The German western campaign in May 1940 decisively defeated the British and French forces arrayed against it. By the end of May, the Allies began the withdrawal of British and French forces from the Continent to prevent their surrender or destruction. The evacuation effort centered on the French coastal town of Dunkirk. As German forces completed their conquest of France, more than 1,000 vessels--including small civilian yachts and fishing boats--ferried Allied forces across the English Channel to Great Britain. While enduring heavy air attacks, this makeshift armada succeeded in rescuing over 200,000 British and 100,000 French troops from the Continent. Britain hailed the evacuation as a victory, despite the decisive German military victory and the French decision to sign an armistice.
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