Operation Dynamo

75th Anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk

Operation Dynamo was the name given to the evacuation of troops from the beaches of Dunkirk on the north coast of France, who were cornered by the advancing German army.

When the evacuation was announced to the British public on 29 May, many privately owned boats started arriving at Dunkirk to ferry the troops to safety.  This flotilla of small vessels famously became known as the ‘Little Ships’.

More than 380,000 troops were rescued from the beaches in one of the most astonishing operations of the war and the contribution these civilian vessels made to the Dunkirk evacuation gave rise to the term ‘ Dunkirk spirit’, which is still used today to describe the British ability to rally together in the face of adversity.

Between 28 May and 4 June 1940 Operation Dynamo was launched and an assortment of yachts, motor cruises, fishing boats and other small craft assembled in Ramsgate, before crossing to Dunkirk to ferry men from the beaches to waiting ships. These ‘Little Ships’ were under constant attack from German aircraft and guns, and of 765 vessels involved in the operation, almost a third were lost. Despite heavy losses the valiant ‘Little Ships’ assisted in the rescue of 309,739 troops around 43,000 of whom were landed at Ramsgate. Today one of the ‘Little Ships’ used ‘Sundowner’ is kept in Ramsgate harbour.

‘Sundowner’ (external viewing only)
Built in 1912, this motor yacht owned by CH Lightoller the 2nd officer on the Titanic, in 1940 rescued 130 men from the Dunkirk beaches and brought them back to Ramsgate.  On its arrival at Ramsgate it nearly sunk from the weight of the troops moving around to disembark

The Sundowner was restored in 1990 to take part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Dunkirk evacuation and is now a famous resident of Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour, berthed near the Maritime Museum.

To find out more about the vessels that took part visit The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships website www.adls.org.uk

Visit Ramsgate Maritime Museum to see a small exhibition and video on the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940. Outside the museum is a Dunkirk Memorial Plaque that was unveiled by Dame Vera Lynn on the 60th anniversary. 

Opening at Ramsgate Tunnels a free exhibition of Operation Dynamo related artefacts 'Defence of the Nation Museum'

Ramsgate’s sister town of Margate saw 46,722 soldiers landed from Dunkirk. Today a plaque commemorating this can be found on The Droit House (Thanet Visitor Information Centre)

Between May and August a series of maritime tours take place at Margate Cemetery. This year’s tours will include visits to graves of those involved in the Dunkirk evacuation which resulted in over 46,000 troops arriving at Margate

After the evacuation of the troops to Ramsgate and Margate, they travelled by train back to their barracks and homes. 82 special trains, transported troops from Ramsgate and 75 from Margate. Ramsgate Sands Railway Station became known as HMS Fervent, a naval base during WWII, closing in 15th September 1945