Some People Have the View That the Events of Dunkirk in 1940 Deserve to Be Remembered as a Triumph for Britain and Its People. How Far Do These Sources Support or Contradict This Interpretation
Submitted By ammar1
Some people have the view that the events of Dunkirk in 1940 deserve to be remembered as a triumph for Britain and its people. How far do these sources support or contradict this interpretation
Dunkirk was an important event during WWll. By 10th May 1940 the German troops had advanced through the parts of France and had advanced the beaches and ports of Dunkirk causing the Allies to retreat and to be trapped. Due to hesitation Hitler did not order the Germans to attack. This allowed Operation Dynamo to take place. This gave the Allies 10 days to be evacuated back to Britain. A variety of boats and ships, which were mostly privately owned, allowed the evacuation to take place. This meant that 140,000 French and 200,000 British troops were rescued. However the consequence of this made France surrender and over 100,000 pieces of ammunition left for the Germans to take or destroy. In addition to the 220,000 troops that were left behind. This essay would be considering both arguments through the evaluation and analysis of a range of sources.
B3 taken from a GCSE textbook and supports this statement. It is portraying the fact that Dunkirk should be considered a triumph by stating that 340,000 men, 71 heavy guns and 595 vehicles were rescued. Furthermore it shows that the RAF fighter planes shot down 3 German planes for every RAF plane lost. The evidence from the source also shows that Dunkirk was a triumph and was emphasised by Churchill. However the source lacks detail by not including the 70,000 troops, which was killed, wounded or taken prisoner, and the 150,000 French troops that were also abandoned. In addition to the 179,000 pieces of ammunition left behind. This may be because the author of the source has a lot of content to cover due to the fact that the title is called ‘Modern World History.’ Therefore parts of the details would be missed out. It could also be because this source has been partitioned to prove a point that Dunkirk was a triumph and the other side of the argument may have not been included. The author is to be trusted because it is firstly written by a teacher who would have the right qualifications and understanding of the topic to produce this type of source. It is also designed to be a GCSE textbook suggesting that this source is reliable and accurate enough. It is also written many years after the event, which has the benefit of hindsight to make a fair judgment by collating many other sources from at the event, after the event and from both points of views and coming to this conclusion.
Source B4 is an oil painting. It is showing how thousands of soldiers were being rescued from many different sizes of boats evacuating these soldiers. The painting also shows a large cloud of smoke drifting in the opposite direction suggesting that the soldiers have won the battle and are returning safely back to Britain. In the top right corner of the photo there is an RAF plane coming form the direction of Britain representing the strength of the RAF and its success. This source lacks specific detail in explaining the number of people rescued and why the RAF was such a success. The artist of this source was hired to produce this to the government making it a source of propaganda. Therefore it is very likely that many negative aspects suggesting that it was failure would have not been included in this source. Cundall would have produced this source by strict instructions from government officials; meaning that this source was carefully controlled by the government and the artist to achieve its purpose in providing the public with evidence of how Dunkirk was a success. The predicament is that since it is a painting, like a photograph, it only shows the events at that exact moment and time, not a second before or after. It also showing one of the many beaches of Dunkirk, there could have been a completely different scenario on the other beaches. Furthermore this source was created to persuade the people on the Home Front that the battle was a triumph increasing morale. The source was also made at the time of the event, which provides historians of what the event was like.
Source B5 is a newspaper article from The Daily Express, which supports this interpretation. This source explains that there was an armada of ships and which were different shapes and sizes that helped contribute to the evacuation. It also explains the success of the Royal Air Force. However this source doesn’t explain exactly how many soldiers were rescued from this evacuation. The source also states that a few of the ammunition were abandoned but this was far from it. In reality 64,000 vehicles were left behind compared to what the source states of only some auxiliary craft were the cost to the navy. This may have been because it was made at the time of war where there was little freedom of press and a large emphasis on censorship from the government. The government used the MOI (Ministry of Information) as an effective way of controlling what was going into the media. They also produced the ‘keep calm and carry on’ posters in 1939, which were a form of Propaganda, however were never posted. Judging by the tone of the source and it coming from a newspaper article, the purpose of this source was used to boost the publics’ morale. This source has an uplifting tone for example towards the end of this source it states the ‘soldiers came back tired, hungry but unbeatable’. The newspaper wanted to imply to its audience that the soldiers had great strength by wanting them to feel courageous themselves.
Source B7 strongly supports the interpretation and is a source by Churchill. It explains how many soldiers were saved and Dunkirk was a miracle of deliverance. Churchill doesn’t explain what happened to the 70,000 troops that were injured, killed or left as prisoner or to what happened to the 150,000 French troops. This source was a speech made by the British Prime Minister and would have been broadcasted to millions of people across Britain. Churchill knew that boosting morale plays a big part of winning a war and therefore his speech needed to be as persuasive as possible in achieving its purpose. During the war Propaganda was widely used in Britain and by not providing the negative aspects Churchill didn’t want to serve to boost Germany’s morale. This is because this speech was potentially broadcasted to the Germans and didn’t want this to impact it negatively onto Britain and by not informing the Germans on the current situation. Churchill uses an emotive tone and uses ‘we’ to get the public behind him and to also portray to the public that Churchill is equally just as involved with this operation as with the people on the Home Front and the troops.
Source B11 is a cartoon, which contradicts this interpretation. The cartoon is made by an Italian and is titled the triumphant English retreat? The source is showing a lion, which is meant to be afraid from the German soldier suggesting that this retreat was cowardly. The source doesn’t explain why the retreat may have been a failure for example the 150,000 French troops that were abandoned were not included in this source. The source is clearly one sided and does not in any way show that Dunkirk could be considered a success. This is because it was produced by an Italian cartoonist who at the time would’ve been an enemy to the British and therefore would have been published to the Italian or maybe even to the German public by helping to boost morale of the Italians and Germans and to insult the British. Censorship meant that the British would not have had access to this source at the time. This source creates a sarcastic tone for two reasons. Firstly, it has a question mark in the title imply to its audience that the British public misinterpreted through Propaganda of what was thought to be a victory. Also the cartoonist uses the lion to represent Britain relating themselves to strong and courageous characters. The lion is known as a mighty animal and the cartoonist represents it as being afraid of the German soldier. Therefore a so-called mighty country was afraid of the enemy.
Source B14 is an autobiography from a senior army officer, which contradicts the interpretation. The source describes that Dunkirk was shame and exhaustion. The source also provides information on how Belgian had impacted Dunkirk and other important aspects of WWll. This source doesn’t provide any information on the evacuation of Dunkirk itself and the Royal Air Force. This source is coming from an army officer suggesting that it would be reliable to the ranking given in the military. An army officer at his rank would probably argue that Dunkirk was a success due to his contribution to the war and the close relation with the government. The writer also uses violent imagery to allow the reader to experience the poor conditions he had faced during this period. The positive aspects may have been left out because the autobiography a full life. Therefore all the events of his life was needed to be covered and it is only coming from one person’s perspective.
Source B15 is an interview from an ex soldier who is called Ivan Daunt and does not support the interpretation. The source states how there was no food or water and the soldiers were going to starve. Also this source states that the Germans were much better equipped and prepared for war. The interview was many years after the event, which could suggest that some aspects were forgotten and Daunt may have exaggerated key aspects of the event to further portray his point across to the audience. This information may have not been allowed to be said due to strict censorship rules. Now these rules have been removed Ivan Daunt can express his feelings even more greatly. This source was written many years after the event it may have been more truthful that the sources made at the time because most sources made at the time of the event were either censored or used as Propaganda. The removal of government restriction has allowed him to say these things.