‘Dunkirk was a great deliverance and a great disaster’. (AJP Taylor). Is there sufficient evidence in sources D to J to support this interpretation?

The evacuation of Dunkirk could be perceived as either a great deliverance or great disaster, because there were over a third of a million troops saved yet the B.E.F lost nearly all its artillery and aircraft and ships were also destroyed. I slightly agree with A.J.P Taylor yet I would probably lean towards it being more of a success.

Source D shows a painting of the men at Dunkirk being evacuated by the smaller boats and bigger boats. This source gives across the view that it supports the idea that Dunkirk was a great deliverance because the men are queuing up in an orderly fashion, the boats are leaving successfully and there are no bodies wounded or dead on the beaches. The only sign of failure is a small sunken boat near the foreground of the picture. Even the images of the distant bombs don’t seem to give a chaotic factor to the painting. So I would say that this source is near completely one sided towards great deliverance yet the reliability of the source is questionable because the painter was never even at Dunkirk which makes his images not entirely accurate. This could be seen by the destroyer ships being so close to the shore which they almost certainly wouldn’t have been because they would’ve been easy targets for the German bombs then. So because of its unreliability it isn’t right to base any conclusions solely on this source.

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Source E shows British troops queuing in very organised columns, waiting to depart from the Dunkirk beaches. This source does not seem to really support either of A.J.P Taylor’s points, although it could be argued that it is more of a deliverance than not. I say this because there is no indication of failure in the photograph and the controlled way in which the troops were waiting could mean that everything is calm and under control. I would say that source supports Dunkirk as not being a great disaster more than being a great deliverance.

Source F shows British troops on the beaches at Dunkirk firing at German aircraft. This source is not as easy to tell if it supports a side on A.J.P Taylor’s statement or if it agrees with it completely. The few British soldiers shooting could represent courage yet also could show the weakness in numbers we had in fighting troops and aircraft. I think similarly to source E that this source does not show Dunkirk as great deliverance more than being a great disaster. I say this because there is no possible way that the picture could be interpreted as the soldiers being delivered from that situation where there is no sign of rescue ships or encouragement.

Source G seems to agree with A.J.P quite well because it states that, ‘our men have gained in experience of warfare’, yet also ‘we have had great losses in equipment’. Anthony Eden agrees with both disaster and deliverance in his speech. But he does seem to speak about the plus sides of Dunkirk more, probably because he is minister of war it is his job to make it seem as all is well in the army.

Source H is an extract from a British newspaper which is clearly ecstatic about the great deliverance that was Dunkirk. Throughout the whole first, long paragraph the extract proclaims how wonderful the army was and even uses block capitals to show how important it is. The second paragraph may be seen as recognition of a slight failure yet that idea is dismissed at the very end where it says, ‘this army still had a grin on their oily, bearded faces’. Believing this source fully is hard to do, when knowing that it has been used simply as another propaganda ploy to boost the morale of the British people.

Source I is A.J.P Taylor’s view of Dunkirk himself which obviously reflects his own statement. His points are that even though nearly the whole army was saved there were great losses in weapons, aircraft and sea vessels. His facts are all given in numbers which shows that he understands all the losses.

I myself disagree with A.J.P Taylor and his view that Dunkirk was a great deliverance and a great disaster. I believe that Dunkirk was a great deliverance because even though military wise the B.E.F lost lots of equipment, basically the whole army was rescued and more importantly, as shown in source G, it raised the morale of the people back home greatly. Knowing that our army was back safe was a lot more important than some ships to most civilians and it also gave the newspapers the story of the heroic fisherman who saved the army which also raise morale. Yes, there were losses yet the British spirits were more important.