The sources given are limited use when trying to understand what the battle of Dunkirk was like. The sources are all from the viewpoint of force members who viewed the battle from the sea whereas in order to have a complete picture it would be helpful to see evidence provided which took into account the experience of the foot soldiers, German source material, views from objective bystanders, if there were any, and additional statistical or factual information from a secondary source which would enable the audience to gain a much clearer and more objective understanding from the event s of Dunkirk
At dawn on May 10th 1940, the armies of Nazi Germany burst through the borders of their country to begin a march of conquest across Western Europe.
Spearheaded by formidable armada of tanks and closely supported by the most powerful fleet of attract aircraft ever assembled, they set out to do what they didn’t accomplish in world war one, to crush France and humble Britain.
Allied forces quickly crumbled under the onslaught. In less than three weeks, Adolf Hitler achieved the most extraordinary military triumph of modern times. Not only was the French army on the verge of collapse but the British expeditionary force who were sent across the English channel to help stop the Germans, was trapped across the sea at Dunkirk on the north-west coast of France.
It was grimly accepted that virtually all of the army’s heavy equipment, which had accompanied the BEF to France, was lost.
But plans were hastily patched together to try to save some of the troops. Ships and boats were assembled to shuttle across the English Channel to bring as many as possible back to England from Dunkirk. There was a radio broadcasting; “Britain needs some help. We need our men back. Do your honor and give us your fishing boats.” German forces were just a few miles away from Dunkirk and not even the most optimistic of British leaders believed the evacuation could be successful.
As an anti-Nazi organization was scathing:
“The old British lion look sore eyed. He can’t even roar”
But the troops never gave up. One General quoted
“He talked afterwards about the soldiers who had been ordered to abandon their rifles. He watched them drowning under the weight of their heavy weapons and said he shouted at them not to let go of them. Sadly many didn’t listen”
Operation Dynamo was the code name given to the allied armies from Dunkirk and neighboring beaches between 26th May and 4th June 1940- the celebrated Miracle of Dunkirk. During that short period some 338,000 troops reached safety in England after being evacuated mainly in Royal and Merchant Navy ships. Aided by allied ships and a mixed fleet of little ships, from Dunkirk and from beaches stretching 10 miles eastwards from the entrance to Dunkirk harbor.
Most of those saved subsequently took part in operation in various parts of the world and helped liberate Europe in 1944 and 1945. The New York Times of 1st June 1940 wrote, “so long as the English tongue survives the word Dunkirk will be spoken in reverence.” And the phrase Dunkirk spirit has become synonymous with refusing to give up in the time of crisis. The evacuation of British troops from France in 1940 did not end with Dunkirk. British forces were still being rescued two weeks later when Britain’s worst maritime disaster of World War II took place. On 17th June 1940 British troopship lancastria was sunk of the Brittany of port of Saint- Nazaire, more than 3000 people lost their lives.
Source A is a written source, a naval officer, Commander Thomas Kerr who was sent across the English Channel to organize the evacuation of British troops, wrote it. I presume the source was very close to May/June 1940. But there is very little detail in the source, which therefor does not make the as useful as it could have been. Thomas Kerr see himself as superior to the troops when the evacuation was a team and nations effort and when he says ” The sight of our naval uniform was resorted some order to the rabble” Maybe the troops were in a poor state, but surely one man would not of made a miraculous effect on the BEF. This statement also shows the superior view the branches of the armed forces hold about themselves.
After all these soldiers must be low on morale after retreating so much and losing many friends and fighters. I think the commander wrote this source as a way of trying to improve the soldiers both mentally and extremely lucky. This was a wake up call. A warning to the nation. I think source was written for Generals and the Prime Minister. This source would only scare the people of Britain. This is a primary source however so some weight must be given off it.
Source B is a written source maybe to a newspaper or a diary account. It is very detailed which makes me come to this assumption. A seaman manning on of these boats from the HMS Dundalk produces it. His name is Bill Elmslie. If it were a diary entry, I would think it was written at the time. This is a primary source and was taken from a boat manning the rescues from the beaches of Dunkirk. This account was describing in detail what was going on. It is quite detailed. “The machine guns cutting through those columns of soldiers like a reaper slicing through corn.
This is an eyewitness account of how the Germans seemed in control. This was also made public to show Britain’s that they are in war and the dive-bombers might actually hit next time so this time it was a lucky escape. The quote I have mentioned is quite scary and shown total domination from the axis forces. I think this was written for the people back home or as a memoir for a diary. If this account is true, it shows Dunkirk as a success as the Germans seem to be out of control seem to be in control. To escape would be a miraculous achievement.
Source C is either a speech or another written source. A Cornish seaman on duty trying to help evacuating the troops from the beaches produces it. This is an eyewitness account and a primary source. This source was publicized to give the nation hope and inspiration. The seaman comments on a RASC sergeant who drove away German fighter planes single-handed with a gun. Many people at home would listen to this report and be inspired of this man. I believe this was written for everyone back in Britain.
For the sources to be more useful, I would have like on of them to e from one of the foot soldiers or bystanders on the beach so we can have a fighter’s view of what was happening. In terms of the mood and the atmosphere at Dunkirk. I think a picture source would be useful to go along with the sources. We can then see the mood, atmosphere and the general attitude of the soldiers on the beach. Also a source from the opinions of the British Expeditionary force would be very useful. I could then compare the views of the soldier that commander Thomas Kerr in source A.
German sources would have been shown the other view to the battle showing what they were doing to actually overcome and prevent the mass evacuation. Statistical and factual evidence would be useful in providing the reader with background information to the event and allowing them to look at them to make their own minds up as the Battle of Dunkirk was actually like.
I think the sources are quite useful overall. Although they, might include traces of government propaganda- they give a clear and honest view of the evacuation process. I believe there is propaganda included as a way of the British Expeditionary Force gaining support in means of more men signing up to fight for their country. The Indications given out from the commanders and the general is that the force was a Shambles. If people back home were to read these statements, they would feel inspired to do their bit and sign up as a soldier
Was Dunkirk a great deliverance or a great Disaster?
Is there sufficient evidence in the sources to support this view?
Nobody can deny that the British army did a remarkable job to retreat from Dunkirk. Although the British seized on indecision from the German troops to finish them off, they remained calm and remained to fight although many of them knew they would be caught or killed. These actions make the escape from Dunkirk a great deliverance. But as I can see from the picture sources, Dunkirk was a great disaster in the way that so many men lost their lives and the heavy artillery of the BET was lost too. The machines of war would need to be replaced. One question I will need to analyze is whether there were bad war tactics from the British commanders to send their men in so hastily or was the retreating to Dunkirk the forces of German domination? I will evaluate the sources and come up with a suitable conclusion to the interpretation.
Source D is a contempery painting of the British forces being rescued by boats from the beaches of Dunkirk. Charles Cundall, a renowned British artist, produced it. We have no way of knowing from the information provided and that I have researched whether Cundall himself was present, however the painting does seem the recreate the atmosphere of war effectively. Whiting the painting we can see the troops waiting on the beaches, the large number of vessels waiting to be done by the battle. If we relate our findings back to the question we can see that deliverance could come from the fact that the boats pictured waiting to take the troops to safety whereas from the disaster point of view the enemy fire, the smoke form the damage caused and the lack of heavy artillery present would add weight to the view that it was indeed a disaster.
Source E is a photograph of the troops on the beaches at Dunkirk. We are not informed of who produced the photograph but it seems to e taken by an eyewitness at the time. The photo lead me to believe that the evacuation was deliverance with no real disaster being inflicted apart from the loss of heavy artillery, as all the soldiers seem to be armed with just a rifle, all of the troops seem to be alive with no great loss of life and there is calmness among the lines of soldiers waiting for a small vessel led them to safety. The force seems relaxed and there appears to be no great threat from enemy planes. How far we can believe this photograph is questionable, as all the other sources seem to mention that the troops on the beach were under attack form enemy fire.
Source F is a photograph from the beach at Dunkirk showing brave British troops firing on German fighter planes. The photograph seems to be taken in the middle of a battle. The source shows deliverance in the view of an English person as it shows the British forces refusing to give up, showing will and desire to continue and that the determination has no died. The disaster in contrast to the deliverance is that there a few bodies lying on the ground and a shortage of men. Also there is an insufficient lack of heavy artillery which suggests a depleted and near defeated army.
Source G is a speech by Antony Eden. The minister for war in June 1940. He is trying to tell the British public that although the army is in a crisis in arms wise, they have got more important assets. This is an assuring speech. The deliverance is that the young boy who went to war has now grown into seasoned veterans. The main triumph is that the army has the weapon of refusing to accept defeat. This is the key to victory. The disasters are obviously the loss of men and equipment whether it is heavy artillery or ammunition.
Source H is an n extract from the daily Express back in England. This was written on the 31st May 1940 the article, if accurate could give us a good visual view of what the events were like on the beaches of Dunkirk. The article is very descriptive. And quite scary if we can think what it may be like. But the army again refuses to give up. At the end of the day “The army still has a grin on their oily, bearded faces”
The deliverance is that the army has been through a lot of emotional experiences. They have been cruelly betrayed but never defeated or dispirited, which is one of the biggest weapons of winning the war. They are still fighting with honor and dignity, all in formation, still with their rifles. This is a reassurance to all the British back in their homes.
The disaster is that they have lost an awful lot. They have been betrayed and they have been through a lot of emotional torment seeing their friends and allies fall victim to enemy gunfire. They have achieved a lot getting back to British shores, but the axis are still winning the war. This hungry army still has the desire to win the war, but they have suffered a major blow with the loss of heavy artillery, essential to winning the war.
Source I is A.J.P Taylor, a British historians view of the Dunkirk operation published in the book “English History” in 1965. The deliverance according to this article is that the army were overwhelmed and boosted by the help of people back home. The sight of 86- ships of all description aided and encouraged the troops to continue and the knowledge the whole world was watching this great escape gave the BEF the strength to pull through. As we know, the main deliverance is the evacuation process, saving almost the entire force.
Also, threat the British people fall felt obliged to fishing trawlers showed the togetherness and unity among the public. The disaster according to the passage is virtually all the guns were lost: tanks and other heavy equipment were either destroyed or left behind by the BEF as there was no method of bringing them hone. Many men abandoned their rifles, which was a disheartening sight to other troops. The air force was reduced considerably, with 474 planes lost very few planes has gained ground on allies advantages.
Altogether I think Dunkirk was a distinct deliverance of the British expeditionary force. There was a considerable loss of heavy artillery but to get 338,226 men back to British soil was a heavy psychological achievement that all these men were saved. Also the unity within Britain was a considerable factor, for the soldiers remaining on the beaches of Dunkirk, to see the sight of 850 boats manning an evacuation must have been a timely boost and a huge disaster to the axis powers