Hitler’s military campaign and it’s successes on the Western front were a shock not just to the Allies and the world watching but to Hitler himself. The ‘Blitzkreig’, also known as ‘Lightening attack’ or ‘rapid attack’, was first used in the years of 1939-1940 in order for exploit the full might of the German military machine. By using the armoured and motorised section of the infantry as the spearhead of the attack, whilst being accompanied by close air support, it took all victim nations by surprise, easily penetrating any defences in their path. This was the reason for Hitler’s successful take over of Europe, which wouldn’t be broken until 1944 with the initiation of Operation Neptune and Russia’s invasion of Poland.
Britain and France had declared war on Germany after their successful invasion of Poland hence beginning the Germany Blitzkreig of Western Europe and then the Battle of France. The Battle of France officially began on the 10th of May 1940; the allied forces from Britain and France had met the German Blitzkreig in Belgium however, following a plethora of defeats, such as the collapse of the Meuse. After these defeats and the German invasion of France, the allied forces were in full defeat however the German advanced had blocked off the majority of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), the remaining Belgian forces and three French field armies from the rest of the French and BEF forces. It is this trapped allied force that would eventually be evacuated from Dunkirk on the 26th of May and would last till the 6th of June.
The success of the evacuation of Dunkirk, also known as Operation Dynamo, is often held as quite a controversial subject, due to the many interpretations of the evacuation itself. What is wise to consider is that, with hindsight the evacuation might seem more successful than what was believed by a French, British or Belgian soldier at the time of the evacuation, as we have knowledge of the events that followed. However at the time, and still today, the interpretations of the operations are very mixed, for example; the French believed it to be a complete failure, leaving their homeland whilst in pursuit of a country they had fought just under 30 years before hand, they believed that the British were delaying the inevitable with one source claiming: “Grâce aux anglais notre chemin de croix” – meaning the English had led the French to their death (graveyard cross). The British had mixed views; the soldiers there believed they had been defeated and were abandoning their French and Belgium allies, however British politicians and military figures viewed it differently, they viewed it as preserving the english tongue and ‘to fight another day’. At least for some politicians such as Winston Churchill, others sought a more peaceful result such as Viscount Halifax who wanted to make peace negotiations with Mussolini. The German view was again mixed, Hitler viewed it as “the greatest German victory ever” yet military figures such as General Franz Halder stated;’we must stand by and watch countless thousands of the enemy getting away to England under our noses.’