TTME Dunkirk

Dunkirk is of course very famous…but what was its impact? It was just the escape from a series of hideous defeats wasn’t it, best forgotten…

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The Battle of Dunkirk was a military operation that took place in Dunkirk, France, at the Second World War which as come to define 20th Century England. The battle was fought between the Allies and Germany, as part of the Battle of France. The Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation to Britain of British and other Allied forces in Europe from 26 May to 4 June 1940, something that was seen as miraculous a that time. The War Cabinet under Winston Churchill the newly appointed as the Prime Minister was deeply divided with what to do during the German encirclement of the BEF, with Viscount Halifax, the Foreign Secretary believing that in view of the imminent Fall of France that the United Kingdom should explore the possibility of a negotiated peace settlement with Adolf Hitler

Proposition – why should it go on the cabinet?

Why should the Dunkirk go into the cabinet?

  1. The it marks a change of how the English perceive themselves that is still with us today
  2. It gives us “Little Englanders”
  3. National Myth building – a thousand little boats
  4. it gave us the term Dunkirk Spirit

10 thoughts on “TTME Dunkirk

  1. A disappointing, superficial episode. There always seemed to be a lurking leftwing disapproval at the back of the commentary.

    Dunkirk was not the origin of ‘little Englanderism’. It did mark the end of the phoney war and greatly boost morale. Without Dunkirk there might not have been any Battle of Britain and without that Halifax and the appeasers would have won. Without Britain holding out alone (backs to the wall) there would have been no Stalingrad – at that time the USSR was allied to Nazi Germany and Japan.

    The appeasers of today are on the Theresa May side of politics. They would have been with Halifax and done a deal with Her Hitler just as they have wasted the last three years on the treacherous Chequers unequal Treaty.

    The bulk of the episode was taken up with a discussion of England as the plucky underdog in 1940 as opposed to the mighty colonial overlord in 1914. Again the leftwing stereotypes are never far away. This is wrong. What about ‘the old contemptables’ of the BEF in 1914. What about the ‘thin Red line’ at Balaclava?

  2. Why was the 1,000 little ships, a myth? It happened, even if most servicemen were picked up by larger ships. Why mention Brexit? Aren’t you guilty of bringing attitudes from the present into your reading of the past – something historians are not supposed to do? You should contextualise.
    Interestingly Dunkirk is important for our national psyche whereas for France it is the miracle on the Marne in 1914, for France the First World War was a war of survival and 1940 a memory of shame.

  3. ittle Englander. ” Little Englander ” is an derogatory term used for English nationalists or English people who are perceived as xenophobic or overly nationalistic and are accused of being “ignorant” and “boorish”. It is sometimes applied to opponents of globalism, multilateralism and internationalism,…

    The Atlantic Charter 1941, less than a year after Dunkirk is hardly an example of little Englanderism is it?

  4. Virtue signalling historians talking about little Englanders in the context of Dunkirk, in fact really want to use the J word – Jingoism. Also completely inappropriate in the context of Dunkirk.

    Lets go back to Churchill and that speech.

    “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”
    WS Churchill

    Hardly jingoism I would have thought.

  5. Ok so I just listened to this episode again because there was something else I wanted to pick up on.

    I see now that the chap from San Fransisco did in fact talk about ‘jingoism’ right at the start which I missed when I was driving yesterday. The man from San Fransisco might know something about US Presidents but he clearly does not know very much about English history and you did not seem to be in any hurry to correct him although clearly you should have known better! To suggest that we went to war with Germany because of Jingoism is a shocking travesty. This is far too convoluted to go into
    any detail but let me just remind you of the elegiac speech given by Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey –
    “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey

    Then I was simply stunned by your comment about your mother being taught a song about ‘depending on the Empire’

    Again the man from San Francisco is excused but I wondered if you were simply feigning ignorance at this point?

    Oh dear! Words fail me. And this is a History
    of England!

    ‘There’ll always be an England and England will be free.’

    While there’s a country lane,…..

    Red, white and blue, what does it mean to you? Surely your proud, shout it aloud.

    The Empire too, we can depend on you….

    Not your finest hour David.

    of England p[

    1. It’s a while since it came out of course, but I am reasonably confident nobody suggested we went to war for reasons of Jingoism. My memory is that Roifield was talking about the later representation of Dunkirk, but if you are accurately representing the programme then it would not indeed be my finest hour

      1. Reasonably confident?

        Let me refresh your memory.

        ‘I think because it marks a change in the way the English people perceive themselves and that change is still with us today…even in the late 20th century, early 21st century… If you look at the way we went to war in 1914, its jingoistic and empire, its all about empire… twenty odd years later we are a small country rolling back the Nazi hordes… the plucky little Englanders and that’s really where we get this manifestation, this expression Little Englanders…

        That is my transcript of the opening of the podcast.

        Such an asinine view which you did not correct but appeared quite happy to go along with.

        1. I was born in Birmingham. I challenge you to say that my central premise, that the English viewed themselves as an imperial power in 1914 but Churchill’s great speech after the fall of Dunkirk is about a small plucky island against a great foe is wrong.

  6. Sorry to be negative. I love your podcasts. I have listened with great interest to them all and I think I will start all over again.

  7. Could the famous speech by Churchill inferring little plucky England, be presented to get the United States to come into the war more fully as an ally rather than England seeing itself as diminished? Churchill was a great communicator but also not above a bit of manipulation.

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