The Dunkirk Evacuation – Bray Dunes

Looking west along the Channel coast from Bray Dunes, Dunkirk just visible on the horizon, directly above the information board. 

Bray Dunes, June 1940.

The original photograph used on the board.  With original scraches.

Abandoned lorries and damaged ships at Bray Dunes after the evacuation.  Over 200 men (some sources suggest 300) died when the paddle steamer H.M.S. Crested Eagle (far left, beneath gun barrel) caught fire after a Luftwaffe attack on 29th May; H.M.S. Devonia (centre left), another paddle steamer, was deliberately run aground the following day.

The carcasses of both ships can still be seen at low tide.

Panoramic aerial view showing the coastline from Bray Dunes, towards the right of the shot, to Dunkirk, far left.  The wrecks of the Devonia and another ship can be seen near the shoreline on the right (close-up below).  This whole stretch of beach would have been packed with troops for much of the ten days of the evacuation.

Long lines of men slowly wend their way out to sea and, with luck, a waiting boat and rescue.  The dunes themselves, from where this picture was taken, offered more safety from the Luftwaffe than the flat sand of the beach, but they weren’t going to get you home.

Further down the dune line, although not pertinent to these current posts,…

…is a remnant of the bunker defences of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, or that’s what you would assume.  However it may well be that this particular bunker is actually a pre-war French bunker, in effect the very end of the Maginot Line, and there certainly are Great War bunkers in the dunes around here too,…

…as this brilliant map shows (wish I could credit it).  This area is just beyond the seafront apartments pictured below,…

…this the view looking east along the beach towards Nieuwpoort, ten miles away along the coast, now,…

…and then.

Modern-day Dunkirk, around six miles away, the lighthouse on the Western Mole, signalling the harbour entrance, visible to the far right of the picture.  And no, we are not walking from here.  Back on the bus for us.

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9 Responses to The Dunkirk Evacuation – Bray Dunes

  1. Morag L Sutherland says:

    We used to visit Bray Dunes on our free day from Talbot House. Sea breezes reminded us of home and wrecks bunkers and walking dunes and beach were evocative of what was faced in 1940. Thanks as always

    • Magicfingers says:

      I could easily have spent a day exploring Bray Dunes. And I might do so at some future point, I think.

  2. Nick kilner says:

    Superb. Always great to see then and now photos. Very interesting spot

  3. Lesley Mckay says:

    My grandfather was part of BEF and was rescued from Bray-Dunes. I have a hand written note from him describing the experience… I am happy to share if anyone is interested

    • Morag L Sutherland says:

      Lesley I would appreciate a copy thank you

    • Nick Kilner says:

      That would be fascinating to read! My grandfather was captured during the retreat and spent the rest of the war as a POW.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Lesley, may I email you please (I have your email address) so that you can send me a copy?

    • Len Varley says:

      Hi Lesley
      I would love to see your grandfather’s note.
      My father, who was with the Royal Signals Corps, was evacuated from Bray Dunes on May 30 aboard the HMS Worcester.
      I have some information on the ship if that might also be helpful for you.

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