Talk:Battle of Dunkirk

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French Commanders[edit]

I added the Commanders of the French 1st Army Group and the French 1st Army to the "Commanders and Leaders" section, as their forces were heavily engaged in the battle, it makes sense that they should be there.

German casualties[edit]

"52,252 killed or woundedb 8,467 missing or captured"

How could the Germans lost so many men in the battle of Dunkirk alone if during the entire Fall Gelb they lost 10,252 dead, 8,463 missing and 42,523 wounded?

It is thus certain that someone attributed losses suffered during the entire Fall Gelb to just one battle.

Peter558 (talk) 02:52, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

Decisive German Victory?[edit]

Tough one this. I mean, sure, on the face of it the German army captured Dunkirk and the BEF fled leaving most of its equipment on the beach and in no shape to fight. On the other hand, if the Battle of Dunkirk is defined as the action that was fought to keep the port open while the evacuation went on, and far more troops were evacuated than even the most gloomy prognostications, there is an argument for it to be at least a partial Allied victory. I don't necessarily agree - Churchill himself said "we must be careful not to ascribe to this defeat the qualities of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations", after all. Surely a "Decisive German Victory" would have involved them quickly capturing Dunkirk, destroying and capturing the entire BEF and whatever French and Belgian troops were also there.

I have no particular strong feelings one way or the other, except that I glanced at the infobox and said "Decisive German Victory? Really?" and thought I'd open the debate. Brickie (talk) 11:53, 3 June 2011 (UTC)

  • I've gone ahead and changed it to read "German victory", without the "decisive".—S Marshall T/C 12:32, 3 June 2011 (UTC)
Tactical German victory ? For Operation Dynamo: Allied operational success . Dunkirk was a significant German victory - but it failed in its primary goal of neutralising the Allied forces. Dynamo achieved its objectives. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:23, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

It was a decisive victory German because, although can not capture large numbers of soldiers, met his goal of bringing to fudamental bef continent, besides the Germans captured a huge amount of material that will preserve much britain. Magmeto616Magneto616 (talk) 05:37, 26 May 2013 (UTC)

  • Do you have a source that calls it a German victory, though? I've not come across an English-language source that calls it that, and I think the view that it was a German victory confuses two different things.

    The Battle of France was a decisive German victory in which the Germans conquered continental western Europe and drove the BEF back to the UK --- but by the time the Battle of Dunkirk began, the Battle of France was over. The Battle of Dunkirk was, from the beginning, a last stand holding-action in which all that mattered was how many Allied troops got away.

    I only have one sources that describes Dunkirk's outcome in terms of victory or defeat. That source calls it a British victory. I think that's misleading, but I've now come to the view that it's misleading to call it a German victory.—S Marshall T/C 10:16, 26 May 2013 (UTC)

Absolutely agree, this single battle should be not confused with the much larger campaign and it wasn't here that the germans won their decisive victory, instead it was the culmination of a series of actions already in action much before it was fought. Like the Battle of Corunna it was a tactical victory for the allies and a strategic victory for the germans. Reiftyr (talk) 07:27, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

First some facts:

  • The BEF was one third of the British army, 9% of all allied ground forces.
  • The British were primarily to control the Channel and provide air support.
  • The RN implemented a successful blockade of Germany.
  • The BEF was mainly on the coast behind the French and Belgians.
  • The BEF was in France and moved into Belgium covering Northern France and Belgium behind the French and Belgians.
  • The French and Belgians capitulated in front of the BEF.
  • The small BEF was facing massive German army in front of them.
  • The BEF stopped the panzers at Arras. Rommel said he thought he had been hit by a force three times the size.
  • General Gort said the BEF will retreat back to the UK facing such overwhelming odds.
  • The British and some French formed the Dunkirk pocket.
  • The Germans tried to annihilate the BEF in the pocket. They failed.
  • The RAF formed a CAP over Dunkirk.
  • More German planes were destroyed than British over Dunkirk.
  • The Luftwaffe was mainly kept away from Dunkirk town and beaches.

The specific Battle of Dunkirk was a decisive Allied victory (mainly British BEF). The British were ordered by General Gort to retreat back to the UK as the French and Belgians had capitulated in front of the them. The small BEF, only 9% of all allied ground forces, were facing a massive German army in front of them. Retreating back to the UK was the only option. The BEF were not pushed into the Dunkirk pocket, the pocket was created because of the British plan to retreat back to the UK.

  • The Germans were ordered to annihilate the BEF in the Dunkirk Pocket - their prime aim.
  • The the BEF's aim was to retreat back to the UK - their prime aim.

The Germans never annihilated the BEF at all as 350,000 retreated to the UK. The BEF with French assistance prevented the German forces from entering the Dunkirk Pocket. The RAF formed a CAP over Dunkirk with more Luftwaffe planes destroyed than RAF. The BEF achieved their aim, the Germans never achieved their aim. This was the first German defeat of WW2. (talk) 08:55, 18 June 2016 (UTC)

Hitler deliberately allowed the BEF to escape because he never wanted war with the British Empire. ( (talk) 14:30, 6 August 2016 (UTC))

Adding map?[edit]

Perhaps a map (like in German article) should be added? DrunkSquirrel (talk) 20:43, 16 July 2011 (UTC)

  • Good suggestion, thanks for that. I've added a map.—S Marshall T/C 10:17, 17 July 2011 (UTC)

"Allied Evacuation"?[edit]

I don't understand this terminology. Its hardly impartial. The Battle of Dunkirk was, essentially, a German victory. Evacuation would imply defeat, or the product of one, just as there were countless "successful evacuations" by Allied and Axis powers ensuing major defeats. Even Winston Churchill considered Dunkirk to be a defeat.

If we're to start labeling the result a "Successful Allied Evacuation", then shouldn't we start calling the Invasion of Normandy a "successful German evacuation"? Or could we perhaps remove the bias from this article?— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

  • At the time, it was widely understood as a good result for the Allies. Nowadays, seen in context, it is still widely understood as a positive outcome for the Allies in the sources. Winston Churchill considered Dunkirk to be a "deliverance", and I think that's the right concept, although I would prefer a more encyclopaedic phrasing.

    At the start of the Battle of Dunkirk, it was understood that there were two possible outcomes: the Allied forces in France could be wiped out completely, or some might escape the jaws of destruction. In the event, more than was ever thought possible were saved. "Victory" is a strong word, and I don't think it was really the kind of success for the Wehrmacht for which the word "German victory" should really be used. Their objective was not to capture Dunkirk, but to destroy the Allied forces.

    The defeat was really the Battle of France as a whole. Dunkirk together with Arras were the two rays of light in what was otherwise a very dark time.

    The outcome set out in full was as follows:-

  • German successful capture of territory
  • German failure to destroy the allied forces
  • Allied successful evacuation
  • Allied loss of some men and a large amount of matériel
  • Understood at the time as an Allied "deliverance"
  • The question that we have to answer is how successfully to encapsulate that in a brief statement. Given the amount of controversy we've seen about it, I'm not sure that's possible, and it may be best to leave that box blank rather than use wording that's going to cause the constant feuding we get on this page.—S Marshall T/C 09:21, 18 November 2011 (UTC)
Its a German victory, like it or not. Perhaps it should be worded 'British driven from continent' - the current wording makes it seem that 'evacuation' was the allied strategic plan all along instead of something forced on them by the Germans. Certainly the French thought the British had deserted them, the Belgians surrendered and the British escaped with only the clothes on their backs.
This argument has come up in several other Milhist articles in similar forms. A discussion a couple years ago at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Military history resulted in the decision that if there was controversy and edit warring over a result in the info box then results should be left out of info box and both sides of the argument represented - with citations - in the body of the article. The reasoning being that if either side represents real views in reliable sources it should be easy to cite. As it is, without refs, it can be removed by any editor.Tttom1 (talk) 18:01, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
"Successful Allied Evacuation" is woefully inadequate, vague, and belittles the fact that the Allies were virtually driven out of continental Europe. Simply dubbing the battle an Allied retreat without any causation, and denying the fact that it was the product of a series of German victories is quite absurd.

Its also a clear case of bias due to the fact that there are few/no articles featuring Axis rearguard actions that are listed with analogous outcomes.

I'm going to go ahead and change it to "Allied Evacuation/German Tactical Victory". Considering how many personnel were lost and the amount of equipment that was left behind, the use of "successful" is highly debatable and should be left out. The tactical repercussions to the Germans are, in the article's present state, grossly under emphasized which is why I have chosen to include German Victory in an attempt to shift this article to the impartial. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:50, 22 January 2012 (UTC)

  • I think this view confuses two different things. Taken as a whole, the Battle of France was a decisive German victory. But the Battle of Dunkirk really wasn't, because Dunkirk began after the Battle of France was tactically over. In other words, at the start of Dunkirk, all the bad things you mention were already guaranteed to happen. So they weren't really the outcome of the Battle of Dunkirk, were they? They were the outcome of the Battle of France.—S Marshall T/C 19:43, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
The battle involved the assault on Dunkirk by the forces of the Third Reich. The aim was to capture the town, Allied equipment, and the Allied forces. The town and Allied equipment were captured, and the Allies suffered heavy casualties. However, Operation Dynamo launched by the Allies was successful in evacuating the Allied forces. This was therefore a German victory - because the Germans won. It was not a pyrrhic victory - because the price of victory was not exorbitant. Strategically it was successful insofar that the pocket of resistance was neutralised, but was objectively unsuccessful in neutralising a force which would become a significant contributor to the Allied war effort in other sectors.
However, the last aspect above has absolutely nothing to do with the Battle of France. The strategic element has little to do with the Battle for France at all. The decisive German victory of the Battle of France was at Sedan because it was that which decided the Battle of France. The Battle of Dunkirk did not decide the Battle of France, but took place within the French theatre. It was objectively a tactical German victory - the only quibble that one can level at that assessment is that there was technically no country called "Germany" at the time, but as per the other articles, the 3rd Reich is commonly referred to as "Germany". It would also not be appropriate to call it an Axis tactical victory as it was exclusive to the forces of the Third Reich.
Moreover, if one is to discount the German victory as a victory, it really raises questions about why there should be two separate articles at all. The evacuation and battle are being treated separately, so it would be logical to... treat them separately.
You know that there are dozens of sources that can be applied to prove this position. All battles have an outcome; and this is no different. Just because you cannot conflate the Battle for France with the Dunkirk evacuation does not mean that one cannot say that there was not a distinct victor. By declaring that such assessment of the battle must be left blank, all you are doing is putting such assessment in abeyance.
AnAbsolutelyOriginalUsername42 (talk) 15:41, 16 December 2012 (UTC)
  • Would you list these dozens of sources, please?

    Personally, I own three decent sources on Dunkirk. The first is ISBN 9780330437967 and its title is "Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory" by Major-General Julian Thompson. You'll be able to guess from the title that it doesn't conclude that Dunkirk was a "German victory". The second is ISBN 9781853266850 and its title is "The Miracle of Dunkirk" by Walter Lord. Its thesis is that Dunkirk was a "miracle" and a "deliverance" for Britain. Nowhere does it call Dunkirk a German victory. The third, ISBN 9780141024370, is "Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man" by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore. Its thesis was that the allied conduct at Dunkirk "saved the BEF".

    If you provide reliable sources that specifically describe the Battle of Dunkirk as a German victory, then that of course will carry great weight.—S Marshall T/C 16:37, 16 December 2012 (UTC)

  • Your sources contradict that the Germans took and held Dunkirk and had a higher kill-death ratio than the Allies? Because, ultimately, these are the markers for describing whether a combatant wins or loses a battle. If Operation Dynamo were merged with this article on the Battle for Dunkirk, there would be a serious case to describe it as German tactical success; German strategic failure. It would be plain silly to describe the Battle of Kiev, for instance, as a German failure, as the Axis both took the city and captured a half-million Soviets; yet the operation may well have cost them the war. There is no historical source which will not say that Dunkirk was captured, nor that the Allies suffered heavily; but they will also likely look at the strategic implications of the allied evacuation, which were of great significance. AnAbsolutelyOriginalUsername42 (talk) 17:16, 16 December 2012 (UTC)
  • Nope, on Wikipedia the markers for who won and who lost are reliable sources. Our policy on this, WP:V, says "Even if you are sure something is true, it must be verifiable before you can add it."

    We have three choices for resolving this: you can provide a source; or I can remove the phrase; or we can request a third opinion.—S Marshall T/C 18:27, 16 December 2012 (UTC)

  • Lord, Walter. The Miracle of Dunkirk. New York: The Viking Press, 1982 / London: Allen Lane, 1983. Citations from the Wordsworth Military Library reprint of 1998. ISBN 1-85326-685-X. p 246.
But in all seriousness, if you feel that strongly about it, do ask for a peer review. As it currently stands, the article is consistent with the description of other battles such as Battle of Bir Hakeim, Battle of Bataan, Siege of Calais (1940), Battle of Timor, etc. etc. where one side achieves tactical victory but delaying actions or evacuations are successfully conducted by the defeated party, with long-term strategic consequences. AnAbsolutelyOriginalUsername42 (talk) 20:20, 16 December 2012 (UTC)
  • That source is the one in my library. I've just read page 246 and I can confirm that it does not describe the outcome of Dunkirk as a German victory.—S Marshall T/C 22:11, 16 December 2012 (UTC)

At the time, the Germans expected the Allied soldiers to either die fighting or surrender, as that was effectively the only choice open to them, no-one had ever before evacuated such a vast number - ~300,000 - of troops from beaches under fire in such a short time as was available, so when Operation Dynamo began few on the German or Allied sides would have thought it would be so successful. Most Germans would have expected the British forces to eventually surrender, as they didn't appear to have any other choice.

A large-scale sea evacuation like Operation Dynamo had never been tried before, and it is possibly still the largest seaborne evacuation of troops under fire ever. As Churchill said; 'Wars are not won by evacuations', but from the British POV Dynamo was an unqualified success. The alternative was to lose the whole BEF. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:38, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

"Allied break"[edit]

What does this mean?:

German forces around the Dunkirk pocket should cease their advance on the port and consolidate, to avoid an Allied break.

To prevent the Allies from breaking out through the encirclement because the German forces were still strung out in a line approaching the city? {{ ping}} me to discuss. --Thnidu (talk) 22:20, 16 June 2015 (UTC)