Rare Aftermath Photos of the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940

The Battle of Dunkirk was for the defense and evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe from May 26 to June 4, 1940.

Following the events at Dunkirk, the German forces regrouped before commencing an operation called Fall Rot (“Case Red”), a renewed assault southward. Although two fresh British divisions had begun moving to France in an attempt to form a Second British Expeditionary Force, the decision was taken on June 14 to withdraw all the remaining British troops — an evacuation called Operation Ariel.

By June 25, 1940, almost 192,000 Allied personnel, 144,000 of them British, had been evacuated through various French ports. Although the French Army fought on, German troops entered Paris on 14 June. The French government was forced to negotiate an armistice at Compiègne on June 22.

The loss of military materials and equipment on the beaches was huge. The British Army left enough equipment behind to equip about 10 military divisions. Discarded in France were, among huge supplies of ammunition, 880 field guns, 310 guns of large calibre, some 500 anti-aircraft guns, about 850 anti-tank guns, 11,000 machine guns, nearly 700 tanks, 20,000 motorcycles, and 45,000 motor cars and lorries.

Army equipment available at home was only just sufficient to equip two divisions. The British Army needed months to re-supply properly and some planned introductions of new equipment were halted while industrial resources concentrated on making good the losses. Officers told troops falling back from Dunkirk to burn or otherwise disable their trucks (so as not to let them benefit the advancing German forces).

The shortage of army vehicles after Dunkirk was so severe that the Royal Army Service Corps was reduced to retrieving and refurbishing numbers of obsolete buses and coaches from British scrapyards to press them into use as troop transports. Some of these antique workhorses were still in use as late as the North African campaign of 1942.

A marble memorial to the battle stands at Dunkirk. The French inscription is translated as: “To the glorious memory of the pilots, mariners, and soldiers of the French and Allied armies who sacrificed themselves in the Battle of Dunkirk, May–June 1940.”

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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