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Life, these days, has become very stressful, hasn't it? 


Friend is pitted against friend and a friend becomes a foe over something like the vaccine or political views. As we recover our composure after a change of government, I cannot help but reflect on tougher times and how people rose to greatness in a time of defeat. 

 

During the Battle of Dunkirk from May 26 to June 4, 1940, some 338,000 British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were evacuated from Dunkirk to England as German forces closed in on them. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk” and served as a turning point for the Allied war effort.

 Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in their lightning war also known as the Blitzkrieg. The 3 countries fell like dominoes and in May 1940 all 3 countries had fallen to the Nazis.

The Allies expected the German troops to advance along the Maginot Line but, instead, they came in through the Ardennes Forest and moved along the Somme Valley to the English Channel.  With every mile, they cut off communication and the allies were confined to a small section of the French coast at Dunkirk.

By May 19, General John Gort, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had begun to consider that his only option was to evacuate his men by sea in order to save them from the certain annihilation by the approaching Nazi troops.

The then Prime Minister of Britain, Neville Chamberlain was out of his depth. He resigned and a new wartime coalition government headed by Winston Churchill took the helm to try and mop up the mess. At first, British command opposed evacuation, and French forces wanted to hold out as well.

Churchill soon became convinced evacuation was the only option if he was to mop up the mistakes and errors made by his predecessor.  

In planning this risky operation, the Allies got a helping hand from a surprising source: Adolf Hitler, who on May 24 gave the order to halt the advance of German panzer divisions bearing down on Dunkirk.

His Generals were concerned that they might meet opposition ... Goering ( the Luftwaffe Commander ) tried to reassure Hitler that he had it under control, but Hitler hesitated. This gave the allies time to regroup and formulate a strategy.

On the evening of May 26, the British began the evacuation from Dunkirk, using the codename Operation Dynamo. Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay directed the efforts, leading a team working out of a room deep inside the Dover cliffs that had once contained a generator known as a dynamo (giving the operation its name).

In spite of the Luftwaffe bombing the harbour at Dunkirk, the Royal Air Force continued to delay the German planes and they were able to slow down the attack.

On the first day, Operation Dynamo was only able to evacuate about 7,500 men from Dunkirk; around 10,000 got out the following day - May 28.

Because Dunkirk had such a shallow beach, Royal Navy vessels couldn’t reach it, and the Allies put out a call for smaller ships to carry troops from the shore to the larger ships further out in the North Sea. Some 800 to 1,200 boats, many of them leisure or fishing crafts, set sail from England and prepared to bring the stranded soldiers home.

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Some were requisitioned by the Navy and crewed by naval personnel, while others were manned by their civilian owners and crew. The first members of this small armada—which would become known as the “Little Ships”—began arriving on the beaches of Dunkirk on the morning of May 28.

At the beginning of the rescue mission, Churchill and the rest of British command expected that the evacuation from Dunkirk could rescue only around 45,000 men at most. But the success of Operation Dynamo was far greater than anyone dare hope: 

By the end, around 198,000 British and 140,000 French troops would manage to get off the beaches at Dunkirk—a total of some 338,000 men. Unfortunately, 90,000 Allied forces were left behind, along with the bulk of the BEF’s heavy guns and tanks, when the resistance ended on the morning of June 4 and German troops occupied Dunkirk.

The People had rallied around and come to the aid of their government but also their fellow citizens. 

 

For those left behind, the picture was grim.

On May 27, after holding off a German company until they ran out of ammo, 99 soldiers from the Royal Norfolk Regiment retreated to a farmhouse in the village of Paradis, about 50 miles from Dunkirk.

Agreeing to surrender, the trapped regiment started to file out of the farmhouse, waving a white flag tied to a bayonet. They were met by German machine-gun fire.

They were ordered to go to a field where they had their belongings taken from them and they were marched to a pit and stabbed or shot to death.

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They eventually surrendered to the Germans and became POWs. One was sent home " traded for some German POWs " and was able to tell the tale of this wartime atrocity. 

RL Duffus penned an editorial in The New York Times which helped convey what Dunkirk promised for the future arguing that:

So long as the English tongue survives, the word Dunkirk will be spoken with reverence. For in that harbour, in such a hell as never blazed on earth before, at the end of a lost battle, the rags and blemishes that have hidden the soul of democracy fell away. There, beaten but unconquered, in shining splendour, she faced the enemy… It was the common man of the free countries… This shining thing in the souls of free men Hitler cannot command, or attain, or conquer… It is the great tradition of democracy. It is the future. It is victory.’

On 4 June 1940, Churchill cautioned the House of Commons that ‘wars are not won by evacuations’. Many will be more familiar with the final part of his address on 4 June where he exhorted that in Britain:

‘We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever 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.’  

These are the boat people we need.....

Which brings me back to today.  

We will see a new wave of people who " need " rescuing.

Will they serve our nation as well as our boys did back in 1940? I doubt it. 

And I doubt that our current crop of politicians even care. 

Until it is too late and Australia has disappeared as the place we love and our brave lads fought to defend. 

No matter what, we may be facing a battle Of great importance. 

Because, the minute we give up our island Nation, we have given up our past, our present and our future. 

We may have lost the battle but we have not lost the war.  It is not too late. We had too many Neville Chamberlains and our Winston Churchill has 3 years to build our defence. 

 

 

 

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