Maritime Monday for April 23, 2012: Dunkirk Jack
A naval officer overlooks Ramsgate harbour as about 50 original
Operation Dynamo boats prepare to depart
A fleet of Little Ships that rescued Allied troops from Dunkirk in 1940 has set sail from Ramsgate to mark the 70th anniversary of the event. Fifty vessels headed to France to commemorate Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of 338,000 soldiers from Dunkirk’s beaches. The troops had been driven back to the French coast by the German army during the second world war
Miss Monkey watched the old classic Mrs. Miniver the other night, and was inspired to make this week’s Maritime Monday about the Evacuation of Dunkirk.
Based on the fictional English housewife created by Jan Struther in 1937 for a series of newspaper columns, the film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director.
Mrs. Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) and her family live a comfortable life at a house called “Starlings” in a village outside London. The house has a large garden, with a private landing stage on the river Thames, and a motorboat. As World War II looms, Clem; together with other boat owners, volunteers to take his boat to assist in the Dunkirk evacuation.
Director William Wyler wrote and re-wrote the key sermon “the night before the sequence was to be shot.” The speech “made such an impact that it was used in essence by President Roosevelt as a morale builder and part of it was the basis for leaflets printed in various languages and dropped over enemy and occupied territory.”
In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time. Soon after filming, Richard Ney, who played Kay Miniver’s son and was 11 years her junior, married Garson. —wikipedia
Well, that explains the conspicuously long on-the-mouth kisses they exchanged during the film.
Final outcome of the war being no where near certain by the film’s release in 1942, the studio wisely chose to omit any sweeping declarations about Victorious Britannia and the everlasting pluck of her peoples.
– Picture of Mrs. Miniver; see full size (600×1611) –
The Dunkirk evacuation, commonly known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo by the British, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 26 May and the early hours of 3 June 1940. Operation Dynamo took its name from the dynamo room in the naval headquarters below Dover Castle.
The evacuation was ordered on 26 May. In a speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill called the events in France “a colossal military disaster”, saying that “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army” had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his We shall fight on the beaches speech on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance”.
NEWSREEL: British Dunkirk Evacuation Footage
(many more videos in sidebar)
Operation Dynamo, The Evacuation from Dunkirk, 27 May-4 June 1940
About 338,000 men were saved in about 11 days. About 215,000 were British, 123,000 were French — of whom 102,250 escaped in British ships.
A new online collection from BBC Archive released today commemorates the heroes of Dunkirk and reveals the personal stories behind the event which has become synonymous with the true spirit of British wartime defiance.
Julie Rowbotham, Executive Producer, BBC Archive said:
“These archive programmes offer us a glimpse of the trauma of Dunkirk, but also provide us with an account of the many heroic deeds carried out during those few desperate days of the evacuation.”
Other highlights include: an interview with Charles Herbert Lightoller, famous as the most senior surviving officer from the Titanic, describing the hazards he faced when he took his yacht to the beaches.
This collection is the latest in a series of archive collection to be released online and which explore the cultural and political developments that shaped the 20th century. WWII – Dunkirk Evacuation is available online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/dunkirk/
– see also: Knowles, David J. “The Miracle of Dunkirk, BBC News –
L: Members of Royal Ulster Rifles waiting on improvised pier of lorries to evacuate Dunkirk
during low tide R: British soldiers being evacuated from a Dunkirk beach (The Telegraph)
Small ships including pleasure craft were used to
evacuate allied troops from Dunkirk. Here, being towed
The Telegraph: Dunkirk evacuation:Operation Dynamo in pictures
Although the events at Dunkirk gave a great boost to British morale, they also left the remaining French to stand alone against a renewed German assault southward. German troops entered Paris on 14 June and accepted the French surrender on 22 June.
Destroyers loaded with soldiers of the British expeditionary force, evacuated after fighting from Dunkirk during operation Dynamo, moor to berth when they return to England. Ship number D-94 in the background the Destroyer HMS Whitehall on 1st June 1940 during the operation, was damaged by German bombers.
– full size –
The loss of materiel on the beaches was huge. The British Army left enough equipment behind to equip about eight to ten divisions. Left behind in France were, among huge supplies of ammunition, 880 field guns, 310 guns of large calibre, some 500 anti-aircraft guns, about 850 anti-tanks guns, 11,000 machine guns, nearly 700 tanks, 20,000 motorcycles and 45,000 motor cars and lorries.
The shortage of army vehicles after Dunkirk was so severe that the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was reduced to retrieving and refurbishing numbers of obsolete bus and coach models from British scrapyards to press them into use as troop transports. Some of these antique workhorses were still in use as late as the North African campaign of 1942.
On 27 May, the small-craft section of the British Ministry of Shipping telephoned boat builders around the coast, asking them to collect all boats with “shallow draft” that could navigate the shallow waters. Attention was directed to the pleasure boats, private yachts and launches moored on the River Thames and along the south and east coasts.
The term Little Ship applies to all craft that were originally privately owned and includes private yachts, barges, British, French, Belgian and Dutch fishing vessels and pleasure steamers, but the Association does include some ex-Service vessels, which are now privately owned, and ex-Lifeboats.
In nine days, 192,226 British and 139,000 French soldiers — 331,226 in all — were rescued by the 700 little ships and around 220 warships. The rescue operation turned a military disaster into a story of heroism which served to raise the morale of the British.
Dunkirk is a 1958 British war film directed by Leslie Norman and starring John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee. It was based on two novels: Elleston Trevor’s The Big Pick-Up and Lt. Col. Ewan Hunter and Maj. J. S. Bradford’s Dunkirk.
The film relates the story of Operation Dynamo, principally from the viewpoints of two people: a newspaper reporter and a soldier.
WEEKEND AT DUNKIRK poster
Weekend at Dunkirk (French: Week-end Ã Zuydcoote) is a 1964 drama film directed by Henri Verneuil and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. It is based on the 1949 Prix Goncourt winning novel Week-end at Zuydcoote (French: Week-end Ã Zuydcoote) by Robert Merle. Music by Maurice Jarre.
Week-end Ã Zuydcoote on IMDb
Hilfranor; A Dunkirk Little Ship – read the story of her restoration
Some of them were taken with the owners’ permission — and with the owners insisting they would sail them — while others were requisitioned by the government with no time for the owners to be contacted. The boats were checked to make sure they were seaworthy, fueled, and taken to Ramsgate to set sail for Dunkirk. They were manned by Naval Officers, Ratings and experienced volunteers. Very few owners manned their own vessels, apart from fishermen and one or two others.
British propaganda later exploited the successful evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, and particularly the role of the “Dunkirk little ships”, very effectively. Many of the “little ships” were private vessels such as fishing boats and pleasure cruisers, but commercial vessels such as ferries also contributed to the force, including a number from as far away as the Isle of Man and Glasgow.
These smaller vessels—guided by naval craft across the Channel from the Thames Estuary and from Dover—assisted in the official evacuation. Being able to reach much closer in the beachfront shallows than larger craft, the “little ships” acted as shuttles to and from the larger craft, lifting troops who were queuing in the water, many waiting shoulder-deep in water for hours. The term “Dunkirk Spirit” still refers to a popular belief in the solidarity of the British people in times of adversity.
Regal Lady – photo by Whipper snapper (full size)
Some of the rescued were sailed back to ports like Ramsgate or Dover, others were only carried out a short distance and then transferred to larger ships so that the little ships could turn towards the hostile shore and make another run.
The Woolwich ferries, yachts, motor cruisers, RNLI lifeboats, pleasure boats, a Thames fire boat and even Thames sailing barges were pressed into service for the evacuation which eventually saved more than a third of a million men.
One story is told that a group of soldiers found an abandoned Thames sailing barge of about 90 tons stranded on the Dunkirk beach. Without any sailing experience the soldiers re-floated the barge and sailed it back to Britain themselves.
– see also –
The River Mersey ferry evacuated 7,461 service personnel from Dunkirk in five trips between 28 May and 2 June, among them the French historian Marc Bloch, who served as a captain in the campaign. This was the largest number evacuated by a single passenger vessel in the operation. On 2 June, she was attacked by six German aircraft. A bomb dropped by one of them penetrated two of her decks and blew a hole below the water line, but she managed to limp back to port.
The paddle steamer made the most round trips — seven — rescuing 7,000 men and earning herself the nickname “Heroine of Dunkirk”. —website
All hands … steamer sent to evacuate – The Sun.UK
Owned by Charles Lightoller, former second officer of the Titanic, was requisitioned by the Admiralty on 30 May. Lightoller insisted that, if anyone was going to take her to Dunkirk, it would be him and his eldest son, Roger, together with Sea Scout Gerald Ashcroft. The men transported 130 soldiers back to Ramsgate, reportedly packed together like sardines, almost capsizing when they reached the shore.
– more –
miniature Bluebird of Chelsea on Solent Radio Control Model Boat page
She had three further owners before being requisitioned by the Admiralty at the outbreak of World War II. Soon she was on her way with the flotilla of “little ships” to Dunkirk. Not without two false starts though, first due to engine trouble and then over-crowding. Her return from Dunkirk was even more fraught: after first refilling the fuel tanks with water, then fouling her screws on debris, she returned under tow.
– more –
A fishing boat less than 15 feet (4.6 m) in length; the smallest boat to take part in the evacuation and now preserved by the Imperial War Museum.
image: The Flotilla and The Fleet
Named after the eighteen-year-old wife of a sailing skipper, who was drowned off the Isles of Scilly in an eighteenth century shipwreck and is said to be buried in the churchyard at St. Mary’s, Tamzine is the smallest surviving open fishing boat to take part in Operation Dynamo. She is less than 15ft. long, clinker built, light yet strongly made and was designed for year-round fishing off the shore at Birchington in Kent.
Mona’s Isle (IV) on simplonPC
In the Second World War, ten of the fleet of sixteen ships were commandeered for active duty, four of which were lost. The Dunkirk evacuation was perhaps the company’s finest hour, with Mona’s Isle (IV) being the first to leave Dover and the first to complete the round trip during the evacuation.
Eight company ships took part in this mission, rescuing a total of 24,699 British troops – one in fourteen of those evacuated from Dunkirk.The anchor from Mona’s Queen (III) was raised as part of the 70th anniversary commemoration of Operation Dynamo at Dunkirk. It is to be sited at Kallow Point in Port St Mary as a memorial to the company’s crew who took part in the war
By the end of operations, the fleet had rescued a total of 24,699, 1 in 14 of those evacuated from Dunkirk
– Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (website) –
The Endeavour – a Leigh cockle boat and Dunkirk veteran, restored by a local charitable trust: see here
She’s the last survivor of the five Leigh cocklers that answered the call (see full size – and another)
Batten Photo, The Capstone, Ilfracombe. An RPPC found in an Eastbourne antique shop. The Devonia survived until 30 May, 1940 when she was sunk while taking part in the Dunkirk evacuation. more: paddlesteamers.awardspace.com/Devonia.htm
The evacuation of British troops and civilians from France in 1940 did not end with Dunkirk. Several weeks later, on June 17, 1940, the British Cunard liner Lancastria was loaded to capacity with troops and civilians off the French port of St. Nazaire, when she was struck by three direct hits from a German Junkers 88 bomber. As many as 6,500 men, women and children were lost when the ship sank.
It was the worst maritime disaster in British history. The sinking claimed more lives than the combined losses of Titanic and Lusitania. News of the disaster was covered up. Churchill said that, “The newspapers have got quite enough disaster for today, at least…”
– Lancastria: Britain’s forgotten disaster on BBC –
– Lancastria enters the war on Lancastria.org –
– Radio review: The Sinking of the Lancastria on The Guardian –
The Dunkirk Jack
The St George’s Cross defaced with the arms of Dunkirk flown from the jack staff is known as the Dunkirk jack and is only flown by civilian ships and boats of all sizes that took part in the Dunkirk rescue operation in 1940. The only other ships permitted to fly the George’s Cross flag at the bow are those with a Royal Navy Admiral on board.
“Permission was given by the Admiralty, the College of Heralds and the City of Dunkirk for the Cross of St. George (the flag of Admiralty) to be defaced with the Arms of Dunkirk for use as the Association’s House Flag. This can be worn by Member Ships at any time when the owner is aboard. In addition, when in company, we fly the undefaced Cross of St. George at the bow.
“To avoid any possible confusion with barges wearing an Admiral’s flag, the Dunkirk Little Ships must wear the Red Ensign when flying the undefaced Flag of St. George at the bows…”
–source: Jacks of the UK
“A lion sable passant armed and langued gules, argent a dolphin azure naiant embowed finned and langued gules. In other words, picturing a (former) Flemish city and harbour.”
The Flag of England is the St George’s Cross. The red cross appeared as an emblem of England in the Middle Ages, specifically during the Crusades (although the original symbol used to represent English crusaders was a white cross on a red background) and is one of the earliest known emblems representing England. It also represents the official arms of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and it achieved status as the national flag of England during the sixteenth century.
The flag used by the British Royal Navy (the White Ensign) is also based on the flag of England, consisting of the St George’s Cross and a Union Flag in the canton. In addition to the UK, several countries in the Commonwealth of Nations also have variants of the White Ensign with their own national flags in the canton, with the St George’s Cross sometimes being replaced by a naval badge.
‘Little Ships’ Rerun Finds Its Own Dunkirk
DOVER, England — Few moments in modern British history are more iconic than the evacuation of the British expeditionary force of nearly 340,000 troops in the spring of 1940 from the beaches of Dunkirk, 22 miles across the Channel from the white chalk cliffs that overlook this ancient port town. At the time, Winston Churchill called it “a miracle of deliverance.”
This time, the effort centered on a group of men in a flotilla of inflatable speedboats who set out from Dover to ferry some of their stranded compatriots home from the rail and ferry chaos created by the cloud of volcanic ash that has shut down much of Europe’s air traffic.
video: Dramatic Dunkirk evacuation anniversary on The Telegraph
Veterans Charles Searle, 92, 3rd Canadian Medical Corps, and Lionel Tucker, 93, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, salute on board a ferry bound for Dunkirk, France, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Operation Dynamo
“this memorial wall are in the Dunkirk harbor and are made with old paving stones of the pier, used by the passage of allied soldiers (French and British) who waiting for a evacuation to the Great Britain.”
Dunkirk harbour wall at sunset – photo by orlando72
Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical art, history, and marine science on Adventures of the Blackgang.
Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at [email protected]. She can also out-belch any man.
Sign up for our newsletter
Be the First
Join the 68,596 members that receive our newsletter.
Have a news tip? Let us know.