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Retreat: Dunkirk and the Evacuation of Western Europe

Henry Buckton


On May 26, 1940, Winston Churchill gave the order for Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British troops from the harbor and beaches of Dunkirk. German forces had trapped he BEF (British Expeditionary Force), French forces, and the remnants of the Belgian army. BEF commander Lord Gort immediately began to plan for his forces to withdraw towards Dunkirk. Between May 27 and June 4, ships from the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as the famous Little Ships, evacuated almost 340,000 Allied troops and brought them back to Britain. In Operation Cycle, 11,000 Allied troops were evacuated from the port of Le Havre between June 10-13. In Operation Ariel, another 190,000 troops and between 30,000 and 40,000 civilians would be evacuated  from ports along France’s western coast. This book examines the Dunkirk evacuation, the rapid German advance that led up to it, and the evacuations that came after.