So long as the English tongue survives, the word Dunkerque will be spoken with reverence ...The glowing language with which the New York Times greeted the extraordinary rescue of the beleaguered British Expeditionary F...展开orce from otherwise certain defeat and captivity on the continent, was in many ways typical of the time. In Britain, despite Churchill s stern reminder that wars are not won by evacuations , a tangle of myths quickly sprung up around Dunkirk, which came to be regarded almost as a major victory. A major victory it certainly was not. Dunkirk was a brilliantly executed withdrawal of land forces - minus all their equipment - across the Channel, following a series of unparallel military disasters. Indeed, to the Germans, Dunkirk was virtually a sideshow. Intent on completing the conquest of France, they no longer regarded the small British army as posing any significant threat.
For the French, Dunkirk became a bitter symbol of British betrayal. Quarrels and misunderstandings had beset the Alliance, and at one stage the British were near to systematically deceiving their partner. Yet the evacuation owed much to the unstinting bravery of the French troops fighting at the Dunkirk perimeter or beyond, and gratitude was not wanting.
The visions conjured up of a ragged fleet of fishing boats, yachts and dinghies sailing the Channel, their pilots risking life and limb to save our soldiers from certain defeat and captivity, is vividly realised using very rare footage only recently obtained and painstakingly reassembled.