knox served in 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He was wounded during action in northern France in June 1940.

Thomas Wright Lannigan

Gunner | 1475147

Gunner Thomas Wright Lannigan was born in Belfast, Co. Antrim and died in Middlesex, United Kingdom on 16th November 1940. He fought at Dunkirk that summer.

Thomas Leslie

Sergeant | 7006851

Sergeant Thomas Leslie of Mayfair Street, Belfast died on 28th May 1940 as the Royal Ulster Rifles fought in Belgium with the British Expeditionary Force.

John McMillan Leishman

Sergeant

John McMillan Leishman was born in Falkirk, Scotland and served in the 153rd Infantry Brigade, 51st Highland Division. He later made his home in Belfast.

Patrick Leonard

Lance Corporal | 6977063

Lance Corporal Patrick Leonard of Strabane, Co. Tyrone died on 24th May 1940 while serving in the Dunkirk retreat with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Sergeant Alexander Liggett

Alexander Liggett

Sergeant | 7877628

Sergeant Alexander Liggett served in Europe and North Africa in the Royal Tank Regiment before being taken prisoner of war by the Nazis in 1943 and 1945.

James Lockhart

James Lockhart

Sergeant | 7009959

Sergeant James Lockhart of 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles died on 26th March 1942. The Belfast born soldier had received treatment in Hatfield, England.

David Alexander Logan

Fusilier | 6977060

Fusilier David Alexander Logan died on 4th September 1940 having succumbed to wounds sustained while serving at Dunkirk in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Cecil Hill Macaulay

Sergeant | 656568

Sergeant Cecil Hill Macaulay died on 1st September 1943. He served with the Royal Air Force and also saw action at Dunkirk with the Royal Artillery.

Thomas Majurey

Rifleman | 7013776

Rifleman Thomas Majurey of Belfast died on 3rd June 1940 at a military hospital in Dover, Kent after sustaining wounds and returning from Dunkirk in France.

Ritchie Rea Matthews

Rifleman | 7013545

Rifleman Ritchie Rea Matthews of Belfast died on 14th May 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles held positions near the railway at Louvain, Belgium.

Frederick McAlpine

Rifleman | 7013683

Belfast born Rifleman Frederick McAlpine died on 29th May 1940 during the British Expeditionary Force's retreat through northern France towards Dunkirk.

John McCamley

Fusilier | 6978428

Fusilier John McCamley of Newry, Co. Down served in 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in the BEF in France at the time his of death on 27th May 1940.

Reginald Hardy McConnell

Fusilier | 6978362

Fusilier Reginald Hardy McConnell of Shantallow, Co. Londonderry died between 25th and 27th May 1940 while serving in the Royal Irish Fusiliers in France.

James McCrory

Fusilier | 6978959

Fusilier James McCrory of Gortin, Co. Tyrone died on 19th May 1940 in Belgium with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in the British Expeditionary Force.

Francis McNamee

Fusilier | 6980075

Fusilier Francis McNamee served with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers when he died as a result of an accident in Battle, Sussex, United Kingdom.

George McNeill

Rifleman | 7013035

Rifleman George McNeill died on 28th May 1940 while serving with 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles as part of the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium.

George Herbert Menary

Sergeant

Sergeant George Herbert Menary from Belfast, Co. Antrim is buried in Dundonald Cemetery, Dundonald, Co. Down. He died on 1st April 1949 after the war's end.

Robert Mills

Fusilier | 6975262

Fusilier Robert Mills of Ballymoney, Co. Antrim died on 24th May 1940 during the hard-fought retreat toward Dunkirk as he served in the BEF's rear-guard.

Robert James Moffatt

Rifleman | 7013481

Rifleman Robert James Moffatt died on 28th May 1940 while serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles during the British Expeditionary Force's retreat to Dunkirk.

Hugh Graham Montgomery

Sergeant | 657862

Sergeant Hugh Graham Montgomery died on 13th August 1943 while serving with the Royal Air Force. Before 1941, he served with the Royal Artilley in France.

Joseph Morrison

Rifleman | 7009709

Rifleman Joseph Morrison was 37 years old at the time of his death on 14th May 1940. He served in Belgium with 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles in the BEF.

John Patrick O’Halloran

Corporal | 7011733

Corporal John Patrick O'Halloran of Belfast died between 28th May 1940 and 2nd June 1940 fighting in the British Expeditionary Force's fallback to Dunkirk.

David Maxwell Phillips

Warrant Officer Class III | 6976134

Warrant Officer Class III David Maxwell Phillips died on 2nd June 1940 after returning to England with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers from Dunkirk.

Michael Queally

Sergeant | 7110997

Sergeant Michael Queally was the husband of Mary Kathleen Queally of Omagh, Co. Tyrone. He died on 28th May 1940 while serving in the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Robert Robinson

Gunner | 1465720

Gunner Robert Robinson was more often known as "Charlie". Born in Belfast in 1907, he served with 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Dunkirk.

George Rodgers

Rifleman | 7015246

Rifleman George Rodgers died on 22nd July 2017. He had not received the Légion d'Honneur that his family applied for for his role in the Dunkirk evacuation.

Robin Scott

Second Lieutenant

Second Lieutenant Robin Scott of Eisleben House, Stranmillis, Belfast, Co. Antrim died on 27th May 1940 while serving with the Royal Artillery at Dunkirk.

William Slaine

Fusilier | 7042852

Fusilier William Slaine of Cookstownm Co. Tyrone died on 23rd May 1940 while serving in the the British Expeditionary Force with the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lalor Smith

Rifleman | 7011328

Rifleman Lalor Smith from Bessbrook, Co. Armagh served in the Royal Ulster Rifles at the time of his death during Operation Dynamo on 28th May 1940.

Samuel Edward Smyth

Lance Corporal | 7009692

Lance Corporal Samuel Edward Smyth died on 29th May 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles fought in the rearguard of the British Expeditionary Force.

Hugh Joseph Thompson

Rifleman | 7013406

Rifleman Hugh Joseph Thompson of Belfast returned from the Dunkirk beaches with severe wounds. He died on 3rd June 1940 at a military hospital in England.

Patrick Joseph Treanor

Rifleman | 7014151

Rifleman Patrick Joseph Treanor of Newry, Co. Down died on 28th May 1940 as the Royal Ulster Rifles held the rear guard of the British Expeditionary Force.

William Weir

Rifleman | 7013154

Rifleman William Weir of Belfast died on 29th May 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles engaged the enemy in the rearguard of the withdrawal to Dunkirk.

Robert Wright BEM

Robert Wright BEM

Company Sergeant Major

Robert Wright BEM was known in Belfast for his long service with the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum. Bob was a decorated war hero who served in Burma.

Royal Air Force at Dunkirk

Invaluable air support from the Royal Air Force enabled the evacuation of thousands of men from the beaches in northern France. Among those taking to the air in support of the campaign were many with connections to Ulster.

Leslie George Chapman

Sergeant | 967658

Sergeant Leslie George Chapman of RAF 231 Squadron was an air gunner at the time of his death in an aviation accident in Co. Tyrone on 11th March 1942.

William Francis Ernest Gault

Sergeant | 950326

Sergeant William Ernest Gault from Bangor, Co. Down died on 4th April 1941 when his Hawker Hurricane came down on a hillside near Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim.

Wing Commander ADJ Lovell

Anthony Desmond Joseph Lovell

Wing Commander

Wing Commander Anthony Desmond Joseph Lovell was a decorated ace who served in the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain and throughout the war.

References

Wikipedia