For the past two weeks “Dunkirk” has been top of the box office in cinemas throughout the United Kingdom. The film is a fictional rendition of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the Dunkirk, in France, in May 1940, as Hitler’s invading divisions blitzed their way towards Paris.
The evacuation involved over 400,000 soldiers, including many Frenchmen and troops recruited in British Empire and Commonwealth units such as Canada and Australia.
The greatest retreat in the history of warfare, the Dunkirk operation prevented the Germans from annihilating the bulk of the British army, giving London the chance to prepare to fight another day.
At first glance, there was little heroism in such a vast force fleeing without fighting; armies usually retreat after they have fought and lost a battle. And, yet, what came to be known as “the spirit of Dunkirk” was truly heroic as thousands of ordinary Brits, defying Hitler’s vast war machine, made their way to the beaches of Dunkirk, often aboard small fishing boats and dinghies and even a few floating bath-tubs, to help bring the stranded soldiers back to England.
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