Battle Relics: Three (3) beached sea vessels of the Evacuation of Dunkirk in May and June 1940.
Finding place: City of Dunkerque, Region of Nord-pas-de-Calais, Departemant Nord, Republic of France and the communities of Leffrinckoucke, Zuydcoote and Bray-Dunes.
Period Covered: 27MAY1940 to 4JUN1940
Date: 30&31DEC 2015
GPS locations: GPS Locations of the remains of the vessels:
1) “Claude London” (51°04'115"N 2°28'024"E)
2) “HMS Crested Eagle” (51°04'560"N 2°29'461"E)
3) “HMS Devonia” (51°04'773"N 2°30'169"E)
 

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Battle Detective Kim discovering the wreckage of
HMS "Crested Eagle" on Zuydcoote beach
at low tide on New Year's Eve 2015

Introduction:
It is known to this agency that the location of the “Miracle of Dunkirk of 1940 in World War II” in Northern France is not commonly known to the general public. Our agents therefore travelled to the beaches of Dunkirk, Zuydcoote and Bray-Dunes in the French Department Nord, to document the remains of vessels stranded on the beaches near Dunkirk during their crews’ attempts to evacuate as much Allied troops from the Dunkirk Salient to English ports as possible.
SYNOPSIS: The Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation “Dynamo”, also known as “The Miracle of Dunkirk”, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk, France, between 27MAY1940 and 4JUN1940, during World War II. The operation was ordered by the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) High Command, when large numbers of Belgian, British, and French troops were cut off and surrounded by Nazi forces, during the Battle of France.

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1)
2)
1) Artillery piece in front of the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Dunkirk (closed during winter season)
2) Monument for the Battle of Dunkirk located between the evacuation pier and the beach at Dunkirk

After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in SEP1939, marking the beginning of the Second World War, the BEF was sent to aid in the defense of France. Nazi Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands on 10MAY1940, and three of their Panzer corps attacked France through the Ardennes and sped to the English Channel.
By 21MAY1940, the Nazis had trapped the BEF, the remnants of the Belgian forces, and three French armies in an area along the Northern coast of France. General John Vereker, Commander of the BEF, immediately saw that evacuation across the Channel was the best option and began planning a withdrawal to Dunkirk, the closest location with suitable port facilities. On 22MAY1940, a halt order was issued by the German High Command, with the approval of Adolf Hitler. This gave the trapped Allied forces time to deploy defensive works and retreat large numbers of troops toward Dunkirk, to fight the Battle of Dunkirk. From 28–31MAY1940, in the Siege of Lille, the remaining 40,000 troops of the French 1st Army fought a delaying action against seven Nazi divisions, including three armored divisions.
On the 1st day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a ragtag fleet of over 800 boats. Many of the troops were able to embark from the harbor’s protective pier onto 39 British destroyers and other large ships, while others had to wade out from the beaches, waiting for hours in the shoulder-deep water:

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Some of the evacuated soldiers were ferried from the beaches to the larger ships by the famous “Little ships of Dunkirk”, a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, and lifeboats called into service for the emergency. The BEF lost 68,000 soldiers during the French campaign and had to abandon nearly all of their tanks, vehicles, and other equipment.

CONCLUSION:
The success of the biggest evacuation in military history, a “Disaster turned to Triumph”, gave a great boost to British morale, and is now seen as a major turning point of World War II.
 

EXHIBITS:
Tangible evidence of Operation “Dynamo” are the wreckages of stranded vessels deployed 75 years ago to evacuate Allied troops off the beach.
The Dunkirk pier (locally known as 'môle') has been demolished after World War Two and rebuilt to modern standards. We visited the beaches of Dunkirk and the coastal town of Zuydcoote on 31DEC2015. This day saw a relatively low tide water level of 42.52 inches (1.08 meters) at 11:18AM, compared to other days before and after this date.
On the beaches of Leffrinckoucke, Zuydcoote and Bray-Dunes, East of the city of Dunkirk proper, we found the remains of the vessels “Claude”, “Crested Eagle” and “Devonia” mentioning their locations from east to west as shown in this diagram.

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Now&Then comparison of the beach at Dunkirk shortly after the evacuation

Wreckage of HMS "Crested Eagle" on the beach at Zuydcoote

Nazis posing with the beached wreckage of HMS "Crested Eagle

“Claude; the water supply lighter at Leffrinckoucke
Claude was launched on 13MAY1915 as an X-lighter named X.37.
She had a Diesel engine and measured 105.5 ft in length with a 21ft beam.
Her first owner was the Admiralty in London who, in 1922, sold X.37 to T.R. Sargent of London who then used her as a water tanker and renamed her “Claude”.
In 1940 “Claude” was requisitioned by the Admiralty for Operation “Dynamo”, towed to Dunkerque by tug “Fairplay One” with water for the troops and abandoned on the beach at Leffrinckoucke on 29MAY1940, where her remains are still visible.


Close-up from a photo taken from the sea, looking inland towards the beached "Claude"

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"Claude" as we found her on the beach of Leffrinckoucke on New Year's Eve 2015

“HMS Crested Eagle”; the bombed evacuation ship at Zuydcoote
First owner of the HMS “Crested Eagle” was the General Steam Navigation Co..
She was launched in 1925 built by J. Samuel Whithe & Co, measured 299.7x34.6x11.1 ft. and was equipped with triple expansion diagonal engines.
The well-known Thames paddle-steamer “Crested Eagle” was taken over by the Admiralty during WWII to be used as a minesweeper. On 29May1940, when assisting in the evacuation of the British Army from the Dunkirk beaches, she was bombed by German aircraft.
At the time of the attack, “Crested Eagle” was carrying about 600 troops in addition to her crew. She was set on fire and was run ashore on the Zuydcoote beach, over 300 of those on board being either killed or drowned.

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HMS "Crested Eagle" in her glory days as a steam paddler

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""Crested Eagle" as we found her on the beach of Zuydcoote on New Year's Eve 2015
Note the stainless steel memorial plaque installed six months earlier

“HMS Devonia”; the damaged ship beached at Bray-Dunes
This pre-war Bristol Channel paddle steamer had been commissioned by the Navy in 1939 and converted into a minesweeper.  Joining the 7th Minesweeping Flotilla at Granton in Scotland, she carried out several operations before assisting the evacuation on 30May1940. She had been helping to transport troops off the beaches at De Panne on the Belgian coast, but came under heavy air attack. Although she didn’t take a direct hit, she suffered a number of near misses which caused a fair amount of damage; enough to make it unlikely that she would be able to make it back across the Channel.  Instead, her skipper was ordered to beach her at Bray-Dunes.

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HMS ""Devonia" in her glory days as a steam paddler

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HMS "Devonia" characterized by her two funnels, on the beach at Bray-Dunes, photographed shortly after the 1940 Evacuation and later during the Nazi occupation of France. Note the various stages of decay of the wreckage which has been surfacing from choppy, salty water twice a day during low tide since 1940. 

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""Devonia" as we found her on the beach of Brays-Dunes on New Year's Eve 2015
 

9APR2016 UPDATE:
We revisited the beaches east of Dunkirk in Northern France today which saw an extremely low tide at minus 9,05 inches; over a yard less water then the last time we visited here.
We were able to walk around, on dry land, the wrecks of "Crested Eagle", "Devonia" and "Vonette" and caught a clear glimpse of the mysterious unidentified vessel on the beach of Zuydcoote.
 
HMS "Crested Eagle":

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First image shows a scale model of HMS "Crested Eagle" when she moored on the pole (pier) at Dunkirk to let soldiers board, prior to being hit in mid-sea later. Photo taken in the excellent Dunkirk Operation "Dynamo" memorial Museum.
Last images show a vessel behind "Crested Eagle" which has not been identified by the experts of "Epaves au large de Dunkerque" and is designated by them as Enconnu1 (Unknown1).
HMS "Devonia":

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Wooden cargo sail ship "Vonnette":
Actually not a combat scene: the remains of wooden sail ship "Vonette" which  beached here in 1929.
Battle Detective posing as if standing on her deck in Vonette's original upright position.

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