The Miraculous Battle of Dunkirk in Cinema

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Dunkirk is set to be one of 2017s biggest blockbusters, with a star studded cast that includes Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and Harry Styles. It is set to detail the intense and miraculous Battle of Dunkirk and the ensuing evacuation.

German troops had invaded Northwestern Europe and captured many of the ports along the English Channel in early May, 1940. They trapped the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) as well as Belgian and French forces. Thousands of soldiers were trapped by the German Army. The BEF evacuated from northern France and set up around the port of Dunkirk.

The battle and evacuation occurred on May 27, 1940. The troops used ships of all sizes through three routes from Dunkirk to Dover. This was called Operation Dynamo. They had hoped to rescue a total of 45,000 men from the invading German troops. Nothing went as planned, however, and German attacks on the rescuers were worse than anticipated. The harbor was destroyed in the battle, and escaping soldiers often had to wade or swim out to the boats waiting to take them away. The rescuers saved just shy of 8,000 men on the first day, and 17,000 on the second.

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The Battle of Dunkirk lasted nearly nine days, with heavy attacks from the German soldiers. The rescuers held a defensive perimeter of only five kilometers, yet by May 31, nearly all of the Allied forces had made it within that perimeter. The battle and evacuation lasted until June 4, when the last Ally ship left the harbor and the final remaining troops- two French divisions- surrendered to the Germans.

Over 330,000 soldiers were rescued during the battle, though 68,000 were killed and more than 200 ships were destroyed. Though there were huge losses, the battle was deemed a success and the rescued troops were able to aid in the defense of Britain.

The film itself began filming in May of 2016 on the exact location of the battle itself, in Dunkirk, France. Christopher Nolan, the director, intended to keep the film as accurate as possible by shooting in the same location and using young, British actors to play the young British soldiers.

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About Author

Madison graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in English and a focus on global studies and politics. She is interested in the way the past relates to the world today and is constantly seeking the best ways to preserve history so we can better learn from it.

1 Comment

  1. The question now is whether or not Nolan is going to show the huge role the French Army also played in that battle to defend the British forces and the rest of the French troops that were being evacuated. French units were wiped out up to 90% so that the British do not lose their army. Now, being a movie made by a British-American (who is an excellent film-maker), I am not expecting much in that regard. Here is hoping.

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