The Battle of Dunkirk was a battle in World War II between the Allies and Germany. A part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and allied forces in Europe from 26 May–4 June 1940. After the Phoney War, the Battle of France began in earnest on 10 May 1940. To the east, the German Army Group B invaded and subdued the Netherlands and advanced westward through Belgium. In response, the Supreme Allied Commander—French General Maurice Gamelin—initiated "Plan D" which relied heavily on the Maginot Line fortifications. Gamelin committed the forces under his command, three mechanised armies, the French First and Seventh and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to the River Dyle. On 14 May, German Army Group A burst through the Ardennes and advanced rapidly to the west toward Sedan, then turned northward to the English Channel, in whatGeneralfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein called the "sickle cut" (known as "Plan Yellow" or the Manstein Plan), effectively flanking the Allied forces. A series of Allied counter-attacks—including the Battle of Arras—failed to sever the German spearhead, which reached the coast on 20 May, separating the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) near Armentières, the French 1st Army, and the Belgian Army further to the north from the majority of French troops south of the German penetration. After reaching the Channel, the Germans swung north along the coast, threatening to capture the ports and trap the British and French forces before they could evacuate to Britain. In one of the most widely-debated decisions of the war, the Germans halted their advance on Dunkirk. Contrary to popular belief, what became known as "the Halt Order" did not originate with Adolf Hitler. Gerd von Rundstedt and Günther von Kluge suggested that the German forces around the Dunkirk pocket should cease their advance on the port and consolidate, to avoid an Allied break. Hitler sanctioned the order on 24 May with the support of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). The army were to halt for three days, giving the Allies time to organise an evacuation and build a defensive line. Despite the Allies' gloomy estimates of the situation, with Britain discussing a conditional surrender to Germany, in the end over 330,000 Allied troops were rescued. Prelude
On 10 May 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain. By 26 May, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French First Army were bottled up in a corridor to the sea, about 60 mi (97 km) deep and 15–25 mi (24–40 km) wide. Most of the British were still around Lille, over 40 mi (64 km) from Dunkirk, and the French still further south. Two massive German armies flanked them: General Fedor von Bock's Army Group B was to the east, and General Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group A to the west. (Both these officers were later promoted to Field Marshal.) Halt order
See also: Battle of Arras (1940).
Quotes on Hitler's halt order
During the following days... it became known that Hitler's decision was mainly influenced by Goering. To the dictator the rapid movement of the Army, whose risks and prospects of success he did not understand because of his lack of military schooling, became almost sinister. He was constantly oppressed by a feeling of anxiety that a reversal loomed... —Halder, in a letter of July 1957.
Major L.F. Ellis says:
The day's entry concludes with the remark: "The task of Army Group A can be considered to have been completed in the main" — a view which further explains Rundstedt's reluctance to employ his armoured divisions in the final clearing-up stage of this first phase of the campaign. Halder wrote in his diary on 30 May:
"Brauchitsch is angry ... The pocket would have been closed at the coast if only our armour had not been held back. The bad weather has grounded the Luftwaffe and we must now stand and watch countless thousands of the enemy get away to England...