The evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops from the French seaport of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) to England. Operation Dynamo used hundreds of naval vessels and civilian boats in the evacuation.
Map showing far northeastern France and Belgium and far southeastern England with the Strait of Dover in between. The map is centered on Dunkirk in the far northeastern corner of France on the coast of the North Sea near the border with Belgium.
Red arrows indicate the advance of the German attack from inland France, Belgium, and the Netherlands converging on Dunkirk. The Allied front line is shown shrinking from May 25th to May 28th until the line on May 31st is hugging the coast near Dunkirk.
There were three Allied evacuation routes from Dunkirk to Dover: routes X, Y, and Z. Route Z was the shortest and southernmost route, followed by route X and route Y.
Dunkirk evacuation timeline:
On Sunday, May 26, 1940, German forces resumed offensive toward Dunkirk, and Operation Dynamo was ordered to commence.
On Monday, May 27, Operation Dynamo’s first full day occurred. German Luftwaffe destroyed Dunkirk harbour, and 7,669 troops were rescued.
On Tuesday, May 28, the Belgian army surrendered. Clouds and a smoke-filled coastline increased the evacuation effort with 17,804 troops rescued.
On Wednesday, May 29, a maximum effort was launched by the Luftwaffe. The French army joins the evacuation effort, and 47,310 troops were rescued.
On Thursday, May 30, bad weather interfered with the Luftwaffe, and German Panzers withdrew from Dunkirk with 53,823 troops being rescued.
On Friday, May 31, 35,000 troops were captured at Lille. Operation Dynamo sees its biggest day, with 68,014 troops being rescued.
On Saturday, June 1, clear weather gives the Luftwaffe its biggest day, sinking four destroyers and 27 other vessels. That day 62,429 troops were rescued.
On Sunday, June 2, BEF evacuation was completed with 26,256 troops rescued.
On Monday, June 3, 26,746 troops were rescued.
Tuesday, June 4, was the last night of Operation Dynamo; 26,175 troops were rescued.
Initial plan/Actual outcome:
The initial plan for Operation Dynamo was for it to last two days and rescue 45,000 troops. The actual operation lasted nine days and rescued 338,226 troops.
Evacuations by day during the Dunkirk evacuation:
On May 27, 1940, 0 troops were rescued from the beaches and 7,699 from the harbour.
On May 28, 1940, 5,930 troops were rescued from the beaches and 11,874 from the harbour.
On May 29, 1940, 13,752 troops were rescued from the beaches and 33,558 from the harbour.
On May 30, 1940, 29,512 troops were rescued from the beaches and 24,311 from the harbour.
On May 31, 1940, 22,942 troops were rescued from the beaches and 45,072 from the harbour.
On June 1, 1940, 17,348 troops were rescued from the beaches and 45,081 from the harbour.
On June 2, 1940, 6,695 troops were rescued from the beaches and 19,561 from the harbour.
On June 3, 1940, 1,870 troops were rescued from the beaches and 24,876 from the harbour.
On June 4, 1940, 622 troops were rescued from the beaches and 25,553 from the harbour.
A total of 98,671 troops were rescued from the beaches and 239,555 from the harbour.
Total Allied ships/vessels:
Approximately 1,000 ships/vessels participated in the evacuation, including some 700 civilian craft (rowing lifeboats, yachts, pleasure steamers, fishing boats, barges, etc.).
About 240 ships/vessels were lost and another 45 were damaged, including 6 British destroyers and 3 French destroyers sunk and another 26 damaged.
The British Royal Air Force lost 84 planes, and the German Luftwaffe lost 78.
Percentage of troops evacuated by country:
Of the total number of troops evacuated during Operation Dynamo, 59 percent were British, 39 percent were French, and 2 percent were other Allies.
Data is from the Admiralty’s Historical Section/Tactical and Staff Duties Department.