Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ brings an extraordinary moment in British history to the big screen


IN Britain, one of the most memorable moments of the Second World War came with the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk.

Now, 75 years later, this incredible historical moment is being put in the spotlight on the big screen in Christopher Nolan’s (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Night Trilogy) new film, Dunkirk.

During May 1940 the so-called “phoney war” came to an end as the Germans swept through Belgium and Northern France in a Blitzkrieg that left many Allied soldiers stranded. But instead of being killed these men, some 338 000 of them, were saved in a remarkable operation that saw scores of tiny boats join forces with the Royal Navy.

The flotilla of small craft had answered a call for naval vessels to help the Royal Navy. They included everything from private yachts to motor launches, lifeboats, paddle steamers and barges. The craft came from as far away as the Isle of Man, with the smallest boat taking part a Tamzine, a 14ft open-topped fishing boat, now in the Imperial War Museum.

The smaller vessels would deliver the men to larger ships or take them all the way home. A paddle steamer called the Medway Queen made a total of seven round trips to Dunkirk and managed to rescue 7,000 men in total.

The Royal Daffodil, a Mersey ferry that also took part, was attacked by six German aircraft.  Despite being holed below the water line and having a bullet fly within inches of the fuel tank she still managed to limp back to port with her human cargo.

The evacuation was aided by the fact that Hitler halted a full–scale attack on Dunkirk with his Panzer tanks – trusting that his air force would stop the Royal Navy from pulling off the feat.

The RAF fought hard to combat the bombs raining down on the men waiting on the beaches, flying a total of 3,500 sorties and losing 145 aircraft while the Luftwaffe lost 156.

Speaking about his movie, Nolan said: “Dunkirk is not a war film. It’s a survival story and first and foremost a suspense film. So while there is a high level of intensity to it, it does not necessarily concern itself with the bloody aspects of combat, which have been so well done in so many films.”

The cast includes a host of British acting luminaries including Sir Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy, and New Direction’s Harry Styles, who makes his screen debut.

Dunkirk – which was filmed on location in France, Holland, the UK and Los Angeles – opens in SA cinemas on July 28.

Found out more at

Watch the trailer here


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