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Dunkirk Evacuation, 1940

British troops escaping from Dunkirk in lifeboats

Operation Dynamo,[N 1] also known as the Dunkirk Evacuation, was the evacuation of Allied troops from the coast of Dunkirk, France, between 27 May and the morning of 4 June 1940, because the British, Belgian, and French troops were cut off by the German Army during the Battle of Dunkirk.


The evacuation was ordered on 26 May 1940. Operating under the direction of Vice Admiral Ramsey, the evacuation was carried out, under the cover of RAF Fighter Command, by a force of destroyers, yachts and other vessels,[2] including a number of trawlers, cross channel ferries, pleasure steamers and cabin cruisers operated by their civilian owners, who declined to hand their craft over to the Royal Navy due to their determination to directly assist with the evacuation effort.[3]

On 28 May, the deterioration in weather conditions resulted in the French coast being covered in very low cloud. This ensured that the Luftwaffe were unable to carry out attacks against the beach head, resulting in the evacuation of 17,084 troops. The following day, visibility in the area improved sufficiently to permit attacks against the evacuation fleet by Junkers Ju-87s of VIII Fligerkorps, supported by Junkers Ju 88s of KG30 and LG1. These attacks resulted in the loss of three escorting destroyers and damage to seven other ships. German losses amounted to fifteen Bf 109Es and a single Ju-88, shot down by the Boulton Paul Defiants of 264 Squadron. The return of bad weather on 31 May, which persisted over the next few days, led to the Ju-87s being grounded by fog. By the end of 31 May, a further 47,310 troops had been evacuated.[4]

Thanks to the assistance of the civilian ships, Operation Dynamo resulted in the evacuation of 200,000 British troops, as well as 130,000 French and 10,000 from other nations.[3]

The speed of the evacuation meant a lot of equipment had to be left behind, including a number of Boys Anti-tank rifles, which the Germans briefly used, as the 13.9mm Panzerabwehrbusche 792(e), to supplement their defences during the construction of the Atlantic Wall.[5]



  1. The operation was so named because Ramsey's bunker at Dover was used during World War One to house electrical equipment.[1]


  1. Roberts, Andrew. The Storm of War - A new history of the Second World War. Penguin Books. ISBN 978 0 141 02928 3. (2010). Page 64
  2. Room, Adrian (Editor). Brewer's Directory of Phrase and Fable - Millennium Edition. 2002. ISBN 0 304 35873 8 Page 373
  3. 3.0 3.1 Perrett, Bryan. British Military History for Dummies. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 2007. ISBN 0 470 03213 8. Page 327
  4. World Aircraft Information Files Aviation Partwork. Midsummer Books Ltd. File 353 Sheet 7 (War in the Air:Blitzkrieg on Europe – The Fall of France)
  5. War Machine Magazine issue 105 - Anti-Tank Weapons of World War 2"

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