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The ones that got left behind at Dunkirk

July 28, 2017 12:29 IST

As Christopher Nolan's film Dunkirk celebrates one of history's most successful rescue operations, never-before-seen images document the fate of more than 80,000 Allied troops who failed to escape Dunkirk.
Described as the forgotten heroes, these images give a haunting glimpse into the torture that awaited the Prisoners of War captured during the Dunkirk evacuation.

Matthew Smaldon (@wwiistories) shares photographs taken by German soldiers to reveal the reality of the horrors the captured men went through.

For the full collection, please take a look at Matthew Smaldon's site (external link).


An unknown British soldier was buried under a tree with a burnt out lorry in the background. The grave has been adorned with flowers, presumably by French civilians.

British and French Prisoners of War being marched towards the Belgian border by German troops.

While the reviews of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk have been overwhelmingly positive, some criticism has been leveled at the lack of French troops in the movie.
Many of the troops fighting in French uniform were from the French colonies, including Senegal, Mauritania and Niger.
German troops, as pictured above, often took photographs of these men when captured, as colonial troops were seen as a novelty to the Germans.
Over 100,000 French colonial soldiers were held captive during the war.
Despite the smiling faces in this picture, tragically some POWs were killed by their captors close to the battlefield.

German troops on the beach at Dunkirk next to the remains of a crashed plane.
In the distance you can see ships sunk during the evacuation and a row of lorries used as a temporary bridge to help soldiers reach ships in deeper water.

German soldiers inspect abandoned vehicles somewhere near Dunkirk.
Whether these had been brought to this location after being removed from roads and ditches is unclear.
But the sheer number of vehicles gives an indication of the material left behind.

Captured British officers and men in May/June 1940.
The man on the right seems resigned, but also defiant as he stares at the camera.
To the left are more French colonial POWs.

The beach at Dunkirk, presumably in June 1940.
The Germans had been clearing the beach of material and ammunition boxes have been neatly lined up.
Note the four Vickers machine guns which have been recovered.
In the distance abandoned lorries and boats rest on the beach.

Abandoned vehicles and boats at Dunkirk.

The beach at Dunkirk after the evacuation. In the background is the French destroyer L'Adroit.

British soldiers carrying their belongings, including what appears to be tins of food.
This photograph was taken by a German soldier who took them prisoner.
The rear of the photograph is marked 'Engländer'.

British and French POWs being marched into captivity.
The German lorry shows the markings of a Panzer unit.

Four British soldiers who did not make it back home were committed to meagre graves marked only by simple wooden crosses with their helmets resting on top.

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