Saturday, May 27, 2006
"A miracle of deliverance"
I have always enjoyed May. It contains my birthday, is right-bang in the middle of spring, has two (yes, count them) bank holidays and holds the promise of a long court-free summer. I also like May because every year it comes around I try to read something new about what was happening in 1940. This has ranged from "Their Finest Hour to "Never Surrender"(finished last week). This is not a post about the relative literary talents of Winston S. Churchill and Michael Dobbs but to simply point out to readers that to-day, 27th May, is the 66th anniversary of the start of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expedition Force from Dunkirk.
In "Their Finest Hour" Churchill wrote:
"Ever since May 20, the gathering of shipping and small craft had been proceeding under the control of Admiral Ramsay, who commanded at Dover. After the loss of Boulogne and Calais only the remains of the port of Dunkirk and the open beaches next to the Belgian Frontier were in our hands. On the evening of the 26th an Admiralty signal put Operation Dynamo into play, and the first troops were brought home that night.
Early the next morning, May 27, emergency measures were taken to find additional small craft. The various boatyards, from Teddington to Brightlingsea, were searched by Admiralty officers, and yielded upwards of forty serviceable motor-boats or launches, which were assembled at Sheerness on the following day. At the same time lifeboats from liners in the London docks, tugs from the Thames, yachts, fishing-craft, lighters, barges and pleasure-boats - anything that could be the use along the beaches - were called into service."
The 300,000 troops saved in 1940 included the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Ulster Rifles who are pictured above waiting to embark from the beaches.
Churchill spoke to the Commons on 4th June, marking the end of the evacuation with his "we shall fight on the beaches" speech. Less famously, he reminded the House and the nation that:
We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations
The story of the "little ships" is deeply engrained in our national consciousness because it was such a close run thing, the sense of the bullet dodged allows us not to dwell on what would have happened had the BEF been annihilated in France.
Those who carelessly enjoy freedom today should pause and remember 1940.
the book didnt mention winston conversation with dev did it >
the one about the ports ?
i can not, given what ulstermen were commited to simultaniously , on churchills behest, feel any great affection for the man