It’s known as the Miracle of Dunkirk: in May 1940, approximately 340,000 Allied troops were trapped with their backs to the sea. Sitting ducks, the troops were subjected to an endless barrage of bombs and bullets as the Luftwaffe apparently bombed at will. The situation seemed hopeless. Then a fleet of ships appeared on the horizon, mostly sent by the Royal Navy but joined by smaller craft captained by plucky civilians.
The soldiers were rescued from the beaches and taken safely back to Britain. They would later return to win the war. But behind the Miracle of Dunkirk there’s another, hidden story. Soldiers and mariners, angry that they’d apparently been left undefended against the Luftwaffe, blamed the RAF. Historians have long viewed Dunkirk as the RAF’s poorest hour.
But now, recently released MoD files reveal that, far from being absent, the RAF were suffering massive losses supporting the evacuation. Operating at high altitude and deep inside France, the RAF were halting the bulk of Luftwaffe bombers before they could reach the beaches. And the files reveal even more: this was the first time the Spitfire flew in anger, and the agile fighter was a spectacular success. This moving special reveals that, as well as the Little Ships, the Miracle of Dunkirk was due to the massive sacrifices of the RAF.
Executive Producers: Dan Chambers, David McNab
Director: John Hayes Fisher
Production Company: Blink Entertainment Ltd
Dunkirk: The New Evidence airs Sunday 2 July 2017 from 8.00pm-9.00pm on Channel 4.