Honour - Dunkirk 1940
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.
Nine destroyers were lost and many other ships suffered varying degrees of damage.
|Bideford||Blackburn Rovers||Boy Roy||Brighton Belle||Brighton Queen|
|Brock||Calcutta||Calvi||Cape Argona||Cayton Wyke|
|Devonia||Duchess of Fife||Dundalk||Eileen Emma||Emperor of India|
|Fyldea||Forecast||Gallant||Gervais Rentoul||Girl Gladys|
|Girl Pamela||Glen Avon||Glen Gower||Golden Eagle||Golden Gift|
|Golden Sunbeam||Gossamer||Gracie Fields||Grafton||Grenade|
|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|
|Polly Johnson||Princess Elizabeth||Queen of Thanet||Ross||Royal Eagle|
|Spurs||Stella Dorado||Sutton||The Boys||Thomas Bartlett|
|Thuringia||Torbay II||Ut Prosim||Vanquisher||Venomous|
|Westella||Westward Ho||Whitehall||Whitshed||Wild Swan|
|Worcester||Yorkshire Lass||Young Mum|
|Merchant Ships *|
|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|
|Hospital Ships **|
|Dinard||Isle of Guernsey||Isle of Thanet||Paris||St. Andrew|
|* 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.