The beaches of Dunkirk were a saviour to many soldiers stranded during the war, but now it is a tranquil beach location with no signs of what happened many years ago.
In 1940, the allied troops were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. A decision was made that these soldiers needed to be extracted and taken back to England. Churchill made this decision and set plans for Operation Dynamo to commence. They had only expected 45000 men to be extracted but by the 8th day 338226 men were extracted. The soldiers had to wade out into shoulder deep waters and wait for the boats to rescue them. A total of 800 naval and civilian boats helped in the rescue efforts. Sadly there were a sum of 68000 soldiers that died and nearly all their tanks, vehicles and equipment were abandoned on the beaches. After the success of Operation Dynamo, Winston Churchill addressed the house of commons with his famous speech ‘We shall fight on the beaches’: We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender,’.
We took the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk and drove from the port to Dunkirk town. We parked the car in a car park opposite Operation Dynamo museum, and to our surprise the parking was free.
We walked to the beach from our car, it was only a short journey, and we came across some memorials along the way, which are fascinating. The memorial that really stood out for us was La Sablier (The hourglass), it is a representation of the passing of time, which is really prominent for those soldier that were stranded. The beach at Dunkirk looks so peaceful, with the tide out and being able to walk across the beach for miles. Being in the same spot that the stranded soldiers once would have been doesn’t seem possible, but how lonely the beach really looks and how lonely it must have been stood with all their comrades around them not knowing if they would live or die. If you were saved, then you were one of the lucky ones, as many thousands died.
Operation Dynamo Museum
Cost: 8 Euro per person
After we had purchased the tickets, there was seating available to watch a short video on Operation Dynamo and some of the original footage. The video plays in French with English subtitles and then in English with French subtitles. As we proceeded through the museum, many different artifacts from the operation are on display, from the uniform worn by soldiers, and officers, to parts of plane engines and propellers that were abandoned on the beaches during the evacuation. As you could imagine, the objects on display are not available to touch, but really gives an insight into life during the war and the sacrifices that many had to make.
We feel this was very educational and an interesting museum, if you are interested in World War II, then this is a must place to visit.
To get to Dunkirk, we took the ferry from Dover across to Dunkirk ferry port before driving to Dunkirk.
We took the car to Dunkirk and drove, which is the most easiest and convenient way for us. Vehicles drive on the right side of the road in Dunkirk, but in England we drive on the left, so this was a completely different concept. When driving, we always had to remember to drive on the correct side of the road, and drive around the roundabout the correct way. Before leaving England, we had to ensure we had certain items in our vehicle or applied to our vehicle, if we didn’t the police could fine us.
The items that we had to have in the vehicle are:
- Warning triangle
- High Visibility jacket x 2
- Alcohol breathalyser kit
- Light reflectors (these need to be applied to the lights on your vehicle before leaving England)
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
The roads seem much quieter in Dunkirk compared to the roads in England which is great and most of the signs are very easy to follow. We didn’t have a satnav for Europe and would highly recommended using one, or you could use google maps just as we did and found it relatively easy to get from the port to Dunkirk and back again.
Surprisingly parking in Dunkirk is free, and there are plenty of parking spaces available. We parked outside the museum and took a short walk to the beach before heading back to the car and visiting the museum.
We took the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk Ferry Port, which was very easy. We arrived and followed the signs and the instruction and made it onto the ferry. It is not possible to remain in the car, so once we had parked, we head up onto the boat. It takes about two hours from Dover to Dunkirk, and there are a number of restaurants, gambling machines, and a small arcade to keep you entertained. It is also possible to sit outside at the rear of the boat to take in the fresh air and watch the views of the White Cliffs of Dover as we depart.
On our return we purchased the premium lounge for an additional £12 per person and thankful that we did. The lounge was excellent, relaxing, and the food is a small selection of snacks such as macaroons, croissants, and crisps, with soft drinks and hot drinks available. There are two lounges, one for relaxation to sit back and take in the quiet atmosphere, while the other of a dinning style with table and chairs. On arrival to the lounge we were given a complimentary glass of Prosecco. It is possible to leave the lounge and explore the rest of the boat and return at your own leisure.
We did experience some rough waters on our way home, which caused the boat to sway a little, and feel a little sea sick, so we were glad when we finally got off the boat. Unfortunately the ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, does not permit foot passengers, therefore a vehicle is required.
Places to eat
By the time we had arrived in Dunkirk we were quite hungry, so the first thing we did was find food along the sea front. We stopped to eat at Sucre Sale, we sat outside and enjoyed the views across to the beach and sea. The food was ok, I ordered chicken and camembert baguette, whilst Shams had a chicken and pineapple curry wrap. I know it does sound strange having a curry in a wrap, but it was amazing. I much preferred the curry wrap to my baguette, I personally feel that camembert and chicken doesn’t go well, and the taste just didn’t seem quite right, but then the French love their cheese, and seem to have cheese in everything.