A flotilla is to sail from Britain to France today, 27 May 2010, escorted by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth,to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation, when stranded Allied soldiers were rescued by a ragtag band of "Little Ships". Even though the Battle of Dunkirk was a heavy military defeat, the rescue is considered in Britain as emblematic of the national character. Seventy years on, around 60 of the ships involved are sailing across the North Sea again to commemorate the ‘Operation Dynamo’ evacuation of some 338,000 soldiers from the French coast. Troops rescued from the Dunkirk area were mainly British, French, Belgian, Canadian, Polish and Dutch.
Between May 26, and June 4, 1940, the hastily-arranged flotilla of around 700 boats, including fishing vessels, pleasure crafts, paddle steamers and lifeboats, rescued British, French and other Allied troops cut off by the German army, ferrying them from the shallow waters to larger ships. The phrase "Dunkirk spirit" is still common in Britain nowadays, summing up defiant courage and solidarity in the face of adversity. Wartime prime minister Winston Churchill called it a "miracle of deliverance" and the evacuation inspired his celebrated "We shall fight on the beaches" speech.
Among them are ships called Papillon, Aureol, Thamesa, Wendy Ken, Southern Queen, Chumley, Maid Marion, Endeavour and Ferry Nymph.
The rescue is seen as one of several events in 1940 that determined the eventual outcome of the war. Through the evacuation, Britain "bought time" for the rest of the world, said World War II historian Nick Hewitt.
A total of 348,000 troops were rescued but let us not forget that 68,000 were killed, and several thousand [ Estimated at 1 in 7 of the total rescued], spent the next five years in prisoner of war camps.
Six British and three French destroyers were sunk, along with nine larger boats. In addition, 19 destroyers were damaged. Over 200 of the Allied sea craft were sunk, with an equal number damaged.Winston Churchill revealed in his volumes on World War II that the Royal Air Force (RAF) who played a most important role protecting the retreating troops from the Luftwaffe, lost 474 planes.