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Second World War History > Rescue at Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) Timeline

Rescue at Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) Timeline

Facing annihilation of historical proportions, tens of thousands of British and French soldiers are evacuated from Dunkirk to the UK.

Authored By Staff Writer

By this time, the heroic effort on the part of the Allies to defend against the tide of encroaching German armor was all but over. Poland and Holland had already fallen with Belgium soon to join them. French and British forces began congregating at the French port city of Dunkirk. Sensing total annihilation of his forces, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered up a flotilla of civilian ships to help shuttle troops to awaiting transports.


The Belgium defense had now fallen, though German resources were partially tied to this effort. The additional time allowed more Allied forces to make it to Dunkirk and safety. In the end, over 338,000 Allied troops were rescued from certain death or imprisonment in what became known as the "Miracle at Dunkirk". Despite this effort, a generation of British and French children would grow up without fathers.


A final French Army stand at Dunkirk would net 40,000 French soldiers as Prisoners of War for the Germans - who would eventually take the city under their control.

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Total Rescue at Dunkirk Events: 19

1940
Monday
May 20th

Sensing a catastrophic loss in the making, Winston Churchill orders preparation of vessels to evacuate the British Expeditionary Forces from northern France.

1940
Monday
May 20th

Compounding battlefield losses across France and the Low Countries force a change at the helm - General Maxime Weygand replaces General Maurice-Gustave Gamelin as supreme Allied commander.

1940
Friday
May 24th

In a stunning move, Hitler orders his forces not to cross the Lens-Bethune-St Omer-Gravelines line, allowing the retreating Allied forces more time to reach the French coast.

1940
Friday
May 24th

German Luftwaffe bombers hammer Allied defensive positions in and around the French port city of Dunkirk.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

German Luftwaffe bombers cease bombardment of Dunkirk.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

Operation Dynamo - the evacuation of Allied forces at Dunkirk - officially ends. 338,326 total soldiers are saved including 113,000 French troops.

1940
Saturday
May 25th

The German Army takes Boulogne.

1940
Saturday
May 25th

More and more retreating Allied units arrive at the French port city of Dunkirk.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Hitler orders his army forces towards Dunkirk for the final blow to the Allied cause.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Operation Dynamo - the all-out evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk - officially begins at 6:57 PM.

1940
Sunday
May 26th

Over 850 British civilian vessels take part in assisting military forces off of French soil to awaiting transports in what would become the largest military evacuation in history.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

With the fight gone out of them, the Belgian Army surrenders to the German 6th and 18th armies. Their actions, however, supply the evacuating Allies with much-needed time.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

Belgium falls to Germany in just 18 days.

1940
Tuesday
May 28th

By the end of this day, some 25,473 British soldiers have been evacuated from France.

1940
Wednesday
May 29th

Another 47,000 British troops are evacuated from Dunkirk.

1940
Thursday
May 30th

6,000 French soldiers join some 120,000 total Allied soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk on this day.

1940
Friday
May 31st

Over 150,000 Allied soldiers (including some 15,000 French) arrive in Britain.

1940
Saturday
June 1st

Defense of the outlying region near Dunkirk now passes to French XVI Corps.

1940
Tuesday
June 4th

Some 40,000 French soldiers are taken prisoner by Germany at the fall of Dunkirk.
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