Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_Dunkirk evacuatio

Was the Dunkirk evacuation a triumph or a disaster?

German forces move into Dunkirk hours after the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force was completed. A beached French coastal patrol craft at low tide at Dunkirk. The ship is armed with a 75mm canon on its foredeck and probably dates from the First World War. A British Universal Carrier and a bicycle lie abandoned half buried in the sand.

The Dunkirk evacuation (‘Operation Dynamo’) was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, in the north of France, during the Second World War, between 26 May and 4 June 1940. At the time, this rescue mission was portrayed as a ‘triumph’ in the British media, but ever since, historians have debated whether this was an accurate depiction.

Your challenge

We have a box of sources from the Churchill Archive for you to investigate.

  • Your challenge is to study the sources in the Source Box and use them to decide whether the evacuation at Dunkirk should be seen as a ‘triumph’ or a ‘disaster’.
  • Your teacher will be able to help you with a recording framework and suggestions on how to present your work.

 Background information

The sources

Notes for teachers

5th June 1940: The crew of the London based tug 'Sunvill' one of the many small craft which took part in the evacuation of British and allied troops from Dunkirk. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)