Dunkirk; Operation Dynamo
“The miracle of Dunkirk” has become one of the most enduring images of World War 2. The “miracle” was achieved through both improvisation and outstanding organisation, but it was also reliant on the bravery of sailors, airmen and soldiers, many of whom held back German forces in order to allow the evacuation to take place. Your tour will tell the story of the evacuation and visit sites where many of the dramatic events and acts of heroism occurred. You will see the beaches, but you will also be able to visit sites inland where rearguard troops gallantly fought to give the time for the evacuation to take place.
These are just some examples of sites which can be included in a Dunkirk tour; however, there are many more:
This is probably the most atmospheric of the evacuation beaches today and the one least changed. Soldiers sheltered in the sand dunes, which are still a feature of the area, and many of the iconic photographs of lines of waiting soldiers were taken here. The remains of two ships disabled and beached during the evacuation are still clearly visible on the beach, one of which is now a memorial to the 300 men who died on board, when it was struck by a bomb.
The Dunkirk Memorial and Town Cemetery
This is the main site of British commemoration. The memorial commemorates more than 4,500 service personnel who died in The Battle for France in 1939 and 1940 and who have no known grave. There are also 800 graves of British soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in the war, together with graves of Polish, Czech and Norwegian allies. Visiting the memorial is a moving experience, made even more powerful by the striking etched glass panel depicting the beaches.
The great majority of the 200,000 British and 140,000 French troops evacuated from Dunkirk embarked on ships from the east Mole of Dunkirk Harbour. Although the original timber and concrete mole was later destroyed in a storm, the site is still highly atmospheric. Next to the Mole is Malo les Bains Beach, where men waited patiently for their turn to embark. Malo les Bains is also the site of the Allied Dunkirk Memorial.
The town was one of the strong points which defended the corridor along which troops passed in their retreat to Dunkirk. The town is in a dominating position above the surrounding countryside and, although it was heavily bombed, it is much as it was in 1940. A mixed British force stubbornly defended the town for four days against repeated attack. There is still clear evidence of the fighting, including a battle scarred concrete blockhouse where a platoon of the Gloucestersire Regiment held out for four days.
Wormhout and Esquelbecq
Perhaps the most emotional site on any Dunkirk tour, is that at Esquelbecq where SS troops massacred nearly 100 men following the capture of Wormhout. Although the original barn in which the men were kept no longer exists, there is a reconstructed barn and the memorial site itself is little changed. A number of the men who died are buried nearby, including two who sacrificed themselves in an effort to save their comrades.