Watching movies with my children is an exercise in patience.
“What’s she doing?”
“How come he’s a llama now?”
Yes, I enjoy seeing them discover new worlds and sharing stories I love. It’s just difficult to enjoy the movies themselves, now that I am narrating as well as watching.
I have to remind myself that they’re little. They don’t have the background knowledge to ‘get’ the stories without a bit of help.
I felt like I’d fallen back into that role last year- the novice without a real clue of the big picture. You see, I thought I had a decent grasp of history, until I started studying it.
“Wait, who’s Reynaud? The Battle of Britain was…what exactly? Um…I thought the war only lasted four years…”
I recently posted a review for the movie Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Before diving into personal study of the Second World War, I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know the significance of the name.
Apparently it was kind of a big deal…
Once the movie came out, I found that I wasn’t alone. A number of people I talked too weren’t familiar with the evacuation of Dunkirk, or many of the surrounding events.
The teacher in me got waaaaaaay to excited about that. The first reaction was to grab some REFERENCE MATERIAL!!!
“Oooh! Well, I can tell you all about this, and then this, and then this…”
BUT, as I’d like my friends to still answer my calls, I thought I’d periodically vent these urges into my blog instead.
Aren’t you excited?! 🙂
I am NOT going to attempt an exhaustive history. If you want that, pick up Winston Churchill’s Memoirs of the Second World War. The abridged version is just over 1,000 pages, so it’s a hefty read, but worth it if you want a look at the period from the eyes of one of the major players.
It also won the Nobel Prize for Literature, so evidently I’m not the only one who enjoyed it.
Here’s my brief rundown on Life After Dunkirk: The Fall of France. *
Operation DYNAMO, the massive evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches and port of Dunkirk wrapped up on June 4th.
I’ll try to avoid ‘movie spoilers’ here, but for those of you who have seen it and wondered about the outcome of some plans mentioned by a naval officer towards the end, the evacuated included 112,000 Belgian and French troops. Ships even returned once more at the end of the operation looking for their French allies and retrieved 26,175.
While the rescue of the army was tremendously important, the evacuation cost a great deal in equipment.
7,000 tons of ammunition, 90,000 rifles, 2,300 guns, and 120,000 vehicles were left behind.
The British Army had saved most of it’s manpower, but how would they all be armed?
The evacuated men were given 7 days leave, and the leadership wrestled with planning the next steps as the fighting in France continued- and continued to go badly.
As Mr. Churchill’s memoir states, “we were subjected by our duty to France on the one hand and the need to create and effective army at home and to fortify the island on the other…First priority continued to be given to sending whatever trained and equipped troops we had, in order to reconstitute the British Expeditionary Force in France.” (Churchill 143-144)**
These efforts to reinforce the sagging lines couldn’t last for long. June 5th marked the beginning of the final phase of the Battle of France.
The remaining British divisions, joined with the French Army, tried to hold the line north of Paris along the Somme. The German attacks continued to punish them, but more was to come.
On June 10th, in spite of British and American attempts to keep the peace, Italy entered the war on the side of Germany. They launched their own attacks on France through the Alps.
On June 14th, Paris fell.
The Allies’ situation looked dire, but they had not given up hope.
Churchill had declared several times that his government would not seek peace with Germany, no matter the fate of France. He and M. Paul Reynaud, the French Premier, discussed options for the French to continue their fight from a government in exile in North Africa.
Not all of the Allies were so optimistic. The French General Weygand and other were convinced that all was lost. One commented, “In three weeks, England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” (Churchill 213)
The negative pressure was too strong. Reynaud was replaced by Marshall Petain, who quickly sought an armistice with Germany.
This pro-German government would be set up in Vichy, France- hence that quote from Casablanca when Rick asks Louis if he’s pro-Vichy or Free French.
(You don’t remember that one? You should probably watch Casablanca again. It’s always a good choice!)
On June 17-18th the French troops were informed that all was over. The armistice was signed, and all fighting officially ceased by the 25th. (All fighting, that is, by the army. I hope you’ve heard some of the stories of the courageous French Resistance!)
The British troops, along with over 20,000 Poles, “repeated now on a considerable scale, though with larger vessels, the Dunkirk evacuation.” (Churchill, 193) In all, 156,000 men and 310 guns crossed the Channel.
It’s an interesting bit of ‘history hindsight’ that at this point the USSR and Germany were on friendly terms. On the same day Paris fell, Moscow sent an ultimatum to Lithuania, and the Soviet Union proceeded to use the events in the West to annex the Baltic States. According to Churchill, Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, congratulated the Germans on their “splendid success” on June 18th, after the fall of France. This was almost exactly a year before Hitler’s brutal attack on the Russian Front.
Her nearest ally out of the fight, Britain prepared her shores for Hitler’s inevitable assault.
Some writing blogs will likely come in between, but…
Coming Soon: The Battle of Britain!
*If you like visuals, here’s an excellent animated map which shows these events.
**Any quotes cited above are from Their Finest Hour, the second volume of Winston Churchill’s six volume set of memoirs of the Second World War. Page numbers are from the separate volume, not from the abridged one.