Battle of Dunkirk & Evacuation Timeline 1940

Dunkirk EvacuationThis timeline details the main events of the World War Two Battle for Dunkirk and the evacuation of stranded soldiers from the beach.


1939 (1st September)
German troops invaded Poland. Polish forces fought back but were no match for Hitler’s Blitzkrieg attack.
1939 (3rd September)
At 9 am an ultimatum was issued to Germany demanding they withdraw troops from Poland by 11 am. Germany did not comply and Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declared war on Germany beginning World War Two.
1939 (after 3rd September)
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) were sent to France to help defend against a possible German invasion.
1940 (10th May)
Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in a Blitzkrieg attack.
1940 (10th May)
The BEF crossed the Belgian border and engaged with the German Army Group B.
1940 (10th May)
The German army invaded France moving through the Ardennes Forest and then turned north pushing Allied troops back towards the coast.
1940 (10th May)
Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain after Neville Chamberlain resigned. Chamberlain had been facing strong criticism for his handling of the war, particularly his policy of appeasement.
1940 (13th May)
Germany invaded France taking a route through the Ardennes region of Belgium/Luxembourg. The Allies had mistakenly thought that Germany would cross the German French border.
1940 (14th May)
The BEF were forced to retreat when the Germans pushed forward into France.
1940 (15th May)
The Netherlands surrendered to Germany.
1940 (19th May)
Commander of the BEF, General Gort, realised that the best escape for his troops was to be evacuated to Britain across the Channel.
1940 (20th May)
Winston Churchill that all available vessels be made ready to go to Dunkirk. The operation was code-named Operation Dynamo.
1940 (21st May)
Allied armies tried to block the German invasion but were unsuccessful. The BEF, Belgian forces and three French armies were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk.
1940 (22nd May)
Churchill sent orders that the BEF should attack German forces to the south and re-join the main French forces. This was code-named the Weygand Plan.
1940 (22nd May)
The Weygand Plan was abandoned as its objectives were impossible to achieve.
1940 (24th May)
The German army took Boulogne and surrounded Calais. They decided against an attack on Dunkirk on the grounds that the marshland around the town could result in the loss of tanks, artillery and men needed for the push through France.
1940 (24th May)
Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to attack the stranded troops and make any escape an impossibility.
1940 (26th May)
BEF forces were unable to withstand the attack on Calais and surrendered.
1940 (26th May)
Churchill approved an order for the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk to begin.
1940 (27th May)
The German Luftwaffe began bombing Dunkirk. The Royal Airforce (RAF) were ordered to the Channel to protect the evacuation ships.
1940 (27th May)
The evacuation of troops from the docks at Dunkirk harbour began. The plan was for 45,000 men to be returned to Britain over two days. 7669 men were evacuated on this day and it became clear that the evacuation was slower than anticipated. A call was put out for all owners of seaworthy craft to help in the evacuation.
1940 (28th May)
Belgium surrendered to Germany. The Belgian army had been stationed to the east of Dunkirk. The surrender left this area unprotected.
1940 (28th May)
Following the Belgian surrender, the Luftwaffe were diverted to Ostend and Nieuwpoort. 17804 soldiers were evacuated on this day.
1940 (29th May)
47,310 men were evacuated on this day. The Luftwaffe continued to bomb the beach and the ships. The HMS Grenade, HMS Crested Eagle, SS Lorina, SS Normannia and the SS Fenella were sunk.
1940 (30th May)
Evacuation of men from the docks was becoming increasingly difficult due to the continual Luftwaffe attacks. An attempt to evacuate men from the beach also proved too slow. It was decided to use two stone breakwaters nicknamed east and west moles. This proved a much more efficient way of evacuating the waiting troops. 53,823 men were evacuated on this day, including a number of French soldiers.
1940 (31st May)
68,014 men were rescued from Dunkirk on this day.
1940 (1st June)
64,429 men were rescued from Dunkirk on this day.
1940 (2nd June)
The Luftwaffe stepped up their attacks on Dunkirk making daytime evacuations impossible. The 4,000 British rear-guard plus 22,256 French troops were evacuated under the cover of darkness on this day.
1940 (3rd June)
26,746 mostly French troops were evacuated under the cover of darkness on this day.
1940 (4th June)
26,175 French troops were evacuated on this last day of Operation Dynamo.
1940 (4th June)
The French rear-guard of around 40,000 surrendered.
1940 (22nd June)
France surrendered to Germany.


Published Mar 07 2022  @ 5.04 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2022). Battle of Dunkirk & Evacuation 1940.


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