If ever there were a case of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, it was Dunkirk. As I Was There... The True Story of Dunkirk
reveals, the victory was a rearguard action as, stranded on the Normandy beaches, the British Expeditionary Force faced annihilation by German bombers. The first part of this documentary gives a succinct but thoughtful summary of the period of waiting up to May 1940--when, in the face of a lightning German attack on France and the Low Countries, British and French forces confronted a new type of warfare with First World War tactics and, all too often, equipment. The ensuing, chaotic retreat to the French coast and the hasty plan of evacuation is movingly related by a half-dozen of those present. Against all odds, the vast majority of soldiers were conveyed to safety by a combination of Royal Navy vessels and a flotilla of civilian craft, sailing under almost continuous German bombardment. It adds up to a sobering, but inspiring story.
The documentary footage, graphics often discreetly enhanced, has been well chosen to convey the desperation of those on the beach, reinforced by the often candid recollections of the veterans. Volume level may need to be adjusted between reportage and interviews, though the dovetailing has been unobtrusively done--the contrast between "then" and "now" is effectively and movingly drawn. These 52 minutes give you the essence of a defining event in World War II. --Richard Whitehouse
Those who were there retell the story of the Dunkirk evacuation over seven nights in the Second World War. The men and equipment trapped in France were needed desperately back home in England, and 222 naval vessels and 665 civilian craft were deployed - without any air cover - to ferry 338,226 men back home. Those involved in Operation Dynamo provide their personal recollections of one of the most audacious schemes in military history.