Britain in the Second World War. The Evacuation from Dunkirk 27 th May to 4 th June 1940. The BEF British Expeditionary Force in France.
The Evacuation from Dunkirk
27th May to 4th June 1940.
After the outbreak of war, the BEF had been sent to France. The BEF or British Expeditionary Force was simply the name given to the British Army in France. The army commanded by Lord Gort (opposite) had been placed under the overall control of the French High Command.
When the French were being defeated by the Germans the British army was in danger of being cut off from the coast and a possible retreat back home. Lord Gort urged Churchill to evacuate the British army. Churchill believing that further resistance was pointless ordered Gort to abandon any co-operation with the French, and to evacuate British forces from France. The evacuation was to be code named Operation Dynamo.
The French Reaction
When the French High Command learnt of the British withdrawal, many officers felt angry. They believed that the British commanders were quick to abandon the situation as the war went badly. They accused the British leaders of being selfish. The British in their opinion were leaving at a crucial point. Not all French officers agreed.
The British Reaction
Many British commanders felt that the situation was hopeless, and that they were better evacuating their forces to fight another day. They believed that the overall strategy (plan) used by the British and French armies was wrong.
General Gamelin the French commander, didn’t even have a telephone at his headquarters.
Britain’s worst sea disaster took place during the evacuation. The torpedoed Lancastria sank in minutes with 3,000 men. Twice as many died as on the Titanic. Above the Lancastria’s last moments. At least 2,000 of the 5,000 soldiers on board were saved.
Unlucky Tommies lie dead!
In other ways Dunkirk was a defeat for the allies.
The evacuation at Dunkirk begs many questions.