128 Amazing Vintage Historical Photos Showing the Evacuation at Dunkirk, 1940.

The Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo and also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, or just Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers during World War II from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, in the north of France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940. The operation commenced after large numbers of Belgian, British, and French troops were cut off and surrounded by German troops during the six-week Battle of France. In a speech to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called this “a colossal military disaster”, saying “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his “We shall fight on the beaches” speech on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance”.

After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, France and the British Empire declared war on Germany and imposed an economic blockade. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to help defend France. After the Phoney War of October 1939 to April 1940, Germany invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and France on 10 May 1940. Three panzer corps attacked through the Ardennes and drove northwest to the English Channel. By 21 May, German forces had trapped the BEF, the remains of the Belgian forces, and three French field armies along the northern coast of France. BEF commander General Viscount Gort immediately saw evacuation across the Channel as the best course of action, and began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest good port.

Late on 23 May, a halt order was issued by Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group A. Adolf Hitler approved this order the next day, and had the German High Command send confirmation to the front. Attacking the trapped BEF, French, and Belgian armies was left to the Luftwaffe until the order was rescinded on 26 May. This gave Allied forces time to construct defensive works and pull back large numbers of troops to fight the Battle of Dunkirk. From 28 to 31 May, in the siege of Lille, the remaining 40,000 men of the French First Army fought a delaying action against seven German divisions, including three armoured divisions.

On the first day only 7,669 Allied soldiers were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, 338,226 had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 vessels. Many troops were able to embark from the harbour’s protective mole onto 39 British Royal Navy destroyers, four Royal Canadian Navy destroyers, at least three French Navy destroyers, and a variety of civilian merchant ships. Others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in shoulder-deep water. Some were ferried to the larger ships by what became known as the Little Ships of Dunkirk, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, yachts, and lifeboats called into service from Britain. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of its tanks, vehicles, and equipment. In his 4 June speech, Churchill also reminded the country that “we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.” (Wikipedia)

Soldiers gather on the beach in advance of evacuation. May 1940.
Troops under fire on the beaches of Dunkirk, as seen from a ship offshore.
British soldiers wait on an improvised pier made out of vehicles in order to evacuate Dunkirk during low tide. June 1940.
Allied troops, mostly British, wade out to a fleet of military and civilian ships waiting to transport the men to England from Dunkirk. June 1940.
A distant view of Dunkirk harbour from a ship offshore, with smoke rising from burning oil tanks, May/June 1940.
A Royal Navy destroyer on its way to Dunkirk, May 1940.
Destroyers filled with British troops return home to Dover, England on May 31, 1940.
A soldier of the British Expeditionary Force, arriving back from Dunkirk, is greeted affectionately by his girlfriend. May 31, 1940.
Allied troops wait on the beach ahead of the evacuation. Date unspecified.
Officers of the Royal Ulster Rifles awaiting evacuation at Bray Dunes near Dunkirk, May 1940.
Men of the 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles awaiting evacuation at Bray Dunes, near Dunkirk, 1940.
Crew members of a French destroyer, sunk by mine at Dunkirk, are hauled aboard a British vessel from their sinking life-raft. May 1940.
The crew of a London-based tugboat, one of the many small craft that took part in the evacuation, pause for a cup of tea. June 5, 1940.
Thousands of soldiers line up on the beach at Dunkirk as they prepare for the evacuation. May 1940.
British anti-aircraft guns lie abandoned at Dunkirk in 1940.
British troops under attack by enemy aircraft on the beach at Dunkirk, 20 June 1940. One fires back with his rifle.
French troops and sailors on the deck of a destroyer during the evacuation from France, June 1940.
A British soldier helps a wounded man drink while waiting to be evacuated from Dunkirk. June 1940.
A soldier walks among the destruction at Dunkirk following a German aerial bombing. June 1940.
Children rush up to a train carrying British soldiers back from Dunkirk. Date unspecified.
Three men forced to abandon ship climb the ladder let down by a rescue vessel. May 1940.
While bombs explode nearby, British soldiers shoot their rifles at attacking aircraft during a rearguard action just after the evacuation. June 20, 1940.
A woman sits on the beach alongside abandoned military equipment at La Panne, near Dunkirk, just after the evacuation. June 1940.
A British soldier, carrying a German rifle brought back as a souvenir, arrives home following the Dunkirk evacuation. Date unspecified.
Refugees make their way to safety amid aerial bombardment at Dunkirk soon after the evacuation. June 12, 1940.
An improvised pier, used by soldiers to board rescue vessels, made out of military trucks that had been driven into the sea. June 5, 1940.
Abandoned vehicles sit on the beach at La Panne, near Dunkirk, after the British retreat. June 1940.
A British soldier takes a drink as he’s welcomed home from Dunkirk. May 1940.
A woman walks among the destroyed buildings of Dunkirk following the evacuation. June 1940.
British troops look back at the French coast from the deck of a steamer that is taking them back to England after the Dunkirk evacuation. June 1940.
Members of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) withdraw to England from Dunkirk. Date unspecified.
Members of the British Expeditionary Force arrive back in Britain with a Union Jack following the evacuation. June 1940.
A British ship rescues soldiers from a landing craft sunk during an operation near Dunkirk. May 1940.
Men row a lifeboat carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher out to a destroyer for evacuation from Dunkirk harbor. June 1940.
The destroyed buildings of Dunkirk just after the evacuation. June 1940.
French and British troops taken prisoner by the Germans at Dunkirk. May 1940.
Allied soldiers crowd onto a ship during the Dunkirk evacuation.
British prisoners and German soldiers at Dunkirk. Date unspecified.
French soldiers who had been fighting the rear guard action arrive in England after having been evacuated from Dunkirk. June 5, 1940
German soldiers rest at Dunkirk. June 4, 1940.
German forces arrive in Dunkirk. The sea front at Dunkirk photographed immediately after the completion of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force earlier in the day. Vehicles and troops of the German mobile assault unit Motorensturm 13, drawn up on the sea front at Dunkirk near one of the unit’s light anti-tank guns.
The oil-covered body of a British soldier lies on the beach at Dunkirk at low tide after being washed ashore hours after the completion of the evacuation.
Disarmed French soldiers file pass German officers on the outskirts of Dunkirk. The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force had been completed a few hours earlier.
Members of the British forces arrive home by train after being evacuated from Dunkirk. May 31, 1940.
British troops disembarking from a destroyer at Dover after their return from the Dunkirk beaches, June 1940.
British troops during the evacuation from Dunkirk, 1940.
British troops in the sand dunes at Dunkirk, 1940.
British troops during the evacuation from Dunkirk, 1940.
British troops during the evacuation from Dunkirk, 1940.
British and French prisoners at Dunkirk, June 1940.
An officer rests in a trench dug into the sand dunes at Dunkirk, May 1940.
British artillery tractors and limbers abandoned during the retreat, June 1940.
British troops in the sand dunes at Dunkirk, 1940.
British troops evacuating Dunkirk’s beaches
Northwest France, 1940. Situation on 4 June, with operations since 21 May.
British and French prisoners at Veules-les-Roses, France, June 1940
Officers of the Royal Ulster Rifles awaiting evacuation at Bray Dunes near Dunkirk, May 1940.
Men of the 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles awaiting evacuation at Bray Dunes, near Dunkirk, 1940.
The Isle of Man steam ferry SS Mona’s Queen sinking after striking a mine off Dunkirk, 29 May 1940.
The Royal Navy destroyer HMS VANQUISHER alongside a sunken trawler at Dunkirk, 1940.
French soldiers on the Mole at Dunkirk awaiting evacuation.
British troops boarding the destroyer HMS VANQUISHER at low tide from the Mole at Dunkirk, using scaling ladders.
British officers in a trench dug into the beach at Dunkirk, 1940.
The French destroyer BOURRASQUE sinking off Dunkirk loaded with troops, 30 May 1940.
26-29 May 1940 Aerial view of the beach at Dunkirk where some 300-400 men await evacuation. Photograph shows c 700 yards of beach, about 4 miles east of the town.
26-29 May 1940 A train carrying soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk being cheered by civilians as it passes under a bridge in South East London.
26-29 May 1940 British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation.
Dunkirk and the Retreat From France 1940 British troops embarking onto ships during the evacuation from France, June 1940.
French troops and sailors on the deck of a destroyer during the evacuation from France, June 1940.
French troops and sailors on the deck of a destroyer during the evacuation from France, June 1940.
French troops and sailors on the deck of a destroyer during the evacuation from France, June 1940.
A column of British troops file past French firemen dealing with a burning lorry and the victims of German shelling in Dunkirk.
Dunkirk and the Retreat From France 1940 French troops evacuated from Dunkirk arrive in the UK.
A woman from the Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC) hands out tea to troops evacuated from Dunkirk at a railway station in the UK, 31 May 1940.
View across the beach at Dunkirk with lines of soldiers preparing for evacuation and walking through the surf to small boats waiting offshore. A black pall of smoke hangs in the sky and bomb craters pock the sand to the left of the composition
map shows the general location of the three shipping routes used during the Dunkirk Evacuation (1940).
German forces move into Dunkirk hours after the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force was completed. A beached French coastal patrol craft at low tide at Dunkirk. The ship is armed with a 75mm canon on its foredeck and probably dates from the First World War. A British Universal Carrier and a bicycle lie abandoned half buried in the sand.4 June 1940
A Lockheed Hudson of No. 220 Squadron RAF approaches Dunkirk on a reconnaissance patrol during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the port in May-June 1940
Survivors from Mona’s Queen, pictured from the destroyer HMS Vanquisher after the sinking of the vessel on the approach to Dunkirk. 29 May 1940
Tea being served to evacuated troops in a train at Addison Road station, London, 31 May 1940.
Refreshments being served to evacuated troops aboard a train at Addison Road station, London, 31 May 1940.
Tea and sandwiches are offered to evacuated troops aboard a train at Addison Road station, London, 31 May 1940. One of the soldiers is wearing a captured German helmet.
A member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) serves tea and sandwiches to evacuated troops aboard a train at Addison Road station, London, 31 May 1940. One of the soldiers is wearing a captured German helmet.
A member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) offers cigarettes to evacuated troops aboard a train at Addison Road station, London, 31 May 1940.
The Evacuation of the BEF from France, June 1940: Motor transport on the quay at Cherbourg awaiting evacuation to England.
Evacuated troops enjoying tea and other refreshments at Addison Road station, London, 31 May 1940.
A group of ‘walking wounded’ British troops, in front of a railway carriage at Dover, 31 May 1940.
Dunkirk 26-29 May 1940 British troops on board a destroyer at Dover wait to leave the ship.
Dunkirk 26-29 May 1940 A British destroyer arrives at Dover carrying British troops from Dunkirk.
Dunkirk 26-29 May 1940 British troops disembark from a destroyer at Dover.
Royal Navy destroyers crowded with evacuated British troops, Dover, 31 May 1941.
Evacuated troops, one clad only in a blanket and pyjamas, at Dover, 31 May 1940.
An evacuated soldier, wearing a French overcoat, changes his socks and boots at Dover. 31 May 1940.
French and British troops on board ships berthing at Dover, 31 May 1940.
A merchant sailor assists a wounded british soldier up the gangplank from a destroyer, Dover, 31 May 1940.
‘Walking wounded’ British soldiers make their way up the gangplank from a destroyer, Dover, 31 May 1940.
Destroyers filled with evacuated British troops berthing at Dover, 31 May
A wounded soldier on a stretcher is given a drink on the quayside at Dover, 31 May 1940.
A wounded soldier from the Welsh Guards, confined to a stretcher, on the quayside at Dover, 31 May 1940.
Evacuated soldiers changing into clean kit, Dover, 31 May
Cheerful British troops crowd the deck of a Royal Navy destroyer at Dover, 31 May 1940.
A Royal Navy destroyer, crowded with evacuated British troops, mooring at Dover, 31 May 1940.
Royal Navy destroyers, crowded with evacuated British troops, alongside the quay at Dover, 31 May 1940.
Soldiers carrying a stretcher case along the quayside at Dover, 31 May 1940. Note the crates of ‘bully beef’ and biscuits stacked behind.
British and French troops disembarking from a merchant vessel at Dover, 31 May 1940.
Evacuated British troops on the quayside at Dover, 31 May 1940
Troops arrive back in Dover following the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk on 31 May 1940. Some men change into clothes provided by the authorities.
‘Walking wounded’ British soldiers make their way up the gangplank from a destroyer, Dover, 31 May 1940.
A wounded French soldier being taken ashore on a stretcher at Dover.
General Viscount Gort, Commander in Chief BEF with Air Vice Marshal C H B Blount, commanding the Air Component, outside the Hotel Moderne, Arras, France.
The Isle of Man steam ferry SS Mona’s Queen sinking after striking a mine off Dunkirk, 29 May 1940.
The Isle of Man steam ferry SS Mona’s Queen sinking after striking a mine off Dunkirk, 29 May 1940.
A lifeboat with survivors from the Isle of Man steam ferry SS Mona’s Queen, mined off Dunkirk, comes alongside the destroyer HMS Vanquisher, 29 May 1940.
A lifeboat with survivors from the Isle of Man steam ferry SS Mona’s Queen, mined off Dunkirk, comes alongside the destroyer HMS Vanquisher, 29 May 1940.
Rescued troops on board the destroyer HMS Vanquisher, May 1940.
A Hudson of RAF Coastal Command patrols over Dunkirk, as oil storage tanks burn fiercely in the background, c. 3 June 1940.
Ships off the beaches at Dunkirk,3 June 1940. Smoke billows from burning oil storage tanks.
As oil storage tanks burn in the distance, a trawler crowded with troops heads from Dunkirk back to England, June 1940.
A column of British troops file past French firemen dealing with a burning lorry and the victims of German shelling in Dunkirk.
French troops evacuated from Dunkirk photographed in a train at a railway station in the UK.
A hospital ship carrying wounded soldiers away from Dunkirk. In the background can be seen columns of smoke and flames from fires burning in the bomb and shell shattered port.
A Hudson of RAF Coastal Command patrols over Dunkirk,June 1940
Thousands of soldiers line up on the beach at Dunkirk as they prepare for the evacuation. May 1940.
Spitfire Mk I in flight, May 1940.
Ground staff examine the damage to the elevators of a Boulton-Paul Defiant Mk I of No. 264 Squadron RAF at Duxford, following a battle with German fighters over Dunkirk, 29 May 1940
Spitfire Mk I on the beaches of Dunkirk in Spring 1940 with two German servicemen on her fuselage
German troops posing on the wreck of a Spitfire Mk I which has crash landed on the beach at Dunkirk. June 1940.
An RAF officer examines the wreckage of a crashed German Dornier Do17 bomber which had been shot down by RAF fighters over France in early June 1940.

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