Teaching resources

Learn Along with Us: Operation Dynamo

It’s been 80 years since 933 ships rescued 338,226 troops from the harbour and beaches of Dunkirk, in northern France. We're remembering the heroic actions of the Royal Navy, and everyone in this audacious rescue, softening what was a terrible defeat into a chance to fight again. 

To imagine what life was like 80 years ago is possible, but for younger students it can be a difficult step. Join us from 19 May–4 June 2020 when we’ll be commemorating the anniversary by bringing its story to life with digital storytelling across our social media channels, and sharing resources and activity ideas designed to support a wide range of ages and abilities.

Learn along with us

Whether you’re still learning from the classroom, or at home, learn along with us as we bring the stories of the men and women who served in the Second World War at Dover Castle to life.

  • Follow @EnglishHeritage on Twitter
  • Follow @EHEducation for activity ideas and guidance on how to use the resources below as you follow the story
  • Turn on notifications to find out when new stories become available
  • Share your own Dunkirk stories with #Dunkirk1940

Teachers’ Kit: Dover Castle

During Operation Dynamo, Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay and his team coordinated the operation from his HQ, in the tunnels deep below the cliffs at Dover Castle. 

Download our free Teachers' Kit resource to learn more about the history of the castle, and use our images and source material to help you create the context for studying this significant event in military history.

Download our Teachers’ Kit
Children on a Dover Castle Discovery Visit in the Wartime Tunnels

Complete a secret mission with our code breaking activity

From 19 May–4 June 2020 during our digital storytelling event we’ll be sharing different code breaking challenges.

Follow us on Twitter @EHEducation to take on a role in the Cypher Office of Vice Admiral Ramsay's naval headquarters at Dover Castle. We need your help to decode secret urgent messages. Can you crack all three codes?

 

Download our Code Breaking Guide

Where did Operation Dynamo take place?

Dunkirk is located in the north of France, on the shores of the North Sea near the Belgian-French border. The Strait of Dover is where the distance between England and France is just 21 miles across the English Channel. The rescue was coordinated from Vice Admiral Ramsay's headquarters beneath Dover Castle.

Use our map resource to mark up all the key locations and events to understand more about the story of Operation Dynamo.

Download our Map Resource
Troops on the beach at Dunkirk awaiting evacuation
© Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

What Was it Like to be a Soldier?

The men waiting on the beaches of Dunkirk endured days of fierce bombardment. This life or death battle against time was won in only ten days in 1940, but what do you think the waiting soldiers would have felt during this time? What could they see and hear?

Use our resource below and oral histories, letters and diaries to reflect on what it was really like for ordinary men and women at home and abroad.

Download our Dunkirk 1940 Soldier Reflections Resource

Write a military report

Ask your learners to imagine they’re working as an Army Liaison Officer at Dover Castle in May 1940. The mission was a success and one of the defining moments of the Second World War.

Download our free resource below to write a military report charting the returns of personnel during the evacuation.

Download our Military Report Resource

Further Learning Ideas

We’ll be sharing daily learning activity ideas and challenges between 19 May and 4 June 2020 @EHEducation. Here are some ideas for further learning  at home or in school:

  • Operation Dynamo tells us some incredible stories of military leaders who helped lead Britain to victory during the events of May 1940. What characteristics does it take to be a great leader? Discuss at home or in school, and try and write your own ‘recipe for being a great leader’                                                                                             
  • Write a diary entry or poem inspired by some of the oral histories, letters and diaries                                                                                                 
  • Use the source material in our Dover Teachers’ Kit to learn more about Operation Dynamo through the perspective of different people                                                                                                                          
  • Use our Code Breaking Guide to come up with your own code breaking challenges and set your own secret mission                                        
  • Use the source material in our Dover Teacher’s Kit to paint or draw a picture of what the shores around Dover Castle might have looked like during May 1940                                                                                    
  • Use the progress reports from the Military Report Activity Resource and the Map Resource to graphically represent the numbers of troops returned at particular locations across each day of the evacuation for a comprehensive visual representation of the operation                                                                                                                                  
  • Write a speech for Churchill to motivate the troops and country following the events of May and June 1940

Read more

  • Things You need to know about Dunkirk

    Find out the key facts about Operation Dynamo, the near-miraculous evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, which was controlled from Dover Castle.

  • The Fall of France in 1940

    On 22 June 1940 the French government surrendered to Hitler, just six weeks after the Germans’ initial advance westwards. Find out why France collapsed so quickly.

  • DUNKIRK 1940: THE MAKING OF THE MIRACLE

    This year we’re marking 80 years since the incredible rescue of the British Army from Dunkirk. Discover the role Dover Castle played and find out how you can join in the commemorations this year from your home.

  • Home Learning Help

    We’ve asked our team of teachers and education experts for advice on how you can approach home learning during the current crisis.

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