The Battle of France began on 10th May 1940 when the Germans attacked into Holland, Belgium and France. With a couple of weeks the Netherlands were overrun, the Belgians had surrendered and the British and French were in retreat to the coast around the port of Dunkirk. Nearly 400,000 Allied servicemen were contained in a bridgehead and Operation Dynamo was launched to evacuate them. Incredibly more than 338,000 were taken off the Dunkirk Beaches or the Mole turning potential defeat into the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’.
A new film Dunkirk The Movie is about to be released this summer and tomorrow my latest TV work for Channel 4 will see Dunkirk: The New Evidence will be shown at 8pm. The images here were owned by an officer of the Royal Engineers who fought at Dunkirk and later captured some of these from German POWs in 1945.
1. Dunkirk Burning: this image shows German troops advanced on the western side of the port in May 1940 as the fuel tanks and other buildings here caught fire.
2. Abandoned Vehicles at Dunkirk: this photograph taken after the evacuation shows the typical chaos on the beach with vehicles and equipment everywhere. A variety of both British and French kit can be seen with a Morris prime mover in the foreground likely to be from a Royal Artillery Anti-Aircraft regiment.
3. Vehicle Pier, Dunkirk Beaches: this vehicle pier, made up of British vehicles, was on the beach near De Panne, just up the Dunkirk beaches in Belgium. These piers were used by troops to get out to boats in deep water. Vehicles were lined up side by side and planks over the top enabled men to walk across and out to the evacuation points.
4. Wreck of the L’Ardoit at Dunkirk 1940: This image taken after the evacuation shows the wreck of the L’Ardoit which was sunk on 21st May 1940. The ship was destroyed by a bomb from a He-111 bomber. It was one of many such wrecks on the beach come the conclusion of Operation Dynamo.
5. Dunkirk in Ruins, June 1940: the defence of the Dunkirk perimeter and continuous attack on the area around the port damaged or destroyed a very high proportion of the buildings within the town and as this image shows made it look like something out of WW1.
6. The Victors Pose for the Camera: this photograph was taken by a German soldier on the beach at Dunkirk after Operation Dynamo had come to an end. For the Germans this was the end of an incredible campaign that had swept up Western Europe, but the BEF and a large number of French Allies had escaped at Dunkirk, and Britain was able to turn it into as much of a victory as Nazi Germany.