Paradise after Hell: Rhiannon Looseley Uncovers the Forgotten History of the Evacuation of over 100,000 French Soldiers from Dunkirk to Britain in May 1940, and Describes What Happened to Them on Their Brief Sojourn across the Channel and Return to France Soon After

By Looseley, Rhiannon | History Today, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Paradise after Hell: Rhiannon Looseley Uncovers the Forgotten History of the Evacuation of over 100,000 French Soldiers from Dunkirk to Britain in May 1940, and Describes What Happened to Them on Their Brief Sojourn across the Channel and Return to France Soon After


Looseley, Rhiannon, History Today


'IF WE ARE SAVED, IT IS THANKS to our English brothers, and we will keep a good souvenir in our hearts of the memory that cannot be effaced, above all, of the very warm welcome [sic].' This heartfelt message, left by a French soldier on a school blackboard in south-west England, expresses the feelings of many of the 110,000 French soldiers of the First Army who were forced to leave their homeland, evacuated from Dunkirk to Britain alongside the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) between May 26th and June 5th, 1940. Exhausted, hungry and demoralized, the majority of these men were fed, clothed, lodged and returned to France in only a few days, in the hope they could continue the fight against the fast-advancing German army.

In Britain, the rescue of Allied troops from the northern French port of Dunkirk is remembered as one of the most important episodes of the Second World War. France has not afforded the evacuation this standing. It is, nevertheless, acknowledged as a significant episode in French history: the last major action involving the French army before France signed the armistice with Germany just over two weeks later. It effectively marked the beginning of the end. However, the story of the French soldiers has largely been

The Battle of France, prior to the evacuation from Dunkirk, had been a tremendous shock to the French. The Germans had advanced rapidly, trapping thet British and French in a small pocket around Dunkirk. The speed of the attack and the bloodshed that ensued left France traumatized. The French soldiers in Dunkirk experienced the onslaught first hand.' The situation on the beaches was horrendous. Dead men and horses littered the ground, making it impossible to avoid stepping on them. The constant bombardment from the Luftwaffe made every second a struggle for survival. In addition, relations with the British, both among the soldiers and at a political level, were less than cordial.

Traditional xenophobia, coupled with different styles of discipline, did little to commend to the French an evacuation to Britain.

It is impossible to know exactly how many French soldiers arrived in Britain from Dunkirk, but it was in the region of 110,000. Instructions were given by the War Office to record the number of arrivals but they insisted that transportation should not be delayed on this account. For the first four days evacuation prioritized British troops. Churchill, however, soon realized that this risked damaging the last vestiges of Franco-British relations. Hence, on May 30th, he ordered that French and British troops be evacuated in equal numbers.

War Office archives provide details of the plans laid down for the operation by its Movement Control division on May 27th, 1940. On disembarkation at the southern ports, evacuees were to be sent by train to Aldershot, Salisbury and Reading and, from these stations, to camps at Aldershot, Tidworth, Dorchester, Blandford, Oxford and Tetbury. Trains from Ramsgate and Margate were to be routed via Reading; trains from Hastings, Eastbourne, Newhaven, Brighton or Southampton were to go to Salisbury via Chichester; trains from Dover and Folkestone were to go via Redhill for distribution to Aldershot, Salisbury or Reading; and any stragglers who found their way to London were to be sent to Aldershot. Non-British troops were to be sent to different locations according to nationality. The chosen destination for French troops was to be Tidworth near Salisbury. There were to be refreshment points at Headcorn, Paddock Wood, Faversham, Chichester and Salisbury.

There is also evidence of prior arrangements for the repatriation of French troops. The French military attache's telegram to a recipient code-named Arcole, on May 31st, informed French authorities that their British counterparts wanted French ships to assure the French troops' safe return home. The scheme put in place by Movement Control planned to repatriate the French in groups of 15,000 per day. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Paradise after Hell: Rhiannon Looseley Uncovers the Forgotten History of the Evacuation of over 100,000 French Soldiers from Dunkirk to Britain in May 1940, and Describes What Happened to Them on Their Brief Sojourn across the Channel and Return to France Soon After
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.