© Tom Taylor
© Tom Taylor
Friday - 24 May, 1940
You'd think it would be congratulations all around amongst
German high command, what with French and British troops
on their heels still falling backward, Heinz Guderian's tanks
in close pursuit. His lead units in sight of Dunkirk with little
to prevent them from bagging the cat - capturing Britain's army.
Battlefields are a confusing place to make snap decisions.
Lots of educated guessing involved. Dealing with matters
on hunches and intuition. Stuff that isn't easily taught.
Then, too, it's more muscle memory than Ouija board.
On this morning Guderian's boss, Gerd Rundstedt, gets a visit
from an anxious Hitler. The Fuhrer is feeling very insecure
about his vulnerable, widely dispersed armor. He apparently
chooses his air arm to block British escape from Dunkirk harbor.
British intelligence intercepts a message intended for
"Halt in place. Dunkirk is to be left to the Luftwaffe.
Make use of the period of rest for recuperation. "
After the war Guderian pointed to this decision by Hitler
as the one costing Germany the war. Letting the British
General Maxime Weygand
Allied Supreme Commander
complains of British Retreat
France lost because of Britain's failure
General Gerd von Rundstedt
Commander, Army Group A
morning: visited by Hitler / believed to be anxious
armor important to next phase / conquering France
armor with significant loss of strength
treads need replacing
armor flanks vulnerable to expected French counterattack
foot soldiers haven't caught up with armor to provide
forces widely dispersed
reorganize for final blow requires pause
General Franz Halder
Chief of Army General Staff
describes Hitler as
"alarmed about armored formations because
they were in considerable danger in a difficult
country, honeycombed with canals, without
being able to attain any vital results."
Brauchitsch to Halder:
"the armored formations to be stopped, the points even taken back."
Halder: Dunkirk cleared for the British
British Intelligence - 1142 hours:
attack on the line Dunkirk-Hazebrouck-Merville was to be discontinued
for the present.
General Heinz Guderian
Commander, XIX Army Corps
Hitler orders halt. Dunkirk is to be left to the Luftwaffe.
Make use of the period of rest for general recuperation.
Germans break Belgian line around Courtrai - 30 miles from Dunkirk
Belgian King considers surrender
"The only effect of evacuating Calais would be to
transfer the forces now blocking it to Dunkirk.
Calais must be held for many reasons,
but specially to hold the enemy on its front."
Saturday, 25 May
Saturday, 25 May
BEF commander / Lord Gort - immediate problems:
1. The British need to find reserves to extend their flank
beyond Ypres to replace the quickly crumbling
Belgian Army to their north.
2. The 1st French Army and 4 British Divisions
must withdraw from their defense of Lille or soon
be encircled by two armored pincers.
3. A critical battle underway to prevent Guderian from
cutting the main road for escape to Dunkirk, that extends
through Bergues and out beyond Cassel.
Calais still holding out
Belgium defense crumbles
evacuation through Dunkirk only option
1st Army Group Commander
order to withdraw
create bridgehead around Dunkirk
to CIGS / Chief of Imperial General Staff:
"I must know why Gort gave up Arras, and what
actually he is doing with the rest of his army.
Clearly, he must not allow himself to be
encircled without fighting a battle."
Chief of Staff / German 4th Army - report:
"The picture in the channel ports is as follows. Big ships come up
the quayside, boards are put down and the men crowd on the ships.
All material is left behind. But we are not keen on finding these men,
newly equipped, up against us later."
Sunday, 28 May
The Belgian line is broken. Contact with the British lost.
50,000 French POWs taken at Lille but their holding out
for 3 days enabled many more to escape. All Allied forces
withdraw into a tight perimeter defending the beaches
informs Reynaud Britain is evacuating BEF
"In these dark days the Prime Minister would be grateful
if all his colleagues in the Government, as well as important
officials, would maintain a high morale in their circles; not
minimizing the gravity of events, but showing confidence in
our ability and inflexible resolve to continue the war till we
have broken the will of the enemy to bring all Europe
under his domination."
put into effect
gathering vessels of all kinds and sizes
outflanked by German forces
lose touch with British line
20,000 POWs - most are French, Belgian and Dutch
British lock those wanting to surrender in cellars
orders advance on Dunkirk to resume / afternoon
Monday, 27 May
sues for peace
Senior Naval Officer / Dunkirk
dispatched all available craft to the beaches immediately
Tuesday, 28 May
0400 hours: "cease fire"
25,000 evacuees land in England
desperate fight to prevent German armor from
cutting off escape to Dunkirk
1st French Army Commander
refuses to join Gort's forces in retreat from Lille
Wednesday, 29 May
French 5th Corps:
encircled and captured at Lille
small private craft begin ferrying men off beaches
begins heavy air attack
21 other vessels
Thursday, 30 May
remainder within Dunkirk bridgehead
126,000 troops evacuated
flies to Paris
informs Reynaud and Petain if France falls, Britain
will blockade and bombard German-held French ports
evacuates to England
Major-General Alexander given command of remaining British troopsSaturday, 1 JuneChurchillreturns to London
greatest effort over Dunkirk on this date
31 British ships sunk
Sunday, 2 June
daylight evacuation suspended
Tuesday, 4 June
Operation Dynamo broken off
Worker Lunch Break in Paris
The French Government flees Paris on Monday, 10 June.
Britain now stands alone at war with Hitler's Germany.
© Tom Taylor