There have been as many opinions as grains of sand as to the likelihood of a successful retreat, by a battered, disorganised British Army, from the beaches, piers and waves of Dunkirk. No one really understood why an Army of over 275,000 weary, demoralised British soldiers; along with approximately 140,000 French, Belgian and Polish soldiers of a similar demeanour; was allowed to escape the overwhelming menace of the German tank divisions and regiments.
The simple fact, borne out by research after the War was over, was that the evacuation was allowed to happen because the British and French armour regiments attacked an exposed Panzer Division at Arras, exposed because they had outrun their supply chains, artillery and infantry support; and were in serious danger of being outflanked and forced into retreat.
After the attack was beaten off, Von Runstedt, after urgent reviews with his subordinates, signalled Berlin and Hitler that he wanted a pause, to regroup and re-inforce, before pressing into Dunkirk. Hitler agreed, giving Von Runstedt to ability to decide when to advance, as he had been promised by Goering that the Luftwaffe would clear the air of the R.A.F, and the beaches of the British Army.
The Luftwaffe did their best, but lost 156 aircraft whilst bombing the ‘little ships’ whilst the R.A.F. lost 145 aircraft, and, more importantly, precious pilots. The Germans regrouped, reinforced and commenced moving after three days, there was an organized and extremely competent defence; but ‘Operation Dynamo’ was in full swing, and only the dead were left on the Dunkirk beaches. The surviving soldiers formed the nucleus of a resurgent British Army, which eventually, together with America, Canada, and Free French; as part of the Allied Cause, returned on 6th June 1944, and on towards victory.
The film ‘Dunkirk’ is now on general release, but USA Today reviewed ‘Disaster turned Survival’ movie named ‘Dunkirk’ with the following words:-
Dunkirk is also one of the best-scored films in recent memory, and Hans Zimmer’s music plays as important a role as any character. With shades of Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the melodies are glorious, yet Zimmer also creates an instrumental ticking-clock soundtrack that’s a propulsive force in the action scenes.
The trio of timelines can be jarring as you figure out how they all fit, and the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way. Still, Nolan’s feat is undeniable: He’s made an immersive war movie that celebrates the good of mankind while also making it clear that no victory is without sacrifice.
Yes, I can just imagine David Oyelowo calling up the casting director and stating that a 17.8% of the Army roles on the Dunkirk beach scenes should be reserved for B.A.M.E. (work it out yourselves) actors!