At the Going Down of the Sun..., Dunkirk War Memorial, Dover Seafront, Kent, UK

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John Latter on September 4, 2011

Soon to be completely wreathed in shadow as the sun continues to set behind the hills of the Western Heights, this is the Dunkirk War Memorial on Dover's seafront promenade in front of the Georgian Waterloo Crescent of Marine Parade.

The front panel, or plaque, depicts a battle scene showing a British Army soldier carrying a wounded comrade towards a small rowing boat below which is inscribed:

Dunkirk Veterans Association East Kent (1). This memorial was erected on the 16th August 1975, the 35th anniversary of the battle of Dunkirk. During the period May 10th to 1st June 1940 202,306 British, British Commonwealth and allied troops were evacuated to Dover. The memorial not only pays tribute to the bravery and discipline of the servicemen, but to the courage of the crews of the armada of little ships which assisted, and the people of the port of Dover who received them.

But as Richard Overy of the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, noted in A very British defeat,a review of the 2006 book, Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man (2):

Yet the retreat (from Dunkirk) was also a humiliating defeat. The object of British and French forces was to hold back the German attack, sit in France and Belgium as they had done during the Great War, and wait until the battle of attrition took its toll on German resolve. What actually resulted was the smashing of French and British resistance in a few weeks, and Britain's expulsion from a continent she had no hope of re-entering again unaided.

The book gives the following statistics, but notes that the figures for the last four countries should be regarded as best estimates:

British: Killed and died of wounds - 11,014, Wounded - 14,074, Missing/Prisoners of War (POW) - 41,338

French: Killed - around 90,000, Wounded - around 200,000

German: Killed - 27,074, Wounded - 111,034, Missing - 18,384

Belgian: Casualties - 23,350

Dutch: Casualties - 9779

Richard Overy says of the retreat to Dunkirk:

Some British units were ordered to stand and fight with sacrificial bravery to allow their compatriots to escape.

There was no shortage of suicidal bravery. Troops at Arras were ordered to "fight to the last man and the last round", and in many cases they did so.

"At the Going Down of the Sun" is, of course, a line from the "Ode of Remembrance" (3):

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

The flowers among the pebbles to the right of the memorial are poppies.

A statue of Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay, KCB KBE MVO (4), Royal Navy co-ordinator of the Dunkirk evacuation, stands in the grounds of Dover Castle near the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover, overlooking the harbour:

Operation Dynamo (5)

As Vice-Admiral Dover he was responsible for the Dunkirk evacuation, codenamed Operation Dynamo, between 26 May and the early hours of 3 June 1940. Working from the underground tunnels beneath Dover Castle, he and his staff worked for nine days straight to rescue troops trapped in France by the German forces (the "Dunkirk Little Ships").

For his success in bringing home 338,226 British and allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, he was asked to personally report on the operation to the King and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

A lesser-known role was played by Charles Herbert Lightoller, once of 8 East Cliff, Dover, who was the second mate (second officer) on board the RMS Titanic, and the most senior officer to survive the 1912 iceberg disaster. Lightoller was decorated for gallantry as a naval officer in World War I and later, in retirement, further distinguished himself by providing and sailing the Sundowner as one of the "little ships" during the Dunkirk evacuation.

Notes

This Dover Second World War British Army history photo was taken at 6.11 pm while on my evening cycle ride (6). NB I had assumed the Dunkirk memorial was a bronze, but according to New Statesman, new society it's made of fibre-glass.

Other Dover photos relating to Dunkirk include:

Cliff Casemates Balcony, Secret Wartime Tunnels Entrance, Dover Castle

The Admiralty Lookout and Port War Signal Station, Dover Castle

LCU Mark 10 Royal Marines/Royal Navy Landing Craft, Dover Harbour

F235 HMS Monmouth prior to 70th Anniversary of Dunkirk, Admiralty Pier, Dover Harbour

Elsewhere in the photo:

Top left: the Southern Breakwater and West End Light (the lighthouse), behind which is a cross-channel ferry.

Top right: the Western Entrance (site of the WWI Spanish Prince blockship) and English Channel beyond; the Admiralty Pier (where the Cruise Ships berth) and Admiralty Pier Light in front of which is the Prince of Wales Pier and Prince of Wales Pier Light (see all Dover Lighthouse photos).

On the pebble-strewn beach behind the Dunkirk memorial is a meandering pathway, part of three artworks called "Lifting Wave, Resting Wave, and Lighting Wave", designed by London-based architects, Tonkin Liu, and officially opened in 2010.

References

(1) The Dunkirk Veterans Association "was one of the first ex-Service organisations to be formed from personnel who served in the Forces of the Crown during the Second World War; it was founded at Leeds in 1953 and registered as a War Charity, and its Central Benevolent Fund is registered with the Charity Commission."

(2) Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore (2006)

(3) The "Ode of Remembrance" is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen", which was first published in The Times in September 1914.

(4) Other recent photos of Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay's statue and surrounding area:

The Stone Map and Statue of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay,Dover Castle (side view)

Statue of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay and The StoneMap, Dover Castle (front view)

(5) Wikipedia entry for Bertram Ramsay

(6) One lap of Robsons Yard - Eastern Docks - Prince of Wales Pier - Robsons Yard.

Click to see all Dover Statue and Dover Memorial photos.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on September 6, 2011

Also see:

Harbour House and the Tonkin Liu Artworks at Sunrise, Dover Seafront

Geology

A pebble is a clast of rock with a particle size of 4 to 64 millimetres based on the Krumbein phi scale of sedimentology. Pebbles are generally considered to be larger than granules (2 to 4 millimetres diameter) and smaller than cobbles (64 to 256 millimetres diameter). A rock made predominantly of pebbles is termed a conglomerate. Pebble tools are among the earliest known man-made artifacts, dating from the Palaeolithic period of human history.

A beach composed chiefly of surface pebbles is commonly termed a shingle beach. This type of beach has armoring characteristics with respect to wave erosion, as well as ecological niches which can provide habitat for animals and plants.

(Wikipedia entry for Pebble)

YvesSch on September 10, 2011

I have invited you to join the Memorials group. Thank you for all of the information in your comments here; it is nice to know so much about it.

John Latter on September 13, 2011

YvesSch, on September 10th, 2011, said:

I have invited you to join the Memorials group. Thank you for all of the information in your comments here; it is nice to know so much about it.

Thank you for your kind words and the invitation, Yves :)

I haven't made my mind up about joining any Panoramio Groups yet, I want to see how things go for a while.

John

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on September 1, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/08/31 18:11:48
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 35.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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