See studies by P. Turnball (1978), J. Harris (1988), and H. Sebag-Montefiore (2006).
Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque, or [dɛ̃kɛʀk]; Dutch: ;) is a harbour city and a commune in the northernmost part of France, in the department of Nord, 10 kilometres (6 mi) from the Belgian border. Population of the city (commune) at the 1999 census was 70,850 inhabitants (71,300 inhabitants as of February 2004 estimates). Population of the whole metropolitan area (aire urbaine) was 265,974 inhabitants at the 1999 census.
Its name is derived from West Flemish "dun(e)" (dune) and "kerke" (church). Until the middle of the 20th century the city was situated in the Dutch language area; today the local Dutch dialect (West Flemish) still can be found but has been largely replaced by French.
Dunkirk was first mentioned in 1067 as Dunkerk (Dutch: “Church of the Dune” or Dune Church). The area was much disputed between Spain, England, the Netherlands and France. In the Eighty Years' War the port was the base of the infamous Dunkirkers: private shipowners (reders in Dutch) operated whole privateer fleets to intercept merchants from countries hostile to the Spanish Habsburgs. The Dunkirkers briefly lost their home port, as the city was conquered by the French in 1646 but recaptured by the Habsburgs in 1652. In 1657, as a result of war between Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth and the Kingdom of Spain, it was captured by English forces, and was awarded to England in the peace the following year. It became definitively French when Charles II of England sold it to France for £320,000 on 17 October 1662. During the reign of Louis XIV, a large number of commerce raiders had again their base at Dunkirk; Jean Bart was the most famous, known for attacking Dutch ships. The Man in the Iron Mask was also arrested in Dunkirk.
In May 1940 during the battle of France, the British Expeditionary Force in France aiding the French, were cut off from the rest of the French Army by the German advance. Encircled by the Germans they retreated to the area around the port of Dunkirk. The German land forces could have easily destroyed the British expeditionary force, especially when many of the British troops, in their haste to withdraw, had left behind their heavy equipment. For some unexplained and still unknown reason, Adolf Hitler ordered the German army to stop the attack, favouring bombardment by the Luftwaffe. Some say it was because Hitler was still hopeful of establishing diplomatic peace with Britain before 1940 so the Germans could have an potential allied force against the Russians, while others contest that the unfavourable terrain (which was not suited to armoured vehicles) and a strategic German desire to retain strength for future operations was the real explanation. This lull in the action gave the British a few days to evacuate by sea. Winston Churchill ordered any ship or boat available, large or small, to pick up the stranded soldiers, and 338,226 men (including 120,000 French soldiers) were evacuated - the miracle of Dunkirk, as Churchill called it. It took over 900 vessels to evacuate the Allied forces. More than 40,000 vehicles as well as massive amounts of other military equipment and supplies were left behind; their value being less than that of trained fighting men. The British evacuation of Dunkirk through the English Channel was codenamed Operation Dynamo.
The city was again contested in 1944, and the Second Canadian Division attempted to liberate the city in September, as Allied forces surged northeast after their victory in the Battle of Normandy. German forces refused to relinquish their control of the city, which had been converted into a fortress, and the garrison there was "masked" by Allied troops, notably 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade. The fortress under command of German Admiral Friedrich Frisius eventually unconditionally surrendered to the commander of the Czechoslovak forces, Brigade General Alois Liška, on May 9 1945.
During the German occupation, Dunkirk was largely destroyed by allied bombings; the artillery siege of Dunkirk was directed on the final day of the war by pilots from No. 652 Squadron RAF, and No. 665 Squadron RCAF.
The commune has grown substantially by absorbing several neighbouring communes:
Dunkirk is twinned with:
Dunkirk has cooperation agreements with: