Skip to content

Operation Dynamo

Trapped between advancing German troops and the sea, the BEF was in a perilous position. The Royal Navy began the evacuation of Dunkirk - codenamed Operation Dynamo - late on 26 May. So great was the task that a makeshift fleet of civilian ships was sent to assist: trawlers, passenger ferries, yachts, pleasure steamers and hundreds of other private craft.

While soldiers fought tenaciously to hold back advancing German troops, the RAF battled to protect the vulnerable ships, and the soldiers waiting at the harbour and on the beaches, from attacks by the Luftwaffe. Fighting continued until the last moments, with French troops remaining behind to safeguard the last to leave.

By the time Dunkirk fell on 4 June, over 338,000 men had been rescued, including 140,000 Allied soldiers. Many British and Allied forces fought on in France, and troops continued to be evacuated from the western coast until the day of the French surrender on 25 June.