Thursday, May 27, 2010

A miracle of deliverance

"A miracle of deliverance" is how Winston Churchill described the evacuation of British and French troops from the beaches of Dunkirk between 26 May and 4 June 1940. More than 330,000 men were stranded, driven back to the coast by the advancing German army.  Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay  masterminded Operation Dynamo, a plan to rescue as many men as possible.

A fleet of cargo ships, passenger ferries, barges and coasters was assembled at Dover and Southampton, with Royal Navy minesweepers, corvettes and destroyers for protection. However, the shallow slope of the beaches of Dunkirk prevented the ships from getting close to the shore, so smaller craft would be needed to ferry the soldiers from the beaches out to the ships waiting a mile off shore. 800 pleasure boats, lifeboats, Thames barges, tugs and fishing boats set off with volunteer crews, many of whom had never sailed outside coastal waters. Under attack from German fighter planes and bombers, dodging mines and submarines and under fire from coastal defences, they picked up soldiers from the beaches, took them to the waiting ships and went back for more.
 About 338,000 British troops were rescued and, on the last night, some 26,000 of the French rearguard were picked up by British, French ,Belgian and Dutch vessels.

 The 70th anniversary is being commemorated by a smaller fleet of small boats  making that same journey under very different circumstances. Many of them took part in Operation Dynamo and have been proudly restored for this occasion. Sometimes I am very proud to be British!


  1. Hello Maureen
    A little before I was born but I do remember Dad talking about it (mind you he wouldn't tell us what he actually did )
    thanks for your nice comment last week when we said goodbye to Leroy - he was with us for such along time he will certainly be missed for along time
    BTW I've moved my blog to a new address
    Still Waters is where you'll find me
    Would love to see you there sometime
    Take care

  2. Hi Cathy
    I've changed the link in my sidebar to your new address. I'll be over to see you later.

  3. As you should.

    I remember the scene in a movie (can't remember the name of it) when the first German lookouts saw the DDay fleet of 5,000 ships on the horizon coming for them. I imagine some of the shots were the real thing, and felt the immense pride of belonging to a species that had the will assemble such an undertaking to fight evil.

  4. I wonder if you managed to listen to 'The Snow Goose', the Classic Serial this week on BBC Radio 4. As you will know, Dunkirk is the setting for the climax of this dramatic and moving story. It is not too late to catch it at
    This is a book that I have loved for many years and the BBC production did not spoil my feelings, in spite of one irritating addition to the original text. I wont tell you what it was in case you are not as irritated as I was!

  5. e

    It reminds me of the Westerns where the townsfolk come out at the last minute to defeat the bullies. I wonder if the same kind of thing could happen nowadays?

  6. Crinny

    I haven't been listening to the radio version as I intended to re-read the book. However, having searched my shelves in vain, I have to conclude it is in one of the boxes in storage, so I'll catch up on iPlayer. Thanks for the tip.

  7. m. alas we're dinosaurs. A lot of people now-a-days don't think their country and traditions are worth fighting for.

  8. It is scary that it is 70 years since the miracle of the little ships.
    Stories of Dunkirk have been part of my life since I was a little tacker. Thank you fro reminding me of the anniversary.

  9. Al
    Our news reports are covering the 70th anniversary very well. I can recall very clearly the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Great War, I was still at school and I'm finding it hard to believe that we are doing the same for WW11 now.

  10. Hi Mo, Did you remember that Uncle Ernie was at Dunkirk but would not talk about it or watch anything on TV to remind him of that experience? Tell your friend erp that the film was The Longest Day and was the return of the forces to the European mainland since the BEF left the Dunkirk beaches. How is Tan coping today? JJG

  11. J, I didn't know that Ernie had been at Dunkirk. Isn't it interesting how different family members hold different bits of information?

    I haven't heard how the house move has gone yet.


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