Monday, August 02, 2010

Evacuated from Dunkirk – 25 July 2010

Our camp site was within easy reach of Dunkirk, so that we could spend some time there. But first we stopped for morning coffee at Bergues. This proved to be a real delight – a mini Brugge. The town is attractive, with Flemish style buildings, and as a bonus, we discovered it was also a fortified town designed by Vauban. The walls, gates and areas of fortifications still exist. This was so appealing, we can imagine a return visit for a weekend.

The 'Musee Portuaire Dunkerque' was our next stop; it is a very well presented museum of the history of Dunkirk, and surprise, surprise, once again, the story starts with Vauban. Louis XIV purchased Dunkirk from the British in 1662 and commissioned Vauban to turn this area of sand banks into an arsenal, port with canals and a channel out to sea. The museum traced the history of the port, and for the 70th anniversary this year, an extensive display of the evacuation of the British forces from Dunkirk. This historical account was most interesting to us, as we have always heard the stories from the Commonwealth slant. To learn that the French were most upset to have their allies retreating, without any prior warning was a different slant. The news only got out, when Churchill had to let the media in on the retreat, as there was no way of disguising the thousands of men returning to England. He put a suitable spin on the news, and first hand recollections, by audio guide, told of how the soldiers feared they would be jeered at as deserters, only to find they were cheered as heros.

90% of Dunkirk was destroyed during WWII, and as we ate delicious salads beside the Hotel de Ville, we were impressed at how they have rebuilt the town, much of it keeping the Flemish character.

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