On 26 May 1940, Operation Dynamo began, evacuating Allied troops from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk in a variety of British vessels. Route Z, the shortest at 39 miles (63 km), could only be used at night because of risk of German fire from the coast. The 55-mile (89 km) Route X risked dangerous shoals and an Allied minefield. Route Y, the longest at 87 miles (140 km), was the easiest to navigate and the least risky, so was the most used. This extra distance, heavy Luftwaffe bombing and the temporary withdrawal of eight destroyers led to flotillas of ‘little ships’ (all seaworthy vessels in Kent) famously aiding the evacuation. With the rescue of the perimeter rearguard on 1–2 June, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was complete. On 3 June, British vessels rescued 26,000 French rearguard soldiers, before Dunkirk fell on 4 June and 40,000 French soldiers were taken prisoner. In eleven days, however, over 338,000 Allied servicemen had been rescued in the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’.
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