Little ships of Dunkirk


Little ships of Dunkirk

The little ships of Dunkirk were 700 private boats that sailed from Ramsgate in England to Dunkirk in France between May 26 and June 4, 1940 as part of "Operation Dynamo", the rescue of over 300,000 British and French soldiers, who were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk during the Second World War.

The situation of the troops, who had been cut off from their advance into France by a pincer movement from the German army, was regarded by the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, as the greatest military defeat for centuries, and it appeared likely to cost Britain the war, leaving the country vulnerable to invasion by Nazi Germany. [Birkett, Peter. [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/once-more-unto-the-beach-for-ships-that-saved-an-army-715466.html Once more unto the beach for ships that saved an army"] , "The Independent", June 3, 2000.] [http://www.adls.org.uk/ "History"] , The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, retrieved April 1, 2008.] [Safire, William. "Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History". W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, p. 146.] Because of the shallow waters, British destroyers were unable to approach the beaches, and soldiers were having to wade out to the warships, many of them spending hours shoulder deep in water.

On May 27, the small-craft section of the British Ministry of Shipping telephoned boat builders around the coast, asking them to collect all boats with "shallow draft" that could navigate the shallow waters. Attention was directed to the pleasure boats, private yachts and launches moored on the River Thames and along the south and east coasts. Some of them were taken with the owners' permission — and with the owners insisting they would sail them — while others were requisitioned by the government with no time for the owners to be contacted. The boats were checked to make sure they were seaworthy, then were fuelled and taken to Ramsgate to set sail for Dunkirk.

When they reached France, some of the boats acted as shuttles between the beaches and the destroyers, ferrying soldiers to the warships. Others carried hundreds of soldiers each back to Ramsgate, packing the men in like sardines, [ [http://www.adls.org.uk/shipinfo.cfm?id=63&RestTrust=0 "Sundowner"] , The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, retrieved April 1, 2008.] [ [http://www.adls.org.uk/shiplist.cfm "List of ships"] , The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, retrieved April 1, 2008.] protected from above by the Royal Air Force, as the Luftwaffe tried to attack the ships from the air. Within the space of nine days, 192,226 British and 139,000 French soldiers — 331,226 in all — were rescued by the 700 little ships and around 220 warships. The rescue operation turned a military disaster into a story of heroism, which served to carry the British forces and the British people through the war. It was in describing the success of the operation to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940 that Churchill made one of his most famous speeches:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6llT2ZYg-4E Video of Churchill's Speech]

The phrase "Dunkirk spirit" is still used to describe courage and solidarity in adversity. [Knowles, David J. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/765004.stm "The 'miracle' of Dunkirk"] , BBC News, May 30, 2000.]

ee also

*Battle of Dunkirk
*Battle of France
*Evacuation of Dunkirk

Notes

Further reading

* [http://www.adls.org.uk The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships] .
* [http://www.medwayqueen.co.uk Paddle steamer "Medway Queen", nicknamed "Heroine of Dunkirk"] .
* [http://www.breda.uk.com 52' Express Cruiser "Breda", previously named "Dab II"] .
*Knowles, David J. "Escape From Catastrophe, 1940 Dunkirk". Knowles Publishing, 2000.


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