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The Battle of France and the Flight to Dunkirk

2017-07-17 | 🔗

Retellings of the Dunkirk rescue often leave out how the Allied forces got into such a predicament, with a huge part of the British Expeditionary Force stranded. Today, we'll talk about the lead-up to WWII and its relentless progression into France.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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one really tiered jerking trailer fur, the movie Dunkirk being described as an epic action. Thriller it's about the Kirk Evacuation, also known as operation dynamo or the miracle of Dunkirk. Unless perhaps you live in France, in which your name for it is probably not so laudatory. Yeah. I have seen that trailer several times and I'm acts and it seems so very stressful, the the early reviews I seed so far say like it, starts stressful and stay stressful that I'm like I'd, I don't know, I want to leave some helping industry this one so or enough, and I I don't know that other its tuned to the key of making me cry like every time I have seen it in the theater. I have started tearing up and I was worried about whether we would be able to keep our composure through an episode on it. But this took me so long to research. It took me in fact four times normal
point. I feel, like I've been inoculated view of his ear Dunkirk decentralization twenty four years coming movie is at least the second major motion picture dedicated just to this story. It's appeared in fiction as well, including in atonement. There is a british tv, wrong about it. Many books and this attention is really not surprising, on top of world war, two being a hugely hugely popular setting for both fiction and nonfiction, but also a lot of details that make for a really telling and harrowing story like a fleet of hundreds of little shit crossing the english channel to rescue stranded soldiers, but the retailing. Usually focus on that dramatic rescue with the allied troops there already cut off or at the edge of disaster. That leaves a whole lot out. Including how the allied forces got into such a predicament, which had a huge part of the british expeditionary force stranded and in serious danger and in one spot.
every time I would see the trailer I would be like, but your. How did you put into this fixing her? How did always people Today we are going to talk about the lead up to world war, two in its relentless progression in France in May of nineteen, forty and then the next We are going to look at this evacuation itself, including the sacrifices that had to be made to evacuate so many people in a brief caviar that even at two episodes there are tons of details. We are not getting into two or the books that were part of a research for this one, then was about three hundred pages long and the other one was about seven hundred pages long and a seven hundred page. One did twenty one maps of the end detailing all of the various treat movements and things that happen if maps like that are what you are, We into a you, may this too general, but that's it would be just that unending list of movements and town names and generals and names of units. I would find that hard
hello, while listening to you, I imagined others would also we have really done a recap on the beginnings of willing or two on our show, and particularly for our. U S, listeners when you learn about it. This tends to be glossed over with more attention: spent on the Holocaust and on the United States involvement in the warm sir we're gonna start. Their historians mark numerous points after the end of world war, one in nineteen eighteen as the start of world war. Two, and really the terms of the treaty of her side that ended the war plead their own part in setting the stage for another one and when it comes to the war in Western Europe, and especially the part of the war that we're talking about today. Most time I put it at Germany's invasion of Poland on September first, nineteen, thirty nine. But even that starting point really requires more explanation than just Germany invaded Poland. Germany had faced huge economic and military consequences under the treaty of her sigh, some of which contributed to out of Hitler's rise,
The power we talk about that rise to power in more detail in our episode on the night of the long knives. But briefly, in addition to restricting the german military, the treaty distributed germ, and german occupied land to other nations and required Germany to pay reparations these reparations and Germany's feeling of them are really easily summarised just a sentence, but they contributed to hyper inflation of the nation's currency and other serious economic Far out languor one had also been devastating outside of Germany other nation, involved, had suffered enormous and sometimes catastrophic social, economic and human costs. These were so high that much of the rest of the world was incredibly hesitant to embark on another massive or even as the after effects Have we not one and the great depression both contributed to the rise of fascism in multiple nations, in particular Britain and France, where the two nations, both mostly
Lee and most able to resist Germany, but they were reluctant to do so- never Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, from nineteen thirty seven to nineteen forty followed a policy of appeasement when it came to Britain's response to Nazi Germany, In the mid nineteen thirty EAST Germany took a number of actions that were supposed to be prohibited under the treaty of Paris. I and other international agreements. For example, the treaty had set strict limit on the german military and forbidden to unite with Austria, but between nineteen. Thirty. Five in nineteen thirty, eight Germany annexed Austria and begin rebuilding its military might, which other nations reluctantly, out in the face of ongoing german aggression, Britain and free it also made guarantees to other nations regarding their own security. One was Czechoslovakia was forced to cede some of its territory to Germany under the Munich agreement in September of nineteen thirty eight and as part of this agreement, Britain and France
guarantee the integrity of the remaining Czechoslovakia and territory But when Germany invaded that territory in MID March, nineteen, thirty, nine Britain and France did not intervene. They did however, make a similar guarantee of Poland's border later in the month. so in Germany invaded Poland on September, first, nineteen thirty nine Hitler was making a gamble. Britain and France had given Poland there guarantee, but they haven't stop the german move into Czechoslovakia after making a similar guarantee after so many years of appeasement. It seems likely that a german invasion of Poland probably wouldn't provoke much of a response. Hitler thought that if it did start a war, he could probably when it quickly with Britain being reluctant to take action and France not strong enough to win without the aid of the United Kingdom instead, Both France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany on September. Third, nineteen thirty nine Britain began to
The british expeditionary force the following day: the AIR force, Navy were involved as well. But a lot of today story is really focused on the army by Lakes Uptown. More than one hundred fifty thousand british troops had made their way to France with reinforcements arriving in April of nineteen. Forty Poland, however, was quickly overran. Germany had secretly sign a non aggression pact with the Soviet Union, which also invaded Poland on September, seventeenth, apart from the short, lived and ineffective SAR Offensive in Western Germany, Poland couldn't get much actual backup from where or France. Warsaw surrendered on September, twenty seventh, with poems government fleeing to Romania union in Germany, then divided Poland between them from October, team, thirty, nine, two main nineteen, forty, in spite of their declarations of war, it is a lot of military confrontation on the ground between Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom and France, there
definitely other engagements that women. During this period, the Soviet Union ample invaded Finland in November of nineteen thirty nine in what came to be known as the winter war. But in terms of Britain, France and Germany, things are relatively quiet. Britain came to call this period the phoney war because of its overall lack of activity, while Germany called it sits Craig sitting still counterpart to Blitzkrieg the famously intense style of lightning war. That became synonymous with Germany's road or to strategy Britain expecting to be attacked prepared for it. Distributing gas, in implementing area precautions on the homefront, the allies blockaded, the german coastline and Britain dropped pamphlets over Germany decrying the evil of the nazi regime. Britain and France also both built up their military strength and what was planned
early defensive measure and not an offensive one. Allied forces attempted to create an unbroken defence down the Maginot line, which was a series of concrete forts barriers, turrets and other armaments that stretched the whole link France's border with Germany, the Maginot line was supposed to be impenetrable and building up and Manning. Its fortifications was a big focus during these months. However, when Blitzkrieg turned in May of nineteen forty, come to the Maginot line and we'll get into that after a quick sponsor break out
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at the start of world war, two France had what may have been the strongest army in Western Europe I say may have been because there are lots of discussions about exactly how to define strength and who is the strongest by whatever measures being discussed, but I'm a whole many of the troops that Britain deployed to the continent and late nineteen. Thirty nine in early nineteen, forty to assist the french force were quit and poorly trained. This was not the fault of the soldiers themselves. After the end of world war, one Britain had gradually disarmed itself. So once it now, to deploy troops to France. Essentially, everything was behind from recruiting this there's themselves to staffing the factories that would be needed to clothe an arm them. Even the decision to commit defensive troops in Continental Europe came fairly late, that was made it February of nineteen, thirty nine. Once Britain
in Germany were at war with one another. The rapid speed of deployment also meant that many of the british Forest weren't just lacking the finer points, their training. They were missing out on key parts of what they needed to know. A large number of Britain's anti tank buttons, for example, had not been train, on how to use their anti tank weapons before arriving in France, they had to figure it out for themselves. from the manuals once they were already there even though the recently of world war, one meant that there were lots of men who had fought in its serving as officers in the british expeditionary force a lot of their knowledge just become obsolete in the face of changing military technology, and this idea up a lot more often in terms of world war, one when machine guns and other advances in weaponry outpaced, pretty much everything else leading gruelling years of trench warfare. But this was also a woman, the Second World war militaries happen,
Far more mechanized and motorized, but many of the men in charge of the british and french forces had not yet adapted to putting those advances to use another its failure to adapt to the machine gun and other advances contributed to world were ones years, long stalemate and failure to it to increasingly mobile armoured tanks and other vehicles contributed to world were two's, crushing defeat of France and other nations at the hands of Nazi Germany. At the very beginning of world war, two. ideally that eight month phony war, would have been used to train not just to supplement the training of the his troops, who had been recruited and deployed so quickly, but also to train the british and french militaries to work together and while there was training and plenty of building defences and fortifications. This time really just wasn't used very productively
for the entire period of world war. Two that we're talking about today. The relationship between the british and french forces was marked with Miss communications, missed opportunities in fighting and an increasing sense of bitterness toward the other. Multiple sources also note that brothels, which were far more available in France than in Britain, led to an epidemic of sexually transfer, diseases within the british fighting force. Germany, on the other hand, knew that there was no way it could win a drawn out war. So it did not waste the quiet months of sits Greek. Instead, it planned a cold. needed an incredibly effective attack on multiple nations that played out essentially simultaneously Germany. First invaded them. And Norway on May, ninth, nineteen, forty Denmark's, She knew that it didn't have the strength to resist german attack and surrendered almost immediately in Norway. The situation was far more complicated with the nation at first mustering defence with british aid and then find.
we being defeated in June after Britain removed most of its forced France on May tenth. The next day the situation became far worse with Germany, in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium, with the lift while also bombings them ally locations in France? On the same day, Luxembourg, tried to remain neutral and when Germany invaded they offered little resistance, nations government fled and Germany placed it under military administration in the Netherlands, Germany strategically deployed paratroopers to capture bridges deep within the nation and make way for a land invasion. Although the Dutch destroyed some of the bridges ahead of the german advance, it wasn't enough to completely stopped them and by the twelfth of May so does two days later. German tanks were using it on Rotterdam will mean a queen of the Netherlands fled with our government to England on May Thirteenth and on the fourteenth the dutch Army surrendered to Germany, Belgium.
saved intelligence of an incoming attack, but suffered from a bit of the boy who cried wool syndrome. In January, a german plain carrying secret documents detailing an invasion had crashed in Belgium leading to preparations, incoming attack, but the dates and the plans and went without incidents An invasion had seemed imminent of other points as well, so by May tenth, some still thought it was yet their false alarm, Joe Forces once again took forts and bridges using airborne troops to make way for a ground assault. It did not take long at all for german tanks to break through the belgian franc, and this led belgian troops to fall back. Three. Central and Northern Belgium, and for the nation to look to France and Britain for aid this. Actually, you became a point of reference. within the allied nations the outcome
had wanted to position affront through Belgium in the first place, which would have meant far more troops already there and possibly a much quicker defence against the german invasion. But like Luxembourg, Belgium had tried to run neutral it only allied with Britain and France after this may tenth invasion, and all of this may and action took place on Winston Churchill's first day as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Following the resignation level, Chamberlain whose policies of appeasing Nazi Germany clearly had not worked. We noted before the break that the most heavily fortified part of France was the Maginot line which ran alongside the border. It actually shared with Germany. When France had built the Maginot line, it had been reluctant to similarly fortify its border with Belgium, since doing so would have made it. Look like France didn't see, Belgium as trustworthy, sober
invading Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Germany now had a means to get to a part of the french border that was at least comparatively speaking undefended Germany had all so in this multi pronged invasion gain far more access to the english Channel and the North Sea. What followed became known as the battle of France and we're gonna talk more about it. After we first pause for sponsor break
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picture This is far from universal, but having grown up in the United States, most of the focus on road were to you in history, glass started with Japan, the Dac on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into the war without much attention at all spent on nineteen, forty and nineteen forty one and a very popular perception in the. I did. States is basically that the german army suddenly arrived on the outskirts of Paris and pay immediately surrendered without a fight, while Germany's Over of France was swift and devastating. I may I cannot stress this enough. There were many many mistakes made in the effort to drive Germany back. This was really a six week Ordeal in which Germany repeatedly overran any stand that France attempted to make not just some spontaneous knock at the door to Paris, followed by.
lean over like a puppy year, which is often how France's cash artists in the war and it's completely that's really wrong over simplified and false lie, especially remember coming up during the Iraq war, when people in the United States were angry, that France didn't support the war in Iraq and making up things like Freedom Prize and the like. It's good we're going to talk in more detail about how that's not how that, without, but after Germany's invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, Britain and free, along with other allied troops, began planning to push toward the river dial in Central Belgium to repel the german force. And this push on the whole successful. But it was What needs to happen to actually resist Germany, the german presence in Belgium was a diversion but there was using it to draw the allies focus while Germany instead invaded France through the garden on the river muse, they are dead.
forested hilly area well to the South EAST of where the allies moved most of their best troops, because it was such difficult terrain, it wasn't considered to be a very likely spot foreign invasion, so consequently it wasn't particularly well defended by placing a far more visible force in Belgium. Germany had said it app and England and France had fallen into it. This meant that when the german force broke through the Arden, instead of facing the strongest elements of the british and french armies instead faced a smaller french force that had been left behind as a defence along with some british air support, not the stronger and generally better equipped force that had been moved toward the north West into Belgium. Germany add another advantage over Britain and France as well. At the start of the war
The allies had more tanks in western Europe than Germany did, but Germany had clustered its tanks into their famous Panzer divisions, which, combined with tanks and Infantry France, had some armoured divisions as well, but they want merely has numerous as Germany's were, so where Germany had tanks that generally had more of them than allies did, which made a german tank assault incredibly hard to defeat? These Panzer divisions were also empowered to basically act on their own pressing advantages. They saw them and pushing to the rest of the german force. It was not an idea that the outside military command was used to it all. It made the german force, far more nimble than the allies, who were still largely thinking Warfare is a series of huge assaults, followed by pauses to regroup and strategy eyes, these small
Panzer units acting on their own, consequently cause huge disruption and confusion among the allied commanders from May fifteenth to seventeenth France tried but failed to muster a counter offensive that could push back the german invasion. The french night Army first plan to make a stand about forty kilometers or twenty five miles west of them use river. That could not get enough troops space and time to do it. They tried again farther to the west and once again couldn't get a large enough force in place to really stock the german advance both times Germany, just outpaced the allies with the Panzer divisions, pushing ahead of them and defensive position before the allies could even establish a foothold there. In some cases there were even forty creation that had already been built, but there was no one there to man them in terms of the FAO. Charming, compounding a lack of trained men where they were needed was a lack of leadership on May fifteenth
Maurice gambler. The french military commander in chief received word the German, groups are moving into a position that would allow them to take the capital of Paris. He didn't have nearly enough troops in the area to fend off such an attack, so he informed french Premier Paul renewal of the impending threat well, you know immediately decided to relocate the capital, but soon new intelligence arrived at Paris wasn't endanger. After all, so Reno First announced at the move of the capital had just been a rumour and then, after that debacle replaced Camelot with General Maxine Wiggle. We gone was at that time stationed in Syria and he wasn't able to get the Paris until may nineteenth in that interim, the french model rate, which was in the middle of a war basically had no commander. In chief, we got himself had been put the allied command during World war. One and his strategic outlook was much more suited to that time than this
Lee Mobile fighting force, including Panzer that were acting on their own. So once he actually. There, the direction that he gave was often not really something that could be put into practical use during that greedy leaderless window, the german force continued to press north and west. They reached Armenia, which very roughly speaking, is north of Paris about halfway to the border with Belgium, and they did that our main nineteenth the next day they continued to push west to Abkhazia, The north west of Armenia, which was about twenty kilometers or twelve miles from the coast and advance units made it all the way to the english channel. With this push towards the coast, the german army had physically divided the allied forces cut through their supply lines and communication lines and started to surround them. Then the german german army turned North Press
org and ultimately taking the port of Calais Kelly was not only the closest port to the island of Great Britain, but was also the port that the allies logically would have been using to escape. So the situation at this point was desperate and it was about to get worse and we are going to talk about that. The next episode hair. I liked it so many maps of France, but there are so many individual towns and details and movements. You could go on for painters and pages and papers about yes and again. I think that's one of the reasons that we don't usually get the story of what led up to the whole Dunkirk debt moment, because sue hard to unfurl all of the thread. Yes, I found lots of things that basically described it as Germany invaded everywhere, and then we had to evacuate
Where would you simplistically speaking, I correct sure- or you know, that seven hundred pages of detailed fine, fine details little bit a listener. May I do have a more I get into the list and we will have a quick correction about calling it dear out. So one point: I said that she was mere LE platter. Argentina that should have been Bolivia, Raw, that there are a lot of them both of those places. One of them was established two hundred years after Catalina died, and that was
What I said in error, she was there ahead of her time here. The original hipster her for her in her autobiography see often names, cities and towns, without necessarily saying that she had crossed the border into someone rates, and so sometimes when I was trying to write the airline, I would try to track anarchy which nation, which she and at that point- and that is a case where I got it wrong. So apologies for that error and I have a listener. Male listener mail. I think this person's name is pronounced Porsche. If that's not, I apologize am portrait steered Holly and Tracy. Recently I settled into a several hours. Long drive for work and made sure have my go to pod cast down waited for the drive. Much. To my delight, the most recent episode for the pod cast was about the guy Hooker River. I both grew up along the banks of a river, not cry Hooker and in the first year of having landed the job position of curator and special collections librarian in a library that specializes,
the inland waterways of North Amerika, meaning that my days revolve around caring for archival materials related to the subject researching, subject presented to interested parties and generally doing what I can to preserve and promote the history of America's rivers? I thought you handle the subject. Well, I don't have any corrections and in fact, was informative, who even me, as the fires have not yet required much of my research attention and were, as is, it is not the normally huge news in the world of people familiar with the rivers. I was away from the office for an extended work trip and made a mental note to look at what other episodes you have done on rivers and when I got back that I may have forgotten about when I finally remember I notice that the most recent episode was again about the river or a river, this one about the Ss Eastland on the Chicago River. with them, I realise that the majority of episodes you ve done about rivers are related to disasters Rex and generally negative moments. I empathize Steamboat Rex certainly make a more captivating history than it
an eventful cargo delivery and I receive many more questions about them than most other aspects of river about life. If you ve never, it. I recommend looking up the Arabian Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, stable of my childhood, having grown up on the Missouri River, just outside Kansas City, Tire museum devoted to the recovered cargo of eighteen. Forty six wreck known as Tut's tomb of the Missouri River. Often these rex and disasters are most commonly color people's impressions of inland waterways, with perhaps the most notable exception of Lewis and Clark. In fact, the lives of river men and women have a rich history of a kind
art, music and their own distinct culture, for example, did you know that their use to be floating brothels, islands of river pirates recipes that specifically called for river water? Am steamboat raises the most famous of which an eighteen, seventy spanned, almost four days and set a speed record? That has yet to be beaten and in fact there is still an annual great steamboat raises part of Kentucky Derby Festival, and these are truly describing to serve a natural going. I think I just wanted to share a bit of my professional passion with someone, and this was a better opportunity. The beleaguered partner who patiently listens to me talk his ear off about my work nearly daily. I hope your listeners will be inspired by what they hear to lick, ensue river history and be as delighted as I am every day to learn more and then Porsche ends with an episode suggestion. So thank you so much for sending us this lovely, though I did not deliberately pick two episodes in a row that we're about things
the non mirrors, but they were both a by product of working on this episode is, I got out of his high turn out to be much harder than expected and sail on multiple consecutive weeks. I got to a point where I I knew this could not be done in time to record it, and so I had to put it aside for something else, and it had to specifically be something else that had a straightforward enough narrative that I could do it in the remaining time that I had. So that is how we came to two things on rivers and rail, either the documentation is usually Lou easier to find. Yet on our river disaster than on some of our more carrots topic, slow and Dunkirk has too much documentation. That's part of the problem so we will continue with the evacuation of Dunkirk next time. If you would like to write to us we're at history, podcast at Helstone works, dot com,
on all of our social media. We are under the name missed in history. That's Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, all of those missed in history, the incomes. You are apparent companies website, which is how to work stock on to fight all kinds of information about rivers and boats and big, worse lots of back. I think you can come to our website which, as MR history dot com for show notes on all the upsurge howling, I have ever done an archive of every episode ever that archive is highly searchable.
So you can look for things that may interest view from our back catalogue. We can do all that and a whole lot more, a house that more stock missed in history for more on this and thousands of other topics, as it has to be more exact in our past hush money. We're going to get you talking. We debate the uncomfortable questions of money going back to decide who is right. There is no such thing as strings Bremer. there are. Some cake lies right now that its traditions that man's pay women due to reach the fake reach money, is one of those things that people like to ignore. You can be in all the episodes now on apple pot casts the heart radio up or wherever you get. Your part casts.