Dunkirk retreat, miracle or shame

Regarding the major retreat of the British expeditionary force from Dunkirk, the views of the parties involved differed.

For the Germans who achieved amazing victories, this seemed irrelevant. After all, they dealt the heaviest blow to a well-matched opponent in the history of war. For the French, this is both a shame and a betrayal. The British retreated and did not fight alongside their allies. As far as Americans are concerned, this is a symbol of fearlessness, tantamount to victory against the Nazi invaders. As far as the British are concerned, this is an opportunity to survive from a desperate situation and turn danger into peace. It is a miracle that the fire of hope is about to extinguish but is rekindled.

So, the Dunkirk retreat was Britain’s betrayal of France? Is it a shameful escape? Or is it an epic heroic feat?

Withdrawal decision
Looking back at history, it was obvious that Britain at that time needed to get as many troops out of the death trap of Dunkirk as possible. The subsequent fall of France by lightning clearly showed that the continued stay in France would only lead to catastrophe.

Major General Julian Thompson (former Royal Marine and author of “Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory”) has no doubt that this is the only possible decision. He also believes that the French feel that the British have put them in a desperate situation. The view is wrong. “This is the only option,” he explained. “The British had to go because France has collapsed.”

Nevertheless, under the enchantment of Germany, the resentment of the French continued for a long time. Britain has nothing to be ashamed of. After all, hundreds of thousands of French soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk by British ships. As for the infamous “stop forward order”, Thompson believes that the Germans have good reasons to stop their armored forces, although in hindsight this seems to be a mistake.

Thompson admitted: Although the “stop forward order” allowed the British Expeditionary Force to escape, it was also meaningful to the German army at the time. The armored forces simply cannot be used in the Dunkirk area. The Germans had every reason to believe that the British Expeditionary Force could have been left to the Infantry Group B army group to deal with. The lingering memory of 1914 and the outcome that could have failed to defeat the French army also played a role in this decision. Thompson pointed out: Another factor is the French army south of the Somme. The Germans cannot forget the nearly successful 1914 plan and how the French made a comeback in the Marne region. They don’t want to repeat the same mistakes.

Perhaps, if you think about it calmly, you will realize that France is ready to fail, and at the same time, letting Britain withdraw from the war should be the top priority. In any case, the order to stop moving forward did not address this issue, it just gave Britain more time.

To attribute the retreat to a “miracle” can be said to underestimate the performance of the relevant personnel. Thompson believes that the final evacuation of many personnel is due to the strength and capabilities of the Royal Navy and the contribution of the Royal Air Force. In the Great Retreat, the only “magic” element was the calm weather.

The boat fleet and the failure of the Luftwaffe
It is generally believed that the evacuation is nothing more than ordinary civilians sailing across the English Channel, picking up some soldiers, and then returning to the UK. Although this statement is not entirely accurate (most of these private ships were controlled by Royal Navy personnel during the evacuation), the “small fleet” did play a role, and its publicity value is immeasurable.

In addition to the methods and techniques of the big retreat, the perseverance of waiting for the evacuation troops is also very admirable. Only at the last moment when the last group of troops responsible for the palace was withdrawn, did military discipline show signs of disintegration. This situation is not their shame, because these people who are in desperate need of evacuation know that they are racing against the enemy. In this final madness, thousands of people ran out of the refuge one after another, and they inevitably became obstacles to each other.

Before that, people had been decisively and patiently waiting, waiting for their turn to evacuate, and sometimes they could return to the sand dunes peacefully to escape even when they were unable to board the boat.

The success of this retreat has a lot to do with the poor performance of the Luftwaffe. Not only was Germany doomed to a humiliating defeat in the Battle of Britain, but as the war progressed, more defeats followed. Thompson believes: “The Battle of Stalingrad may be regarded as a typical case. At that time, Goering boasted about guaranteeing the supplies of the German Sixth Army under the command of von Paulus, but the result was a disastrous defeat.”

The Luftwaffe’s failure to prevent the evacuation was not due to lack of initiative in operations. They caused serious losses to the British and French fleets and the Royal Air Force. Many soldiers waiting to be evacuated felt that the Royal Air Force left them on the beach to their fate. Churchill took pains to clarify this misunderstanding.

On June 4, 1940, Churchill said in the House of Commons: “Many of our returning soldiers did not see the Royal Air Force fighters participating in the war. They only saw bombers without fighter protection. In fact, they underestimated the Royal Air Force’s record.” Thompson agreed. Churchill’s evaluation. He said: “Under this situation, the Royal Air Force has done everything possible to prevent more fighters from participating in the war. The decision is correct.”

Sending more fighter jets over Dunkirk Beach will undoubtedly provide more protection for evacuees and ships. However, in later battles, when Germany burned the war to Britain, and the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy fought back, every aircraft was indispensable.

Fall of France
In view of the fact that it is not easy to withdraw the first batch of British expeditionary forces from France safely, it is a bit weird to try to reinforce France after the Dunkirk retreat. Churchill asked Sir Alan Brooke to continue to fight alongside the French, which is obviously a high risk, but it is only to show the determination and will to firmly support France. The fact that the second group of British expeditionary troops to France had to withdraw soon proved this point.

There is no point in sending more troops to France. Thompson explained: “As Brooke saw, the French are’doomed. The second British expeditionary force will fall into the abyss with the French. In fact, when the second British expeditionary force arrives in Cherbourg, the French are Negotiations for surrender with Germany.”

Therefore, regardless of the analysis of the Dunkirk retreat, the most important thing is to realize that Lord Gott (commanded by the first British Expeditionary Force) and Brook (commanded by the second British Expeditionary Force) under tremendous pressure ), have made brave decisions.

Any delays and delays may be fatal and will bring devastation to the British Expeditionary Force. If the British Expeditionary Force were captured, Britain would not be able to continue fighting, and could only reach some kind of reconciliation with Hitler. Under this circumstance, the German aggression scheme may still be crushed by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, but if there is no professional army, Britain will appear very fragile, which will seriously damage the fighting spirit of the British. “Since there is no advantage at sea or in the air,” Thompson said, “I don’t think Hitler has to aggressively launch aggression. Instead, he would welcome a settlement with Britain.”