Photos showing aftermath of battle, with abandoned materiel. German photos.
The Battle of Dunkirk was an important battle that took place in Dunkirk, France, during the Second World War between the Allies and Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and allied forces in Europe from 26 May–4 June 1940.
The War Office made the decision to evacuate British forces on 25 May. In the nine days from 27 May–4 June, 338,226 men escaped, including 139,997 French, Polish, and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch soldiers, aboard 861 vessels (of which 243 were sunk during the operation). Liddell Hart says British Fighter Command lost 106 aircraft dogfighting over Dunkirk, and the Luftwaffe lost about 135 – some of which were shot down by the French Navy and the Royal Navy; but MacDonald says the British lost 177 aircraft and the Germans lost 240. The docks at Dunkirk were too badly damaged to be used, but the East and West Moles (sea walls protecting the harbour entrance) were intact. Captain William Tennant—in charge of the evacuation—decided to use the beaches and the East Mole to land the ships. This highly successful idea hugely increased the number of troops that could be embarked each day, and indeed at the rescue operation's peak, on 31 May, over 68,000 men were taken off. The last of the British Army left on 3 June, and at 10:50, Tennant signalled Ramsay to say "Operation completed. Returning to Dover." However, Churchill insisted on coming back for the French, so the Royal Navy returned on 4 June in an attempt to rescue as many as possible of the French rearguard. Over 26,000 French soldiers were evacuated on that last day, but between 30,000 and 40,000 more were left behind and forced to surrender to the Germans.