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.

John Gilmore

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12th June 2017

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

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26th March 2016

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.

John Arlow

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29th May 2019

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

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9th August 2018

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.

James Cabrey

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28th July 2019

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

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27th May 2018

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

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18th January 2018

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.

Robert Crawford

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13th October 2017

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

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30th May 2019

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

Rifleman Andrew Fullerton

Andrew Fullerton

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29th May 2019

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.

James Hamilton

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30th May 2019

Rifleman James Hamilton died between 30th May 1940 and 2nd June 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles fought in the rearguard of the retreat to Dunkirk.

Norman Victor Henderson

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10th December 2017

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

Robert Millar Keenan

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25th February 2016

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

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30th October 2016

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

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16th November 2018

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

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28th May 2019

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

51st Highland Division in North Africa

John McMillan Leishman

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3rd January 2018

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.

Sergeant Alexander Liggett

Alexander Liggett

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26th January 2018

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

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26th March 2017

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

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4th September 2017

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

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1st September 2018

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

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3rd June 2019

Rifleman Thomas Majurey of Belfast, Co. Antrim died on 3rd June 1940 at a military hospital in Dover, Kent. He sustained wounds serving in Dunkirk, France.

Frederick McAlpine

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29th May 2019

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

Francis McNamee

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6th September 2017

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

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28th May 2019

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

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22nd November 2016

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

Robert James Moffatt

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28th May 2019

Rifleman Robert James Moffatt of Belfast, Co. Antrim died on 28th May 1940 while serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles during the BEF retreat to Dunkirk.

Hugh Graham Montgomery

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13th August 2018

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.

John Patrick O’Halloran

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28th May 2019

Corporal John Patrick O'Halloran from Belfast, Co. Antrim died between 28th May 1940 and 2nd June 1940 fighting in the BEF retreat to Dunkirk in France.

David Maxwell Phillips

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2nd June 2017

Warrant Officer Class III David Maxwell Phillips died on 2nd June 1940 soon after returning to his hometown of Belfast, Co. Antrim from Dunkirk, France.

Robert Robinson

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13th October 2017

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

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26th July 2017

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

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27th May 2018

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

Lalor Smith

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28th May 2019

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 Smith

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29th May 2019

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

Hugh Joseph Thompson

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3rd June 2019

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

Patrick Joseph Treanor

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28th May 2019

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

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29th May 2019

Rifleman William Weir of Belfast, Co. Antrim died on 29th May 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles battled in the rearguard of the retreat to Dunkirk.

Robert Wright BEM

Robert Wright BEM

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25th January 2018

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.

Leslie George Chapman

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11th March 2019

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

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4th April 2016

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

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9th August 2018

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.