Dunkirk World War One
Dunkirk or Dunkerque in French, Duinkerken in Dutch means Church on the Dunes. During World War One, the Great War, Dunkirk, situated on the French – Belgium border, was an important and strategic town just behind the frontline. The British Expeditionary Force, or BEF, came to Dunkirk in October and September 1914. They established a naval aviation base command post under the leadership of Charles Rumney Samson to oppose the German Zeppelin threat against England. The German forces occupied Antwerp with its port and advanced south along the Belgium coast towards France. Dunkirk became one of the mayor ports for the British forces, from here naval vessels fought against the German Kriegsmarine and the U-boats. Beside the harbour, Air Command settled in and around Dunkirk and used the airfields for reconnaissance flights, offensive support on the battlefields and the trench warfare. They went on bombing raids on the port of Antwerp and acted as air defence against zeppelins and German Luftwaffe planes, and of course supported the British Royal Navy in the Channel.
Frequent bombing on the British stronghold with it’s airfield, naval base, hospitals and infantry forces caused casualties to soldiers and civilians and lasted throughout the War. The German used planes and artillery on Dunkirk, but unlike the general suspicion, they did not use the poisonous gas attacks frequently, for the wind usually comes inland from the sea. The clouds of poisoned gas would be taken back on their own trenches. The British and French forces used the poison gas more fequently than the Germans did.
Dunkirk World War Two
During WW2 Dunkirk became a scene of battle once more when the British Expeditionary Force was driven onto the beaches and into town by the German Blitzkrieg. Together with French, Belgium, Dutch, Norwegian, Canadian and other nationalities they tried to withstand the overwhelming German armies. They tried to buy time for the Allied forces to be shipped out towards Britain with the help of a civilian fleet from British and neighbouring countries, under constant shelling and air attacks. Besides French and Belgium effort the Dutch flatbed ships did a good job for they would not get stuck so easily on the beaches. During Operation Dynamo, as the British named this action, they evacuated over 338.200 men but lost 68000 British and 48.000 French soldiers and almost all of their vehicles, equipment, tanks. They lost over 100 planes, 9 destroyers and 200 merchant vessels.
Dunkirk Town Cemetery and Dunkirk Memorial
Both World Wars left their tears on this field. There are 460 World War One graves with 10 unidentified souls. From the Second World War there are 793 burials with 213 unidentified remains. Quite a selection of Nationalities to be found on this Commonwealth Cemetery like British, Norwegian, Czech, New Zealand, Canadian and Polish, all from different regiments like the Coldstream Guards and The Welsh Guards, The Buffs and so on.
The memorial in the back of the entrance lane is erected for the fallen during the Battle of Dunkirk with an engraved glas window which shows the scene of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. Over 4500 names are carved in the walls before the little house. Names of the fallen from the British Expeditionary Force and 6 Indian soldiers, which were never found after the Battle of Dunkirk.
One of the graves on the cemetery is from a navy sailor who served on the crested eagle, a ship which was used in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. It’s wreck still can be found on the Dunkirk Beach.
The Parking places are in front of the entrance towards the Dunkirk Common Wealth Cemetery which can be found at Routes de Furnes in Dunkirk, on the D601. The entrance to the French and Civilian cemetery can be reached by the main parking lot just up the road.