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Revision Diary

The BEF and Dunkirk, 1939-40


BEF in Europe, 1939-40; Dunkirk.




1.  At first, Britain could not hope to help Poland, so far away, so the government was forced to prepare at home as best it could, and wait until Hitler attacked - this period of no fighting was called the 'Phoney War'.

2.  When Hitler attacked, the British Expeditionary Force in France and the French were utterly unable to resist Hitler's 'Blitzkrieg' tactics.


3.  How valid are newsreels of Dunkirk from the time? - by concentrating on small craft heroically taking soldiers from beaches, and the 345,000 troops evacuated, the government succeeded in presenting Dunkirk in the media as a wonderful salvation and example of British determination and team-work ('the myth of Dunkirk'), but really it was the HUGE defeat.


Read the e-book pages on the Phoney War and Dunkirk.





1.  11 Sept: British Expeditionary Force of four divisions – 158,000 men with 25,000 vehicles – went to France, but too small and poorly-equipped.

2.  ‘Phoney War’ – no fighting, but 38 million gas-masks were issued.  

3.  9 April: Norway fell – British naval force utterly failed to help.  

4.  10 May: Hitler invaded Holland, Belgium and France.   Churchill became PM.

5   22 May-2 June: ‘Operation Dynamo’ - the BEF lost 2,500 guns, 84,500 vehicles, 77,000 tons ammunition, 416,000 tons supplies, 165,000 tons petrol and 68,000 soldiers killed/taken prisoner.





Revision Focus

This is a Paper 1- World War Two  topic, so think about how you will USE the information to answer sourcework questions.  

You will need:

1.  A GENERAL UNDERSTANDING of 'what was going on', so you can make intelligent comments on the purpose of the sources.

2.  Some FACTUAL KNOWLEDGE so you can assess the factual accuracy of the sources.


This paper is ALL sourcework questions, so make sure you know how to do them.


NOTE PARTICULARLY that there is no choice of questions on this topic - so...





More key facts on the Revision Sheet.