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Back in the Day: the evacuation of Dunkirk

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Back in the Day: the evacuation of Dunkirk


May 26, 1940. Surrounded by German troops, Allied soldiers began an evacuation from the beaches and harbour of the northern French port of Dunkirk. A German decision to halt briefly the advance on Dunkirk won Britain’s Royal Navy precious time in organising the mission – code-named Operation Dynamo – something that many war historians see as a turning point in the second world war. Over nine days more than 850 ships, including hundreds of civilian vessels such as fishing boats and river ferries joined the effort to save hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from a desperate situation, while the RAF battled with the Luftwaffe in the skies overhead. Around 245 ships were sunk in the evacuation but the outcome was hailed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as a “miracle”: in total more than 330,000 British, French, Belgian, Polish and Dutch soldiers were brought safely back to England.

Also on May 26: US President Andrew Johnson avoids impeachment by one single vote in the Senate (1868); Nicolas II is crowned as (the last) Russian tsar (1896); the European Community adopts the European flag (1986).

Born on May 26: Alexander Pushkin (1799), John Wayne (1907), Miles Davis (1926), Lenny Kravitz (1964), Helena Bonham Carter (1966).

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