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History Corner





Winston Churchill on Dunkirk 1940


Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the evacuation of Dunkirk, nicknamed ‘Operation Dynamo’, which began May 27, 1940 and lasted until June 4 (from his speech delivered before the House of Commons, June 4, 1940)


The enemy attacked on all sides with great strength and fierceness, and their main power, the power of their far more numerous Air Force, was thrown into the battle or else concentrated upon Dunkirk and the beaches.

Pressing in upon the narrow exit, both from the east and from the west, the enemy began to fire with cannon upon the beaches by which alone the shipping could approach or depart.


They sowed magnetic mines in the channels and seas; they sent repeated waves of hostile aircraft, sometimes more than a hundred strong in one formation, to cast their bombs upon the single pier that remained, and upon the sand dunes upon which the troops had their eyes for shelter....

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, with the willing help of countless merchant seamen, strained every nerve to embark the British and Allied troops; 220 light warships and 650 other vessels were engaged.


They had to operate upon the difficult coast, often in adverse weather, under an almost ceaseless hail of bombs and an increasing concentration of artillery fire. . . .

The numbers they have brought back are the measure of their devotion and their courage.


The hospital ships, which brought off many thousands of British and French wounded, being so plainly marked were a special target for the Nazi bombs; but the men and women on board them never faltered in their duty. . . .


[T]he Navy, using nearly 1,000 ships of all kinds, carried over 335,000 men, French and British, out of the jaws of death and shame, to their native land and to the tasks which lie immediately ahead. . . . Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi, rule we shall not flag or fail.


We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whater the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.



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