In May 1940, the British Army (along with French and Belgian troops) retreated to the port and beaches of Dunkirk, France, as the German Army and Luftwaffe hammered away at them. To save the Allied men, Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent approximately 1,400 British and French vessels to the besieged port and evacuated some 340,000 soldiers to England—Operation Dynamo. Snatched from the jaws of defeat, those soldiers would return to fight the Germans in North Africa and Western Europe, planting the seeds of Allied victory. Newspapers called the rescue the “Miracle of Dunkirk.”
The Dunkirk 1940 Museum, located on the site of the Allied forces’ headquarters during Operation Dynamo, pays tribute to the sailors, airmen, and soldiers who made local evacuations possible. The museum displays artifacts from the evacuation, including the engine of a crashed British Supermarine Spitfire and the remains of a British lorry extracted from the surf. A French Navy 47-mm deck gun, possibly from the sunken minesweeper Dijonnais, was caught in local fishermen’s nets and now rests in the center of one of the museum’s rooms.