We look at some of the most visited Word War II memorial sites in Dunkirk. The town of Dunkerque on the northern tip of France just 49 miles from the UK coast line, was the scene of much fighting during World War II and saw the biggest evacuation of armed forces the world has ever known – Operation Dynamo. Today the events of World War II are remembered and visitors to the area will find several memorials and important sites.
Memorial du Souvenir – Dunkirk War Museum, Dunkirk
The Operation Dynamo museum is a good place to start your memorial visit, clear explanations of the dramatic events that unfolded during Operation Dynamo, models, maps, guns, artefacts, uniforms and a film in English to give a good overall view. The helpful and friendly volunteer staff speak a little English.
The Mole, Dunkirk
This was the stone and wooden jetty which became the point of evacuation for the majority of men who were rescued in 1940. A low wooden pier which reached out to sea and which the ships were moored to. Although most of it has now disappeared you can still see a section clearly and it is easy to imagine what a terrifying prospect it must have been to have walked that line.
Dunkirk Memorial and War Cemetery
The Dunkirk Memorial is located in the British War Graves section of the Dunkirk town cemetery. It recalls the names of some 4,500 casualties of the British Expeditionary Force who have no known grave, as well as the men who went missing at the Battle of France, from Ypres to Abbeville.
Of the 810 graves sited here, the majority are casualties from May and June 1940. Circumstances meant that many of the fatalities in and around Dunkirk were buried in isolated field graves or not buried properly and the Imperial War Graves Commission could not access the area until after the war. Local people subsequently helped prepare several burial sites and placed some of the fallen in their own communal cemeteries.
When the British left Dunkirk in June 1940 they left behind a huge amount of artillery, machinery and many damaged or destroyed ships. Some ships were repaired and reused by the Germans, and others cut up for scrap, but some wrecks were left in situ. Several can be clearly seen at low tide on the beach at Bray Dunes just outside Dunkirk. They can be reached on foot from the parking areas close to the seafront apartments at Bray, but can only be seen at low tides.
www.bray-dunes.fr Check tide times and local weather conditions before setting off.
Wormhoudt Massacre Site
On 28 MAY 1940, soldiers from the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler massacred British and French prisoners between Esquelbecq and Wormhoudt, south of Dunkirk.
You can access the large memorial to the massacre from Esquelbecq, the town where you will find a communal cemetery containing the graves of those who died. The original barn in which the massacre took place was demolished years ago, but veterans’ groups have since built a reconstruction of it, filled with poppies, crosses and wreaths all year round. It is a short trek across a field track to reach the area which has information boards telling the story of this event.
Travel to Dunkirk from the UK by ferry – P&O Ferries Ferries to Calais and a 20 minute drive, DFDS Ferries to Dunkirk or by Eurotunnel and a 30 minute drive.
Visit the Dunkirk Tourist Office located in the old Belfry in the town for a map and lots of details of what to see and do in the area: Dunkirk Tourist Office
There are plenty of good hotels and accommodation, the Tourist Office can help and always have great deals on offer.