The ink on the newspapers is barely dry but the reviews are in and summer 2017’s biggest blockbuster, Dunkirk, is a hit with the critics. Rave reviews are expected to increase interest in the WW2 story. The commune of Dunkirk, or as it’s referred to in French, Dunkerque, in Hauts-de-France, has several tributes and memorials to the evacuation for anyone wanting to learn more.
The film is based on Operation Dynamo, an evacuation of over 330,000 Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, in Northern France between May 26th and June 4th. The Christopher Nolan film tells the story of how 700 private boats known as the “Little Ships of Dunkirk” came to the aid of French and British soldiers and delivered them safely across the channel after the troops had been forced back by the German army. The limited resources of the British army and number of military ships would not allow so many men to be evacuated in time without this extra help.
The film which is expected to break box office records was shot in several locations across Europe but many sequences including the beach scenes were shot in exactly the same coastal spots where the 1940 evacuation took place.
The town of Dunkirk features several historical tributes to WW2 and Operation Dynamo. The Dunkirk War Museum serves as a fitting memorial of the events, with in depth explanations, maps, guns and uniforms used by soldiers during the operation. In the town’s centre the cemetery remembers those who lost their lives with a dedicated British War graves section for both named and unknown soldiers.
Take a walk down to the beach and see the vast sandy plains where soldiers waited anxiously not knowing their fate or if they would be rescued. On the beaches you can see the Mole, this long stretch of rock and wood extends into the water and was used by soldiers to reach boats that could not come to shore. On low tides several shipwrecks and other machinery can be seen now claimed by the sea.
For more information the Dunkirk Tourist office offers a further guide to other key areas of the town which for a 10 day period turned from one of the potentially largest disasters in military history to a miracle still capturing attentions 70 years later.