Siege of Dunkirk

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Dunkirk was only liberated on May 9th 1945, after a 9 month long siege.

Dunkirk was only liberated on 9 May 1945, after a long siege lasting almost 9 months.

Despite the advances of Allied troops, moving up the Côte d’Opale, who liberated Brussels on 3 September 1944, much more time was needed to liberate some coastal towns.

Because of its Fortress ("Festung") status, conferred by Hitler, Dunkirk housed around 12,000 German soldiers. The Allied Forces realised that taking Dunkirk would require a large-scale assault with huge potential losses given the considerable resistance put up by German units during initial attacks.

The port of Dunkirk would no longer be of use if it were completely destroyed, so the Allied High Command gave priority to liberating the port of Antwerp, and the Battle of the Scheldt. First many Canadian, then British troops were redeployed towards Belgium. The 1st Czech Armoured Brigade were left to hold the siege alone.

It started on 15 September.

The aim was not to actually take the city: it was more a matter of demoralising German troops, discouraging them from attack and taking prisoners. The Allied Forces conducted reconnaissance operations, bombing and artillery shelling as well as attempting to circulate propaganda. The German troops did not hesitate to counter-attack, even attempting several offensives, without achieving much.

It was also necessary to cut the maritime supply lines.

With help from the Red Cross, on 4 October 1944, 18,000 French civilians and soldiers from both camps were evacuated during a 36-hour cease-fire. There were no incidents, and the Allied Forces even prolonged the cease-fire to let the Germans restructure their defence, modified for the evacuation.

Once the Germans had surrendered on 8 May 1945, the Fortress Commander Admiral Friedrich Frisius ordered unconditional surrender, which was duly accepted by the Commander of the Czech troops, General Alois Liška.

Czech Soldiers in De Panne (Belgium), near Dunkirk, 1945. Public Domain.

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