Dunkirk Rescue Re-enacted


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Seventy years after the evacuation of Dunkirk, veterans are accompanying a flotilla of ‘Little Ships’ to re-enact the dramatic rescue.

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British soldiers on the rail watch long lines of their comrades wade from the beach to the transport ship. Dunkirk, May 1940. Photo: Time-Life.

The few remaining survivors are reflecting on what was perhaps the greatest rescue operation in British history – a remarkable event that changed the course of World War Two.
And the ‘Little Ships’ joining them are some of those that actually took part in the May 1940 evacuation.

Escorted by the Royal Navy’s HMS Monmouth, the 50 small boats are re-enacting the journey from Ramsgate in Kent to Dunkirk in Northern France from where more than 300,000 soldiers were returned to safety.

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Known as Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk evacuation was an attempt to save Britain’s Army from what looked like total defeat.

Nearly 400,000 soldiers had been fighting the Germans in Northern France and Belgium.

They were young, inexperienced and under-equipped. Within a few months they were completely overwhelmed by Hitler’s smaller but more organised army.

The German Panzer Divisions pushed the British back through Belgium and into France.

By late May 1940, almost the entire British Army was cornered and trapped along the beaches surrounding the small French fishing town of Dunkirk.

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Winston Churchill had been prime minister for just three weeks when he launched Operation Dynamo on May 26.

Anyone with a boat was asked to take part, set sail to Dunkirk and into the sights of German artillery.

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The hope was that some 45,000 of the 400,000 men would be rescued. Astonishingly, 338,226 men landed safely on Britain’s south coast between May 26 and June 5.

Leading the ‘Little Ships’ in the re-enactment is Thamesa, a 45ft motor yacht.

She formed part of the original flotilla and was skippered then by boat builder Douglas Tough.

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Mr Tough was instrumental in rounding up numerous Thames river-cruisers to help in the evacuation. His grandson, John, is skippering the boat this time.

On Saturday, a ceremony will be held in Dunkirk to mark the event.

As well as celebrating the remarkable achievement of those that came to the rescue, it will remember the many who died: those who remained in Dunkirk, holding back the Germans to allow the evacuation to take place, and those for whom there was no room on the boats.

In all, 68,111 were killed or captured: 18,000 were on ships that were sunk by the German air force and artillery and 41,000 never made it on board a boat.

Had the Dunkirk evacuation failed, Britain would almost certainly have surrendered and brokered a peace deal. Germany would have won the war.

Reflecting on the event later, Mr Churchill described it as: “A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity.”

The Dunkirk spirit was born.

Audio slideshow: Rescue from Dunkirk

It is 70 years since a flotilla of nearly a thousand naval and civilian craft travelled across The English Channel to save more than 300,000 Allied troops from advancing German forces.

Using archive reports from BBC Radio – and personal testimony from some of those who were there – see how the famous ‘Dunkirk spirit’ brought the vast majority of those stranded back home.

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Originally posted 2010-11-13 15:00:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter




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