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The Operations of the RAF and Luftwaffe during Operation Dynamo (The Evacuation of Dunkirk), 26 May–4 June 1940

Raffal, Harry


Harry Raffal


David Omissi


Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of over 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk between 26 May and 4 June 1940, has been widely studied there has, however, been little analysis of the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe’s operations during the evacuation. This thesis begins by establishing the context in which the air forces operated over Dunkirk and demonstrates that they fought the battle under more equal circumstances than has been realised. The extent that signals intelligence affected air operations is considered and its exploitation is shown to have influenced Dynamo more than has previously been realised. This thesis considers the threat to Dynamo from German artillery fire. Artillery batteries have previously shared credit for the suspension of daylight evacuations from Dunkirk; this thesis demonstrates, however, that the Luftwaffe alone was responsible. The thesis then analyses the Luftwaffe’s successful attacks on 29 May and 1 June and contrasts these to operations during 26–28 and 30–31 May. Air attacks are shown to have successfully limited evacuations until the Royal Navy’s improvised use of the Mole. The thesis argues the Luftwaffe’s further success was primarily delayed by unfavourable weather conditions. Fighter operations are explored separately and both sides are shown to have achieved their different objectives at different points of Dynamo. The thesis contends that Fighter Command restricted its air cover over Dunkirk to preserve its forces for the future air defence of Britain. This thesis then considers the operations of Coastal Command and argues for the importance of their missions against German E-Boats. Analysis of Bomber Command’s missions indicates that tactical bombing was more important to Allied troops during Dynamo than previously thought. The thesis concludes that whilst the RAF made a meaningful contribution to Operation Dynamo it was not responsible for the Luftwaffe’s failure to halt the evacuation.


Raffal, H. (2018). The Operations of the RAF and Luftwaffe during Operation Dynamo (The Evacuation of Dunkirk), 26 May–4 June 1940. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 9, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jan 9, 2024
Keywords History
Public URL
Additional Information School of Histories, Languages & Cultures
University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2018


Thesis (4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2018 Harry Raffal. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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