Heroes of WWII recall Dunkirk rescue at new show

Fri May 21, 2010 2:15pm EDT
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By Valle Aviles Pinedo

LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the veterans who took part in the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation of British and French forces reunited in London this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of World War Two's biggest rescue operation.

Described as a "miracle of deliverance" by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the 1940 evacuation of British troops from the shores of France is considered one of several key events which determined the outcome of World War Two.

Now London's Imperial War Museum brings "Operation Dynamo" alive with a new public space where anyone can drop in for free and access a selection of the Museums vast digitized collections -- including 50,000 images, 10,000 sound files and a total of 600,000 items on database, documents and books.

Operation Dynamo saw some 338,000 British and French soldiers rescued between May 27 and June 3, 1940 by warships and a flotilla of pleasure boats and other small craft. Despite suffering heavy losses, the operation was very successful and the majority of the British Expeditionary Force on the run from Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht returned to British soil.

The space also includes Sapper Alexander Graham King's accordion -- which he played in Dunkirk to boost troop morale -- letters from survivors, a camera belonging to Captain Edward Malindine, one of the few official photographers to capture the evacuation and the Tamzine, probably the smallest boat used in Operation Dynamo.

Director of Collections Mark Whitmore told Reuters that the museum has been preparing the exhibition over the last 12 months but all told the show required five or six years of work.

"We wanted to bring the experiences of people," Roger Tolson, Head of the Department of Art, told Reuters. "Maybe you can find out something here about your family history -- about Uncle George or his colleagues during the war."

Nine veterans met at the museum this week wearing their medals to talk about their remarkable adventure.   Continued...