Get closer to the story behind Dunkirk
Inspired by Christoper Nolan’s epic Dunkirk? With little ships from our coastline going to help the evacuated soldiers, the film has been a real hit among our readers. Mary Graham takes a looks at the reallife places and stories behind the film and Operat
The director is fondly regarded for plumping to use the natural features of Dunkirk during 26 weeks of recreating Operation Dynamo, eschewing using studios or another town. One of the places proudly boasting its connections with Nolan is the La Cocotte restaurant on the seafront. Nolan and one of his leading actors visited the cosy bistro to get a taste of the gastronomy of the region.
And that gastronomy includes pots of delicious casserole mixes, featuring sauteed potatoes, with a choice of seafood, bacon and goats cheese, or Maroilles, a speciality cheese from northern France.
La Cocotte, digue de Mer 55, http:// www.lacocottedk.fr/ 5. Head into the countryside for the horrific story not portrayed in the film
Two hours in the cinema will never tell you everything around Operation Dynamo and nor should it.
In Esquelbecq, around half-anhour from Dunkirk, just 100 British soldiers were given orders to delay the German advance to the coast to help the evacuation.
After nine hours of fighting the British surrendered – tragically not to regular German army soldiers, but into the hands of an SS unit. After being made to walk through the countryside, the prisoners were herded into a barn and killed – first by grenades being thrown under the canopy, then by firing.
Just two people survived – one by pretending he was dead in a nearby pond until he could crawl for help.
A poignant reminder of these tragic events of May 28, 1940 has been created at the spot, La Plaine au Bois, by villagers who decided the episode should never be forgotten.
A recreation of the barn has been constructed as a memorial, and a memorial mound inaugurated in 2004.
One of the most poignant and thought-provoking sights has to be the immaculate rows of war graves.
The British War Graves section of the cemetary just outside of the town centre is the resting place for hundreds of men who fought in the First and Second World Wars.
It also has a memorial created in 1957 to 4,528 soldiers of the British ground forces and six men of the Indian army who do not have a known grave.
One of the best ways of combining a visit to the nearby cemeteries with places giving a true sense of the war is by a Dynamo coach tour covering Dunkirk to Zuydcoote with a guide uncovering the history of each site.
British Cemetery, Route de Furnes, Dunkirk /Dynamo Tour, from € 18 per person. Regular tours run until August 26, advance booking required, see https://tinyurl.com/dunktour 7. Have dinner on board a paddle steamer involved in the evacuation
The Princess Elizabeth, built in 1927, helped save 1,673 Allied soldiers during four crossings in May 1940 and also features in Nolan’s Dunkirk.
Today she is a floating restaurant, moored up in Dunkirk’s marina and on board is a Michelin star chef preparing refined local cuisine with a British touch.
Diners can choose from a regular menu, or a special four-course menu with a nod to the 1940s, which featured mackerel goujons, veal, a lemon tart and a cheese dish but changes regularly Look out for the afternoon tea lounge on the lower deck. Menu 1940, from 39.45 euros. Princess Elizabeth, Bassin de la Marine, https:// tinyurl.com/elizsteamer 8. The full story is contained at the Dunkirk War Museum
One of the most comprehensive collections of information and artefacts on Operation Dynamo is housed at the museum, located in fortifications built to defend France’s coastline in 1874.
Arms and military equipment, some of it abandoned during the operation, are on show, while display boards and pictures give a detailed timeline of how key events and battles unfolded.
You come away with a better sense of how the war played out in May 1940, leading France and Britain to deploy vastly different tactics.
Dunkirk War Museum, https:// tinyurl.com/dynamomus 9. Refuelling and refreshment
Good food and drink is easy to come by in France, but some recommendations for meals during a short break include Comme vous Voulez, a gastronomic restaurant overlooking the seafront and beach, serving quality meat, fish and seafood dishes.
For a funky venue, try L’Edito, housed on a pontoon in the marina. A varied menu offers mussels, Thai dishes and steak plus the northern French speciality Le Welsh, a stodgy cheese on toast, often with additions such as ham, mustard or beer.
Talking of beer, if you find yourself in Esquelbecq, seek out the Thiriez brewery offering real ale across the spectrum of strengths and colours.
It was founded in 1996 by Daniel Thiriez, who took over buildings used as a farmhouse brewery until 1945. As well as tours, you can have tastings in a rustic micropub where the pace of life slows nicely.
Comme vous Voulez: https://commevous-voulez.com / L’Edito: https:// www.restaurant-ledito-dunkerque. fr / Thiriez Brewery: http://www. brasseriethiriez.com 10. The need-to-know detailsif you are planning to go.
Get there with DFDS which offers several ferry crossings a day between Dover and Dunkirk, with a journey time of just two hours. A modern fleet operates on the Dover-Dunkirk route and the French port is around a halfan-hour drive from the town and its attractions.
Prices for a car and up to nine people with DFDS start at £39 each way. Latest offers and timetables can be found at www.dfds.co.uk.
A good sightseeing base is the fourstar Hotel Borel, close to the war museum, beaches, marina and town – http://www.hotelborel.fr/en/
Mary was a guest of DFDS ferries, which funded the trip
A group contemplates the horrors during a tour of the memorial at La Plaine au Bois, Esquelbecq
The Princess Elizabeth in a scene from Dunkirk
A display at the Dunkirk War Museum
Comme vous Voulez restaurant