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Dunkirk-Not a Triumph? Essay

Many people also believed that Dunkirk was a disaster; it was a disaster in a number of ways. Firstly, there were many casualties in the battle. 68,000 of the British Expeditionary Force perished during the barrage, along with about a quarter of the remaining French military. Along with the loss of vital live came the massive losses of equipment. Overall, nearly 40,000 pieces of equipment were surrendered to the enemy, including 17,000 machine guns, 12,000 field guns, 2,800 anti-aircraft guns and 475 tanks. This was one of the worst losses of equipment ever sustained by the British military. In this part of my essay I am going to prove how the next four sources challenge the interpretation of Dunkirk being a triumph. Firstly, to help the statement that Dunkirk was not a triumph is source B10 as it argues the fact that it was not organised there was a lot of waiting around and the horrific state of the soldiers, “while among the crowds on the beaches were shell-shocked, dazed soldiers wandering about trying to find some shelter from the bombing.” The source was created by John Harris, a historian.

This source is taken from a book about the great military battles. The purpose of this source is to sell and he wants other people to understand his point of view. This source is very reliable because it is written by a historian, therefore he will be very knowledgeable about the research and he will know what he is talking about, but the source was written in a poetic and dramatic way, so John Harris may be emphasizing the content of this source. The usefulness of this source is very good as it gives us a slight understanding of what state the soldiers were in, and what type of things they would experience whilst on the beaches of Dunkirk, “some of the men were even bomb-happy and on the edge of hysteria.” Meaning that soldiers were so tired that they were laughing; mentally falling apart and that there was no getting away from the bombs, they were constant. This source is also useful as it gives a soldiers point of view.

However, the book is John’s own interpretation, meaning that it could be inaccurate. The next source that does support this statement is source B12 which disagrees that Dunkirk was a triumph as argues at it being “a military defeat”. However this source does portray across that it was “a propaganda victory”, this would be because newspapers started this myth of the battle being a victory and the government just let them carry on with it, did not question their decisions. The source was created by a BBC news reporter. The purpose of this was to give out information. This source is reliable as it is by the BBC, which a British news company that is repetitively well respected and trustworthy, the BBC are also criticising reports from starting the Dunkirk myth. However, this source is hindsight. This source would be useful as it helps prove the statement, ‘Dunkirk was not a triumph?’, because it shows that propaganda was used to manufacture of Dunkirk being a victory and almost rule out the negative side of Dunkirk.

The third source that I will use that will support Dunkirk not being a triumph is B14. It tells us about a senior army officers experience during Dunkirk, already this source is reliable as Brian Horrocks was there, but he is remembering events that happened, but on the other hand you tend to always remember significant events. The purpose of this officer writing his autobiography is to make money,( to increase sales he has written it in an emotional way that will make it more interesting) celebrate his life story and use it as historical evidence. The author had first-hand experience of these events which makes it so reliable.

The source tells us what a soldier would remember about the retreat to Dunkirk, “shame and exhaustion”- this would be because when the troops had returned to Britain Churchill would not allow them to go back and bring back more evacuees. Brian Horrocks gives us some idea of what the tactics were like for both sides, Nazis used Blitzkrieg and where well prepared, whereas Britain and France where making tactical errors and major flaws. The final source that I am going to use that will back up Dunkirk being a disaster is B16; Lord Haw-Haw is questioning Churchill’s tactics, Churchill being a liar and how many more lives he is willing to sacrifice.

Lord Haw-Haw (British citizen, heavily influenced by the Nazis) broadcasted this on a radio hearing on the 17th June 1940. This source shows that not everyone believed in Winston Churchill’s views and therefore where willing to question him. The purpose was to undermine British confidence, so that eventually Churchill will start questioning himself, also undermined British propaganda.


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