The end of Operation Dynamo

Operation Dynamo, also known as the Dunkirk evacuation, was a remarkable military operation that took place from the 26th of May 1940 to the 4th of June 1940. It was conducted by the British and French forces in an attempt to rescue their troops trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, by the advancing German army.

It was an enormous evacuation effort that involved the coordinated efforts of various British and French naval, air, and ground forces. It is estimated that around 700 vessels of all types, including small fishing boats, yachts, and pleasure cruisers, participated in the operation, along with 1,000 civilian vessels. The vessels, escorted by the British Navy, transported troops from the beaches of Dunkirk to the safety of England.

The operation was an outstanding success, with over 338,000 troops rescued. Of these, around 215,000 were British, 123,000 were French, and the rest were Belgian and Dutch. However, the evacuation was not without its losses. Around 3,500 British and French soldiers were killed, and approximately 90,000 pieces of military equipment, including tanks, guns, and vehicles, were left behind.

Dunkirk had been heavily bombed and shelled by the Germans in the days leading up to the evacuation. The town was left in ruins, with much of its infrastructure destroyed. The port facilities, which were crucial for the evacuation effort, were severely damaged, making it difficult for the larger ships to dock.

The town of Dunkirk

The town of Dunkirk suffered extensive damage during Operation Dynamo. The town was subjected to heavy bombing and shelling by German forces, causing significant damage to buildings, houses, docks, roads, and landmarks.

Many of the buildings and houses in Dunkirk were damaged or destroyed during the evacuation. The town centre, which contained many historic buildings, was particularly badly hit. The town hall, which dated back to the 16th century, was severely damaged, as were several other historic buildings in the area. The post office, a large building on the Place Jean Bart, was also hit by German bombs.

Residential areas were not spared either, with many houses and apartments suffering damage from shelling and bombing. The densely populated suburb of Malo-les-Bains was heavily bombed, causing extensive damage to the buildings and leaving many residents homeless.

The port facilities at Dunkirk were crucial for the evacuation effort, but they were also heavily targeted by the Germans. The docks were hit by numerous bombs and shells, causing significant damage to the infrastructure. The quayside was destroyed, and the railway tracks were damaged, making it difficult to transport troops and supplies.

However, despite the damage, the British Navy and civilian vessels were able to use the port facilities to evacuate thousands of soldiers from the beaches. The Royal Engineers also constructed a makeshift harbour, which allowed larger ships to dock and load troops and equipment.

The roads in and around Dunkirk suffered significant damage during Operation Dynamo. Many of the roads leading to the beaches were heavily bombed and shelled, making it difficult for troops and vehicles to move around. The roads in the town centre were also damaged, making it challenging for rescue workers and supplies to reach those in need.

Dunkirk was home to several landmarks that suffered damage during the evacuation. The Saint Eloi Church, which was built in the 14th century, was heavily damaged by German shells. The town's main cinema, the Palace, was also hit by bombs, causing significant damage.

The beachfront area of Dunkirk, which was a popular tourist destination before the war, suffered extensive damage during the evacuation. The promenade and the beach huts were destroyed, and the casino was severely damaged.


Despite the success of the evacuation, there were still thousands of British and French soldiers, with a smaller number of Belgians, left behind in Dunkirk. These soldiers were taken prisoner by the Germans and held in POW camps throughout the remainder of the war.

Around 40,000 British soldiers were taken prisoner during the battle for France, including those left behind at Dunkirk. The majority of these prisoners were held in Germany and were subjected to harsh conditions, including forced labour and sometimes harsh treatment by their captors.


Operation Dynamo was a significant morale boost for the British people. The evacuation demonstrated the resilience and determination of the British troops, and the success of the operation would later be seen as one of the turning points in the war. For the first time, the Germans had failed to crush their enemy and now the English Channel seperated the British from Occupied Europe and Hitler's forces,

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister at the time, gave a famous speech in the House of Commons on 4 June 1940, following the evacuation. In his speech, he praised the bravery and determination of the troops and declared that "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."