4

Dunkirk

 

The film is getting magnificent reviews and I will be seeing it on the last Friday of the month with a full review to follow.  Operation Dynamo, the transport of British and French troops from surrounded Dunkirk, was a military miracle, aided by Hitler’s agreement with his generals for a temporary pause in operations, for rest and reorganization, from May 24-May 26 of the German Fourth Army around Dunkirk.  Initially it was thought that only some 45,000 men could be rescued, but instead 338,000 men were saved to fight many other days.  But for Dunkirk, the British would have had few trained troops to confront a Nazi invasion, if Hitler had attempted to roll the iron dice of war and risk Operation Sea Lion.

Today we recall the civilian craft of all types that voluntarily came out to rescue the British soldiers.  It was a demonstration that although the British military had suffered a stunning loss in France, along with their French allies, the spirit of the British people was far from broken.  Churchill summed up the Dunkirk Miracle well:

When, a week ago today, I asked the house to fix this afternoon as the occasion for a statement, I feared it would be my hard lot to announce the greatest military disaster in our long history. I thought – and some good judges agreed with me – that perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 men might be re-embarked. But it certainly seemed that the whole of the French First Army and the whole of the British Expeditionary Force north of the Amiens-Abbeville gap would be broken up in the open field or else would have to capitulate for lack of food and ammunition. These were the hard and heavy tidings for which I called upon the house and the nation to prepare themselves a week ago. The whole root and core and brain of the British Army, on which and around which we were to build, and are to build, the great British armies in the later years of the war, seemed about to perish upon the field or to be led into an ignominious and starving captivity.

After having described the Dunkirk evacuation Churchill said this and here he donned the mantle of a prophet: Continue Reading

6

Dunkirk

 

A new movie coming about Dunkirk next summer.  If the British army had been destroyed at Dunkirk in 1940, which might very well have happened, rather than sucessfully evacuated to fight again another day, Hitler’s long shot Operation Sea Lion invasion of Britain might have succeeded, and the world today might be a truly nightmarish place.  It brought to mind this poem I read as a school boy:

 

Dunkirk (A Ballad)

Will came back from school that day,
And he had little to say.
But he stood a long time looking down
To where the grey-green Channel water
Slapped at the foot of the little town,
And to where his boat, the Sarah P,
Bobbed at the tide on an even keel,
With her one old sail, patched at the leech,
Furled like a slattern, down at heel.

He stood for a while above the beach,
He saw how the wind and current caught her;
He looked a long time out to sea.
There was steady wind, and the sky was pale,
And a haze in the east that looked like smoke.

Will went back to the house to dress,
He was halfway through, when his sister Bess
Who was near fourteen, and younger than he
By just two years, came home from play.
She asked him ‘Where are you going Will?’
He said ‘For a good long sail.’
‘Can I come along?’
‘No, Bess,’ he spoke.
‘I may be gone for a night and a day.’
Bess looked at him. She kept very still.
She had heard the news of the Flanders rout,
How the English were trapped above Dunkirk,
And the fleet had gone to get them out –
But everyone thought that it wouldn’t work.
There was too much fear, there was too much doubt.

She looked at him, and he looked at her.
They were English children, born and bred.
He frowned her down, but she wouldn’t stir.
She shook her proud young head.
‘You’ll need a crew,’ she said. Continue Reading