War Office Instructions for Operation Dynamo

The Dunkirk Evacuation

The Army’s Movement Control were responsible for implementing orders from The War Office for the evacuation of service personnel from the beaches of Dunkirk.

A retired officer provided these declassified order extracts for the interest of readers.


Emergency evacuation across the Channel of very large forces (Plan Dynamo)

Important Note:This plan provides for the worst possible contingency. The utmost discretion will be used by addressees in communicating any part of this plan to any other person.

Sea Movement

1. An orderly withdrawal may be impossible and we must be prepared for chaotic movement of large and small parties to the coast between Calais and Zeebrugge. It may be impossible for ships to enter any of the ports and every sort of small craft may have to be used. Ministry of Shipping in consultation with V. A. Dover (assumed to mean Vessel Arrivals) expediting the collection of small craft. Intermittent evacuation has already begun.

2. For the final evacuation we cannot expect information as to the numbers to be picked up at any time at any point and the only practicable scheme appears to be to group small craft at various points along the coast, each group perhaps working to one or more ships.

3. The date on which ships and small craft should be placed in position for final evacuation will depend on information from G.H.Q. but 24 hours’ notice is expected.

Movement in the U.K.
4. Point of Disembarkation
East Kent Group - Dover, Folkestone, Ramsgate and Margate
Sussex Group - Hastings (two piers)
Eastbourne - Newhaven
Brighton - (Palace pier)
Points west of Brighton or in the Thames will be used only in an emergency.
For this plan first letters will serve as the code letter of the port, e.g. R for Ramsgate.

5.So far as possible personnel will be railed at once to reception areas so as to clear the ports and Eastern Command: but reserves of road transport will be held available.

6.Reception areas - Emergency accommodation by doubling up in existing barracks or billets are available as follows:

Aldershot Command60,000

Movement organisation
7. Control of sea movement rests with V.A. Dover. Military Liaison Officer with V.A. Dover notifies incoming ships to:
a. Southern Railway Control, Dover
b. Local Movement Control at disembarkation point (Landing Control).

Landing Control will count numbers disembarked, noting units and casualties, but entrainment must not be delayed on this account. Landing Control will report departure time, approximate numbers and any useful information to Redhill Control by railway telephone.
Trains will be conspicuously marked by the Railway authorities with the code letter and consecutive number, e.g. R3 will be the third special from Ramsgate.
Redhill Control (with military and railway representatives) is the regulating point for onward movement and all trains will be routed via Redhill in the absence of other instructions.
Subsidiary regulating points will be established at Salisbury, Reading and Banbury to control distribution of trains to final destination.
In addition to above Movement Control points a military liaison staff (Transportation) will be attached to H.Q. Southern Railway, Deepdene, to provide for military assistance to the railways in the event of air interference.

8. Empty stock
Empty stock movement will be controlled by Southern Railway. The principal stabling areas would be Ashford for East Kent and Three Bridges for Sussex (seepara 4 above Trains will be-made up to carry 500 personnel. Corridor stock is desirable but may not be available.

9. Medical
Medical reception stations will be organised under instructions issued by the War Office at each point of disembarkation. A few motor ambulances should be available at each point, in addition to a reserve pool for clearing lying cases to hospital. Walking wounded will be made as comfortable as possible in the trains.

10. Fooding arrangements
Trains will be stopped 15 minutes at one or other of the following stations where hot tea and a train ration will be issued to the troops under War Office arrangements. A medical officer and staff will be in attendance at each station to deal with casualties who cannot go on.
For trains from East Kent points - Headcom, Paddock Wood or Faversham.
For trains from Sussex points - Horley or Chichester.

It is hoped that up to one hour's warning may be given to those refreshment stations but they must be organised to cater for trains arriving without warning.
Further refreshment halts may be necessary at Salisbury, Swindon Junction, Leicester, and Birmingham.

11. Road Transport
Reserves of road transport will be held at Dover and Ramsgate for the East Kent group of landing points.

12. Subsequent redistribution
The reception areas tide over the immediate accommodation problem but within a few days personnel will be sorted out and railed under Command arrangements to areas where units will reform.

13. Despatches from landing points and arrival at Aldershot, Salisbury and Reading will be reported to Redhill Control quoting the code number of the train: but one channel (railway or military) should suffice.
N.B. In lieu of D and F for Dover and Folkestone, V and W (their proper code letter) will be used by Southern Railway.

14. Stragglers finding their way to London by public service will be despatched to Aldershot. Empty stock trains

15. Southern Railway will hold at least two empty trains at disposal of each Landing Control As soon as full train is despatched an empty train will be worked forward to replace it by the Southern Railway.

16. To minimize subsequent resorting the attempt is worth making to keep units together when time and the condition of the men permit. Similarly R.A., R.E., R.A.S.C., R.A.O.C., etc., details should be grouped together when possible.

17. Landing Controls should aim at full train loads of 500 men, but must exercise their discretion in regard to despatching less than train loads when no other ship is expected shortly.

General Instructions
Redhill Control will issue whatever instructions experience shows necessary: but on questions of policy and general organization, M.C. War Office will be consulted.

The successful execution of the move depends however mainly on the initiative and tact of local landing controls. These must liaise closely not only with stationmasters but also with local Os.C. troops. They are entitled to expect assistance from the latter in regard to administration, guides, P.A.D., contact with local welfare organizations etc. It must also be understood that many men will arrive in a state of complete exhaustion and apart from the organized refreshment halts every effort should be made to restore morale by kindness and firmness. The assistance of the police will be sought to assembling.

Posted on Thu, 20/02/2020 - 13:03