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Dunkirk-success or defeat?

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    Posted: 24 Jan 2014 at 12:15
Admiral Ramsey report to the Admirality on 18 June 1940 stated than approximately 316,000 British and allied soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk.(same sources are stating 338,000)
Additionally, there was approximately 191,000 evacuated from different French port after operation Dynamo was completed.
This will bring total number of evacuated well above half a million. Part of evacuated French soldiers returned to France but remaining British and allied troops were a crucial factor in defence of British Isles, and later, after cancelation of Sea Lion , they has been used as a backbone for expansion of British Army.
Haw the succesfull evacuation of these soldiers influenced further conduct of war by Britain? IMO, GB will look for negotiated peace if the BEF will not come back from France.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Jan 2014 at 23:43
Dunkirk was an evacuation, not a battle (although some men remained to fend off German attacks). Rescuing 316,000 men from certain capture certainly isn't a failure, especially with the ever present German threat and the lack of preplanning due to circumstance. The defence of France was a failure, which was why troops had retreated to Dunkirk in the first place.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kevinmeath Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jan 2014 at 05:53
It was a success since most of the troops escaped but we shouldn't forget that it was a defeat in France.

However the British had decided to fight on even when it was thought less than 50,000 would be rescued.

The army had been defeated, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force had not.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2014 at 02:52
It's unlikely Britain would have negotiated a peace if most of the army in France was lost. It still would have left Britain in a precarious position, with a rapidly arming Germany, and German control of Norway, France, and other areas. This would have been untenable. Also, Germany had yet to establish air superiority in the region, and without that, Britain still stood.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2014 at 19:53
Well, I would not be so sure about it. In May/June 1940 only the powerful personality of Winston Churchill prevented His Majesty Government from starting peace negotiation with Germany. There was a powerful fraction lead by Lord Halifax that was ready to start negotiation and accept mediation by Italian ambassador in London.
When the Axis feelers for peace reached the War Cabinet on 26 May 1940, Halifax urged following up and start the negotiation thus starting 3 days fighting within the War Cabinet. Only determined support of Churchill by Chamberlain prevailed and W. Churchill won the challenge by Lord Halifax. The decision to reject the German peace feelers was caused by positive news regarding Dunkirk evacuation. I have reasonable doubts that the British resolution to fight alone will be so strong if BEF will end in German POW camp. In such scenario it is not difficult to image that W. Churchill will be replaced with Halifax and the negotiation will start.


Please refer to Telegraph article –link below.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2650832/Lord-Halifax-tried-to-negotiate-peace-with-the-Nazis.html


Edited by Goral - 26 Jan 2014 at 19:56
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2014 at 20:05
Originally posted by caldrail caldrail wrote:

Dunkirk was an evacuation, not a battle (although some men remained to fend off German attacks). Rescuing 316,000 men from certain capture certainly isn't a failure, especially with the ever present German threat and the lack of preplanning due to circumstance. The defence of France was a failure, which was why troops had retreated to Dunkirk in the first place.


It was a Battle which ended with successful evacuation.
There was a determined fighting by designated British and French Units to keep the "corridor" for evacuation open. Also in the air, RAF strong opposition prevented Luftwaffe from stoping the evacuation. Even with this strong RAF presence, German bombers inflicted very heavy casualties to RN vessels. These causalities forced RN to withdraw all new destroyers from the Channel.
But at the end the battle and evacuation was a great British psychological success and German missed important strategic opportunity.

Edited by Goral - 26 Jan 2014 at 20:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2014 at 22:10
I can see your point, but still, the point was not to contest the enemy or territory but simply hold them off while men were evacuated. As a set-piece battle, it doesn't really qualify, despite the action that took place. As it happens, the Germans were remarkably lax in attacking the allied troops in the Dunkirk area thus did not regard the operation as a battle as such themselves. Partly it was an idea that allied forces would simply surrender in the face of defeat, but also that defeat of the enemy had already been won and hence further attacks were of little practical value.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2014 at 02:43
It wasn't set piece battle. It was a battle of movement with evacuation corridor shrinking every day until only small parameter around Dunkirk was in allied troops control.
refer to;http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/worldwarii/p/dunkirk.htm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2014 at 04:16
Originally posted by Goral Goral wrote:

Well, I would not be so sure about it. In May/June 1940 only the powerful personality of Winston Churchill prevented His Majesty Government from starting peace negotiation with Germany. There was a powerful fraction lead by Lord Halifax that was ready to start negotiation and accept mediation by Italian ambassador in London.
When the Axis feelers for peace reached the War Cabinet on 26 May 1940, Halifax urged following up and start the negotiation thus starting 3 days fighting within the War Cabinet. Only determined support of Churchill by Chamberlain prevailed and W. Churchill won the challenge by Lord Halifax. The decision to reject the German peace feelers was caused by positive news regarding Dunkirk evacuation. I have reasonable doubts that the British resolution to fight alone will be so strong if BEF will end in German POW camp. In such scenario it is not difficult to image that W. Churchill will be replaced with Halifax and the negotiation will start.


Please refer to Telegraph article –link below.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2650832/Lord-Halifax-tried-to-negotiate-peace-with-the-Nazis.html


Yes, no doubt there were differences of opinion. Many, including some Germans, were shocked at the speed of victory, and the collapse of France in particular. I think many cooler heads understood though, that there was a wider picture, and Germany's strategic position was not all that strong.

British industry and military recruitment were expanding rapidly. They also had the advantage of defense in depth, with a strong presence at sea, and resources and manpower coming in from the dominions and colonies. Germany had a strong hand on the continent at that point, but only so long as the marriage of convenience lasted with the Soviet Union, which was not to be very long, as we know. Without that they were hemmed in, with tepid to non-existent support among European countries.

Strategists were also coming to realize the central place of air power at that time. It was becoming clear that any major military scheme would end up in dire straights without air superiority. Germany was by no means assured of this in 1940.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2014 at 22:52
I doubt the Germans were shocked at the speed of allied collapse in France. Far from it, they had bargained on it. Further, having effectively defeated the allies in France and the country left open to occupation, at least in the northern half, it meant that preparation for Operation Seelowe could begin in earnest. I know some people have cast doubt on the viability and commitment to that operation, but all the evidence suggests the Germans were serious about conquering England, who had, after all, declared war on them. For instance, troops allocated to to Seelowe were not redeployed until after Barbarossa began. As usual, Hitler said one thing and did another. As much as he claimed the English were natural allies of the NAzis, he nonetheless authorised plans to deconstruct great Britain under occupation and re-organise their labour and property ownership. Since the allies were no longer putting up any meaningful resistance in France or Belgium, Hitler considered the Battle for France was won, and was clearly expecting an almost neutered Britain to cave in to German demands.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 05:05
Originally posted by caldrail caldrail wrote:

I doubt the Germans were shocked at the speed of allied collapse in France. Far from it, they had bargained on it. Further, having effectively defeated the allies in France and the country left open to occupation, at least in the northern half, it meant that preparation for Operation Seelowe could begin in earnest. I know some people have cast doubt on the viability and commitment to that operation, but all the evidence suggests the Germans were serious about conquering England, who had, after all, declared war on them. For instance, troops allocated to to Seelowe were not redeployed until after Barbarossa began. As usual, Hitler said one thing and did another. As much as he claimed the English were natural allies of the NAzis, he nonetheless authorised plans to deconstruct great Britain under occupation and re-organise their labour and property ownership. Since the allies were no longer putting up any meaningful resistance in France or Belgium, Hitler considered the Battle for France was won, and was clearly expecting an almost neutered Britain to cave in to German demands.


Germans could have been little other than encouraged by the speed of victory 1940. Operation Sea Lion was definitely an option, but only one that could be enacted after gaining air superiority. This was never a certainty, and in fact Germany failed to do this for several reasons.  German air losses 1940 insured that there would be no invasion at that point. British surrender or negotiated retreat was extremely unlikely in late 1940. Aircraft production was soaring, material was flowing in from overseas, and Britain held a strong position at sea.

I think some of Hitler's key initial mistakes were:

1) He started too early. Another 5-10 years of industrial and military build up would have put him in a much stronger position.

2) He read too much into the rapid collapse of France. In fact, Germany's global position was not all that strong.

3) He should have come to some sort of deal with Britain before turning to the Soviet Union. Germany was far overstretched with two opponents.

4) He should have tried harder to delay US entry into the war.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 22:36
Hitler had agreed conditions to be met before Operation Seelowe went ahead. Goering had taken up the challenge of meeting one of them, the destruction or withdrawal of the RAF. The Kriegsmarine recognised from the beginning that naval superiority was an issue despite Hitlers assurances. There were differences in opinion regarding strategy - the Kriegsmarine wanted a narrow landing to focus their forces and defence, wheras the Wehrmacht wanted landings along the south coast in order to outflank defenders and encircle London (Conquering London wasn't the plan - the Germans merely wished to force London into surrender by siege)

Hitler had originally planned for his campaigns to begin in 1944, against Russia, and German rearmament was planned to be complete and ready for war in 1943. Hitler had been opportunistic in snatching territory - note that his occupation of the Saar was not a foregone conclusion - he had ordered his army to retreat at the first sign of French resction. With each acquisition his confidence grew until he decided in 1941 that Britain could not win and since the war in the west was more or less won (it was only a matter of tike before Britain was defeated economically due to submarine warfare, or so it might have appeared at the time), there was no longer any reason to delay the creation of lebensraum in the east - which he had argued in favour of in Mein Kampf
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jan 2014 at 07:57
One question is still open: Will Britain keep fighting alone if BEF ends in German POW?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jan 2014 at 12:16
My answer is: yes. Despite a crushing defeat such as this, there are very good reasons why Britain would not have given up in 1940:

1) Up to this point in history, Britain had been the top dog, although the US was rapidly coming up in the world. How much support would any government have had in negotiating a humiliating treaty with Germany? Not much, whether this was a pragmatic sentiment or not.

2) Even if such a treaty was concluded, what assurance would there be that Germany would honour it, even in the short term? Events in that time period suggested that Germany would quickly backtrack on any agreement, just as soon as it was advantageous. Any armistice or treaty would not be worth the paper it was printed on.

3) Air power was coming into its own at that time, and even with the loss of a good part of the army, Britain still stood, unless the German air force could pull off a great victory. And near the end of 1940, Britain was pulling ahead, in terms of technology, and also aircraft production. It was clear that air power would be key to the outcome of the rest of the war, and at this point, Germany was not looking good. What sort of treaty would be negotiated with bombs falling on Berlin?

4) Support for Britain in the world was significant, and increasing. Certainly so from the dominions, and (belatedly) from the US. On the other hand, support for Germany only came from a point of a gun, with the tepid exception of Italy, and a couple of other European states.

5) Even in a worse case scenario, with Britain occupied, the British government and armed forces could have retreated to Canada, in which case, theoretically at least, a taxing, hundred years war may have played out over the Atlantic, at a time when a similar conflict in the Soviet Union may have also demanded German resources. Not a happy outcome for M. Hitler, or German citizens.




Edited by Captain Vancouver - 29 Jan 2014 at 12:17
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jan 2014 at 23:00
Britain the top dog? Well, we certainly had the largest empire and the most powerful navy. But please realise that other nations had a look-in too. The French were regarded as a force to be reckoned with even by the Germans initially, though later events proved that French power was a very poorly motivated and directed beast. The Russian air force was the largest in the world despite it's relative obselescense. Britain was of course seen up until that time as the "workshop of the world", though I think pretty much everyone recognised the potential of Amercian manufacturing and econimic strength, and Germany was dazzling everyone with their recovery from the Great Depression.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jan 2014 at 02:05
Originally posted by caldrail caldrail wrote:

Britain the top dog? Well, we certainly had the largest empire and the most powerful navy. But please realise that other nations had a look-in too. The French were regarded as a force to be reckoned with even by the Germans initially, though later events proved that French power was a very poorly motivated and directed beast. The Russian air force was the largest in the world despite it's relative obselescense. Britain was of course seen up until that time as the "workshop of the world", though I think pretty much everyone recognised the potential of Amercian manufacturing and econimic strength, and Germany was dazzling everyone with their recovery from the Great Depression.


I was referring to the psychological fallout of major concessions to Germany. It would have been a massive turnaround in history, one not easily accepted by many. Imagine, for example, the US today making territorial, military, and economic concessions to, say, China or Russia. Those politicians would be lynched.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Jan 2014 at 22:02
Not necessarily. After all, America is closing a foothold in Asia as I speak - an airbase in Kyrgyzstan - because the local government no longer want Americans there, and that represents a strategic loss in the area. No lynching, no television debates - it's a matter of political expedience. In any event concessions from one nation to another are ordinary day to day business. The Russians are often publicly against such deals but they do them under the table nonetheless. China after all did not retake Hong Kong by force.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2014 at 14:10
Originally posted by caldrail caldrail wrote:

Not necessarily. After all, America is closing a foothold in Asia as I speak - an airbase in Kyrgyzstan - because the local government no longer want Americans there, and that represents a strategic loss in the area. No lynching, no television debates - it's a matter of political expedience. In any event concessions from one nation to another are ordinary day to day business. The Russians are often publicly against such deals but they do them under the table nonetheless. China after all did not retake Hong Kong by force.


If you were to ask most Americans what Kyrgyzstan was, I'd wager that most would suspect it was the brand name for some lotion you would roll on before laying in the sun. That sad corner of the world is less than a pawn in the global chess game now in motion.

China did not take Hong Kong by force, because it was a relatively simple geopolitical calculation. They were pretty much assured of getting it anyway, so getting pushy would have cost them considerably, but gained nothing. If you have 20 showing in blackjack, you don't take another card.

Going back to our comparison between Germany forcing its way with Britain in 1940, and a similar experience today, think of China demanding that the US cut its carrier battle groups from  the current 11 to half that, and also demanding bases on Guam and Midway. Do you think Obama (or anyone else) would have the assent of the congress and senate, not to mention popular sentiment, on that one?

Because there would be no point in Hitler settling for any kind of ambivalent treaty. From Germany's perspective, time was of the essence. A modest armistice would have allowed for the rapid buildup of British and commonwealth power (already underway). It would have also allowed for a dithering US to make up its mind re democracy or fascism for the future world. It was decisive victory needed,  or nothing at all.

And how could they have demanded that at the end of 1940? The German air force had taken a beating, bombs were falling on German cities, and production of armaments was accelerating in Britain, Canada, and other places.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2014 at 19:17
Originally posted by Goral Goral wrote:

Admiral Ramsey report to the Admirality on 18 June 1940 stated than approximately 316,000 British and allied soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk.(same sources are stating 338,000)
Additionally, there was approximately 191,000 evacuated from different French port after operation Dynamo was completed.
This will bring total number of evacuated well above half a million. Part of evacuated French soldiers returned to France but remaining British and allied troops were a crucial factor in defence of British Isles, and later, after cancelation of Sea Lion , they has been used as a backbone for expansion of British Army.
Haw the succesfull evacuation of these soldiers influenced further conduct of war by Britain? IMO, GB will look for negotiated peace if the BEF will not come back from France.

A defeat. But a partial success for withdrawing most of the troops as well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2014 at 20:28

We must ask the basic question here. What was the ultimate goal of BEF and what was the ultimate goal of German Army in this Battle?

For British the objective was to save their human resource for further  conducting of war.

The German objective was to stop the evacuation. From this perspective, the German lost as their objective was not achieved and overwhelming majority of British force escaped to fight another day.

Winston Churchill said that “wars are not won by evacuations” and this is certainly true. But successful evacuation could change defeat into victory at the later stage of the war.

From my perspective, the Dunkirk evacuation was a great success of Britain and together with Battle of Britain it was a major strategic setback for Germany.

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Going back to our comparison between Germany forcing its way with Britain in 1940, and a similar experience today, think of China demanding that the US cut its carrier battle groups from  the current 11 to half that, and also demanding bases on Guam and Midway. Do you think Obama (or anyone else) would have the assent of the congress and senate, not to mention popular sentiment, on that one?

You'll find that decisions like that are not made with public consent, or in most cases, with any public debate. However, I too recognise it's unlikely that Obama would do that, unless he stood to gain materially in other ways.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Feb 2014 at 15:57
I,m currently reading "Dunkirk, Fight to the last man"..
Below is a quote from this book, written by the author,Hugh Seabag-Montefiore (his two cosines wee in the BEF at that time); "Of course even for my fo my familyr much more  was in stake in Dunkirk than the lives of these two cousins.If Britain had lost their army,Hitler might have been tempered to invade, whatever or not he had first established air superiority over the English Canal.That would probably have spelt disaster for British people given the small number of fully equipped troops in the country.It would have resulted in even more catastrophic consequences for all Anglo-Jewish families ,such as mine,who would almost certainly have been rounded up and exterminated once Hitler took control of Britain. Dunkirk and the men who fought to make it happen saved us from this fat,and for that my family,and I, will be eternally regretful".
I personally think that the will of resistance would collapse among the British people if the BEF will be not evacuated from Dunkirk. For this reason, I consider this evacuation as a great success of Britain which had a very strong strategic influence on further conduct of the war.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Feb 2014 at 22:01
The British were already preparing for the German invasion. The evacuation was a morale boost, certainly, but a collapse because of a failure at Dunkirk wouldn't necessarily have occurred. Both Britain and Germany regarded the 'Northampton Parallel' as the point at which British resistance would be deemed pointless. London was to be besieged, not conquered directly, the Germans anticipating outflanking movements in the West Country and the East Coast.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Captain Vancouver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2014 at 03:24
Germans themselves were to soon find out what a mistake it was to overstretch before having a firm command  of the air and sea. Their defeat after Normandy, and the terrible pummeling their cities took was largely a result of loosing control of the air.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2014 at 04:36
Politically, Britain was very close to began negotiation with Germany. Churchill only narrowly defeated Halifax "negotiation" fraction. Without sucesfull evacuation from Dunkirk, he would be (most likely) unable to prevail in Defense Committee voting.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Feb 2014 at 22:22
That's why it's commonly assumed that the British would surrender the islands once the Germans advanced beyond Northampton. However, it was also likely that much of the Royal Navy would be tasked to sail to an empire or allied port and seek service against their enemy in a continuation war, or perhaps simply to deny Germany those strategic assets. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2014 at 16:25
Without industrial base of British Isles  the RN will be a spent force unless USA would join the fight what is a very uncertain taking under consideration a very strong isolationism movement in USA prior to Pearl Harbor. The industrial base which could be provided by Dominions were certainly not sufficient . IMO, RN could seek refuge in Canadian ports but it will be not able to operate from those port for to long.

The greatness of Winston Churchill as a British leader fortunately ensured that there was enough political will to continue fighting even at the time that everything seems to fall apart. IMO, he was a decesive factor that Britain did not start to negotiate peace with Germany.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2014 at 16:28
Originally posted by Captain Vancouver Captain Vancouver wrote:

Germans themselves were to soon find out what a mistake it was to overstretch before having a firm command  of the air and sea. Their defeat after Normandy, and the terrible pummeling their cities took was largely a result of loosing control of the air.

Yes but it was not so obvious in May/June 1940.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Feb 2014 at 16:49
Originally posted by Goral Goral wrote:

Admiral Ramsey report to the Admirality on 18 June 1940 stated than approximately 316,000 British and allied soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk.(same sources are stating 338,000)
Additionally, there was approximately 191,000 evacuated from different French port after operation Dynamo was completed.
This will bring total number of evacuated well above half a million. Part of evacuated French soldiers returned to France but remaining British and allied troops were a crucial factor in defence of British Isles, and later, after cancelation of Sea Lion , they has been used as a backbone for expansion of British Army.
Haw the succesfull evacuation of these soldiers influenced further conduct of war by Britain? IMO, GB will look for negotiated peace if the BEF will not come back from France.
 
 
First posts are always tough but I'll jump in anyway.LOL
Ultimaely it boils down to viewpoint and an analysis of the context then and now.
A case can certainly be made then that the primary events leading to it were both a strategic and tactical failure. Even given the vailiant efforts of the BEF, RAF and the RN, during the 'fight back to the west' and the subsequent evacuation.
Otoh, it can also be advanced, and has uniformly been, that the actual operation was a tactical success leading to continued British participation. And a morale lifter. As well as an operation that aided in the ultimate strategicic success of the war for the allies.
 
Nicholas Hugh Sebag-Montefiore has written a good work on it in his: "Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man"
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goral Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Feb 2014 at 08:59
welcome,Arlington.
I concur with your assessment.
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