Honour - Dunkirk 1940

Date - 28 May / 04 June
Conflict - World War 2; 1939-45
Type - Combined Operations

Description Following the start of World War 2, a period of so called 'phoney war' lasted when the land forces of Britain/France and Germany did not engage in large scale offensive action on north-west continental Europe.

After Germany's successful invasion of Denmark and Norway, a "blitzkrieg" was launched by German forces.

As the German forces rapidly advanced, contingency planning to withdraw the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was begun 17-May. The possibility of troops withdrawing through channel ports or re-supplying them through the same ports, if communications to the south were cut, was also recognised and operational control for this passed to Vice-Admiral Ramsey at Dover.

The BEF together with large French and Belgian forces were cut off to the south when on 20-May the first German armoured units reached the Channel at Abbeville. Over the following days the German corridor was widened and strengthened and allied attempts to break through failed.

By 21-May, 10 suitable passenger ships were identified as readily available. More were to follow as necessary.

The decision was taken to begin evacuating civilians, wounded and some support troops, initially through Calais and Boulogne.

Between 20/26-May 27,936 troops had been landed at Southampton, Newhaven, Folkestone and Dover.

At 1857 hrs 26-May "Operation Dynamo" was ordered in the hope that 45,000 British troops could be evacuated from Dunkirk, using the passenger and hospital carriers already assembled. Next day all available naval vessels including 1 cruiser, destroyers and smaller craft were ordered to evacuate troops across the beaches east of Dunkirk, with small craft ferrying troops to larger craft offshore. This was a slow operation.

As the pocket was reduced in size, numerous commandeered personnel carriers comprising cross-channel steam packets, channel ferries and paddle steamers made one or more trips to Dunkirk to load and return troops. They were limited by the fact they were slow, could not be risked in daylight hours, loading capacity at Dunkirk was steadily reduced by the increasing wrecks in the harbour and damage to harbour infrastructure.

Therefore the majority of vessels making multiple evacuation trips were destroyers, which because of their high speed, risked loading and leaving Dunkirk as late as possible each morning. Heavy early destroyer losses and damage meant later classes of destroyers were removed from the combat area to avoid compromising later Fleet actions and other war work. Only destroyers of older classes continued with the evacuation.

By 31-May, 64,000 troops had been evacuated, with 80,000 remaining. Then as a result of a the French reaction to the evacuation, the political decision was taken to evacuate French troops in equal numbers to British troops. This added 100,000 French troops to the number looking to be evacuated.

When "Operation Dynamo" ended, about 309,000 had been evacuated between 27-May and 05-June.

Of this number, 111,365 were returned by the following Royal Navy ship types.

Cruiser                       -      1,856
Destroyers                 -   84,478
Corvettes                   -         888
Fleet Minesweepers -   24,143
Total                              111,365

Nine destroyers were lost and many other ships suffered varying degrees of damage.


HM Ships
Albury  Anthony   Argyllshire Arley  Basilisk 
Bideford  Blackburn Rovers  Boy Roy  Brighton Belle Brighton Queen 
Brock  Calcutta   Calvi  Cape Argona  Cayton Wyke 
Chico  Codrington  Comfort  Conidaw  Crested Eagle 
Devonia  Duchess of Fife  Dundalk  Eileen Emma  Emperor of India 
Esk  Express  Fidget  Fisher Boy  Fitzroy 
Fyldea  Forecast  Gallant  Gervais Rentoul  Girl Gladys 
Girl Pamela  Glen Avon  Glen Gower  Golden Eagle  Golden Gift 
Golden Sunbeam  Gossamer  Gracie Fields  Grafton  Grenade 
Greyhound  Grimsby Town  Guillemot  Gulzar  Halcyon 
Harvester  Havant  Hebe  Icarus  Impulsive 
Intrepid  Inverforth  Ivanhoe  Jacketa  Jaguar 
Javelin  John Cattling  Keith  Kellett  King Orry 
Kingfisher  Kingston Alalite  Kingston Andalusite  Kingston Olivine  Lady Philomena 
Leda  Llanthony  Locust  Lord Cavan  Lord Howard 
Lord Howe  Lord Inchcape  Lydd  Mackay  Malcolm 
Marmion  Medway Queen  Midas  Mona's Isle  Montrose 
Mosquito  Nautilus  Netsukis  Niger  Olvina 
Oriole  Our Bairns  Pangbourne  Paxton  Plinlimmon 
Polly Johnson  Princess Elizabeth  Queen of Thanet  Ross  Royal Eagle 
Sabre  Saladin  Salamander  Saltash  Sandown 
Saon  Sargasso  Scimitar  Sharpshooter  Shikari 
Shipmates  Silver Dawn  Skipjack  Snaefell  Speedwell 
Spurs  Stella Dorado  Sutton  The Boys  Thomas Bartlett 
Thuringia  Torbay II  Ut Prosim  Vanquisher  Venomous 
Verity  Vimy  Vivacious  Wakeful  Waverley 
Westella  Westward Ho  Whitehall  Whitshed  Wild Swan 
Winchelsea  Windsor  Wolfhound  Wolsey   Wolves
Worcester  Yorkshire Lass  Young Mum     
FAA Squadrons
801 806 825 826  
Minor Vessels
16  67  68  102  107 
Merchant Ships *
Amulree  Archangel  Autocarrier  Ben-my-Chree  Biarritz 
Canterbury  Fenella  Grive  Killarney  King George V 
Lady of Mann  Loch Garry  Lorina  Maid of Orleans  Malines 
Manxman  Mona's Queen  Normania  Prague  Princess Maud 
Queen of the Channel  Royal Daffodil  Royal Sovereign  St. Hellier  St. Seiriol 
Scotia   Tynwald      
Hospital Ships **
Dinard  Isle of Guernsey  Isle of Thanet  Paris  St. Andrew 
St. Julien  Worthing       
* Personnel and Merchant ships sailed under the Red Ensign not entitled to Battle Honours for HM Ships
** Hospital Ships sailed under the Red Ensign not entitled to Battle Honours for HM Ships
This page last edited - 22 April, 2013.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.