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Dunkirk Quiz

Dunkirk Quiz

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This week marks the anniversary of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk.

Surrounded on all sides by Nazi Germany, the Allied forces had no option but to retreat to the small Allied perimeter that remained, around the beaches of Dunkirk. The miracle of Dunkirk was one of the most successful evacuations in military history.

We invite you to test your knowledge on the evacuation of Dunkirk for your chance to win a £20 Amazon Voucher.

First Prize: £20 Amazon Voucher. Top score wins - in the event of a tie, a random drawer will be made.

Entries close 23:59 5 June 2020.

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The Ultimate British History Quiz: 89 Questions and Answers about the history of the UK

Are you looking for an awesome British History Quiz? You’ve come to the right place!

There is a lot to know about the history of the UK and whether you are organising a pub quiz or planning a trivia night, this ultimate British History trivia quiz will be perfect for you!

You will find several rounds including trivia, multiple choice and true or false.

We will touch upon all sorts of topics. British monarchs, WWII… there is a bit of everything!

So, grab a piece of paper and a pen, we are about to get started!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost for you!

Thank you!

France Surrenders

Meanwhile, the French military was in tatters and seemed poised for defeat. From the day of the German invasion on May 10 through the evacuation of Dunkirk, France had lost 24 infantry divisions, including six of seven motorized divisions. Instead of four armored divisions equipped with 200 tanks each, the country now had three, each equipped with 40. The new French commander, Maxime Weygand, transferred soldiers from the Maginot Line, but could muster only 43 infantry divisions to face the Third Reich&rsquos 104. Allied assistance had disappeared. The British had withdrawn all but two divisions south of Dunkirk, and the Belgian Army had surrendered.

The French were further hampered by a lack of strategic clarity. Premier Paul Reynaud favored a Dunkirk-like evacuation to North Africa, where the army could be protected by the French Fleet and the Royal Navy while it reconstituted itself, gathered additional forces from the French colonial empire and took delivery on a fleet of planes from the U.S. Commander Weygand, however, opposed such a move and vowed to remain on French soil to defend his homeland. Within Reynaud&rsquos cabinet, there was an appeasement faction, coalescing around Deputy Premier Marshal Pétain, which was considering a potential deal with Adolf Hitler.

General Alan Brooke returned to France to command the few remaining British units and judged the situation untenable. In a tense conversation with Churchill, Brooke demanded a further evacuation, and when Churchill argued that a British presence was needed to make the French feel supported, Brooke replied: &ldquoIt is impossible to make a corpse feel.&rdquo

The French fought as well as they could, relying on small groups of troops and armaments gathered into tight factions called &ldquoHedgehogs.&rdquo From June 5 to June 7, these pockets of resistance slowed the Germans as they crossed the marshes of the Somme River at Hangst in the west and at Péronne in the east. At Amiens, 90 miles northwest of Paris, the German 10th Panzer Division lost two thirds of its tanks in just three days. The 7th Panzer Division, led by Erwin Rommel, finally broke through in the west and charged 20 miles south of the Somme to cut off one British division, which retreated and later evacuated. As the days proceeded, Rommel simply directed his Panzers around the remaining Hedgehogs, and the French were unable to mount an effective counterattack.

It didn&rsquot take long for the Germans, whose Panzers were rolling rapidly through the country, to wear down the French. Paris fell on June 14.

On June 17, Rommel covered 150 miles westward and on June 19 he captured Cherbourg. The French government, which had been in a state of crisis for weeks, signed an armistice on June 22. The agreement divided France into two parts, the northern half under direct German occupation and the south under a puppet regime led by Pétain. It had taken the Germans just 18 days after Dunkirk to capture France.

British Fortitude

Britain now stood alone against the Nazis and many wondered whether it would be the next to concede. Some members of the British government, beginning to regret the rise of the uncompromising Churchill, considered what sort of an agreement might be reached with the German leader. Hitler tentatively planned for a British invasion, code-named Operation Sea Lion, but he knew that such an incursion would be risky, difficult and very costly, and so he waited for a British peace offer.

Churchill was having none of it. Brilliantly spinning the defeat at Dunkirk into an expression of the &ldquoDunkirk spirit,&rdquo Churchill urged his people to display the grit of the British troops and the can-do attitude of civilians who volunteered their ships for the rescue operation. He quickly replaced the equipment lost in France. He began currying a relationship with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, who signaled his intention to assist the British in any way he could. And in July, when Hitler&rsquos bombers began attacking English cities in an effort to force surrender, Churchill prepared the nation for the three-month-long siege that would come to be called the Battle of Britain.

On August 20, as the aerial conflict entered its most intense stage, Churchill took to the airways to pay tribute to the courageous pilots of the RAF: &ldquoThe gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.&rdquo

On September 15, the Luftwaffe launched over 1,000 aircraft in the campaign&rsquos most concentrated bombing raid yet against London. The assault failed to produce the desired results, with the British capital escaping serious harm. Instead, 20 German planes were damaged and another 60 shot down. To cut his losses, Hitler scaled back the raids in favor of the limited nighttime strikes known as the Blitz, which continued until May 1941.

The RAF had stood up to the Luftwaffe and won. The threat of a German invasion was over. Soon, as Churchill predicted, the &ldquotide of the world war&rdquo would shift toward the forces of freedom. During the next five years, Churchill and the British leadership were able to expand the size of the British army, add new planes to the resources of the RAF, repair and replace the ships lost at Dunkirk and reestablish the British Navy as one of the most powerful in the world. Newly fortified, British soldiers fought against advances in North Africa and the Middle East by the Axis forces.

Without Dunkirk, none of this would have been possible, nor would Britain have been able to hold out until December 1941 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the Americans into the war as a critical ally.

When the Allied forces landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, three of the eight divisions that took part were British. Two were dropped from the air and one arrived by ship and stormed the beaches beside its American allies. The victory that followed was sweet for all involved, but for the British, it was more than that. It was redemption.

Dunkirk (2017)

Trivia: There are only two women with speaking parts in the whole film, with 47 words between them.

Trivia: In reality, Adolf Hitler ordered his commanders and troops to stand down and allow Allied forces to escape at Dunkirk. The German General von Blumentritt is quoted as saying "He (Hitler) then astonished us by speaking with admiration of the British Empire, of the necessity for its existence, and of the civilisation that Britain had brought into the world. He said that all he wanted from Britain was that she should acknowledge Germany's position on the Continent." But the exact reason for the order remains unknown.

Suggested correction: Hitler's controversial 'halt' order at Dunkirk had nothing to do with chivalry. The most widely accepted reason for the order is that the Wehrmacht Panzer units have been fighting continuously for two weeks, and badly needed some rest in preparation for Fall rot, phase two of the invasion of France. Infantry and air power continued to attack the Dunkirk pocket throughout the evacuation while the armoured units rested.

Trivia: Michael Caine has an uncredited voice cameo as the voice of Fortis Leader, the lead Spitfire pilot who gets shot down early on.

Trivia: The blind man who greets the soldiers upon returning home is played by John Nolan, Christopher Nolan's uncle.

Trivia: Despite his prominent billing, Tom Hardy is only in the film for 10 minutes.

More for Dunkirk


Factual error: In the scene towards the start of the film in Weymouth harbour, you can see the huge building which is Weymouth Pavilion, which was built in 1954, after the original 1909 building burnt down.


Blind Man: Well done lads. Well done.
Alex: All we did is survive.
Blind Man: That's enough.


Question: Why did the spitfire pilot land on the beach at the end of the movie facing certain internment when he could have ditched and be taken back to Blighty?

Answer: After running out of fuel, he kept his craft aloft as long as he could so he could shoot down the enemy plane. He then landed when and where he safely could, which was on the beach but in enemy territory. Ditching a plane in water is dangerous and would have meant far less chance of survival.

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Test Your World War 2 History Knowledge!


When did World War 2 start and end?


The UK, the Soviet Union, the USA and China were on what side during WW2?


What happened at Dunkirk in 1940?


Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan were on what side during the war?


Who attacked the US Naval base in Pearl Harbour?


WW2 was partly caused by problems that came out of WW1, and the way Germany was treated in the Treaty of Versailles (see pic). After WW1, was Germany treated well or treated badly by other countries?


Josef Stalin was a…what?


What was a doodlebug?


Nazi Germany committed lots of awful crimes in Europe during WW2 – the Holocaust, in particular. Japan also did similarly awful things in Asia – True or false?


Hitler's ideas were based on really extreme racism, and he tried to use science to say that some types of people are better than others. Science has proven all these ideas completely wrong, by the way! Which of these groups of people did the Nazis think were the best?

Where did the Battle of Britain take place?


How did the USA eventually beat Japan?


World War 2 was the bloodiest single war in human history. After it ended, European countries all decided that they never wanted to do it again. To try and keep the peace in Europe they started a new organisation. What was it?

Oh dear! Have another go! Knowing your history is important!

Not bad at all! Maybe you could brush up on a few history facts though – try this quiz again?

Good job! It's really important to know your history, and this was a decent score. Can you beat it on another history quiz?

Very good work! Knowing your history is more important than ever – and you nailed this quiz!

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is likely to be the most widely seen or read depiction of history released in 2017. So how does a British historian who teaches and writes about World War II rate it as history?

In terms of accuracy, it rates pretty highly. There are no big, glaring historical whoppers. The characters whom Nolan invents to serve his narrative purposes are realistic, and his scenes depict genuine events or hew close to firsthand accounts. And why not, since fiction could hardly outdo the drama and emotion of the reality? Nolan made clear that he intended the film to be a kind of history of an experience, and he succeeds about as well as any filmmaker could in conveying what it might have felt like to be on that beach.

For example, one theme that’s repeated across the reminiscences of WWII veterans on all sides is the stark animal terror of being subjected to unopposed air assault. If artillery barrages and shellshock were the defining experiences of World War I, strafing and bombing and resultant mental breakdown were arguably the defining experiences of World War II. And several scenes in the film must be as near a manifestation of that experience as can be safely had at the multiplex.

But, of course, Nolan didn’t set out to present history the way scholars do it. Historians’ careers rest on perfect accuracy, and nuance and complication are prized—even at the high cost of turning away nonprofessional readers. So, Nolan makes choices in assembling, and sometimes inventing, his facts that academics would not. Let’s look at these choices made in the name of dramatizing experience and check them against the evidence as embodied by eyewitness accounts and documentary sources.

Why the obsession with airplane fuel?

Here, Nolan is dramatizing something central to the entire event. The Royal Air Force was not able to provide a lot of help to the men trapped on the beach because of its fighters’ range. As the film depicts early on, pilots had to carefully conserve fuel on the Channel crossing and, even then, could only operate for less than an hour over Dunkirk itself. What happened far more often was that, while en route, fighters came upon German planes attacking the Royal Navy and had to battle them over the sea.

This wasn’t comforting to the men trapped on the beach, but if the Royal Navy’s Destroyers were sunk (six of around 40 were), there would be no cover for the retreat.

The RAF did battle German fighters and bombers over the three beaches of Calais, Dunkirk, and Ostend themselves, but a recurring theme in survivors’ accounts is that they never saw the RAF in the skies above them.

“Where the hell were you?”

This is reflected in one of the film’s final lines spoken by an evacuated soldier who sees another evacuee with pilot’s wings. In truth, pilots’ receptions were often far less kind. A pilot who bailed over Dunkirk beach had to fight to get on a boat. He was in the air again the day after his return to England.

Did the British really hold back ships and planes from the fight?

Yes. The British were rightly afraid of invasion with the developing collapse of France, and their main means of defense was the Royal Navy, not the Army. That navy, along with the RAF, would have to be counted on to sink an invasion flotilla as well as protect the flow of supplies over the North Atlantic. So senior officers in Westminster ordered the withdrawal of the best class of Destroyers from the scene.

Similarly, many England-based RAF squadrons were barred from the fight on the grounds that they would be needed to defend home. Still, RAF losses were very large, with 145 planes downed in nine days of fighting.

Was there a real-life Commander Bolton?

© Warner Brothers and Imperial War Museums

Kenneth Branagh’s character, Commander Bolton, seems to have been inspired by the real-life Captain William Tennant, who was on the scene and is credited with doing an astounding job of making the best he could out of the embarkation.

Tennant later fought the Japanese off Singapore when HMS Repulse was sunk from beneath him. He survived to help organize the D-Day landings, even helping to lay an oil pipeline under the channel to fuel the invasion force. In other words, he made a pretty successful return to northern France after a hiatus of a few years. No word on whether he delivered dramatic one-liners as well as Kenneth Branagh.

Were other characters based on historical figures?

Characters such as Fionn Whitehead’s Tommy and Harry Styles’ Alex are certainly true to life. Some survivors did endure several failed attempts to get off the beach before finally getting across the Channel. Others shivered on the weather decks of Royal Navy ships for fear of being trapped in the crowded holds in case of disaster, as does Aneurin Barnard’s “Gibson.”

Were those pamphlets in the opening scenes invented for exposition?

No. They were real, but the genuine ones weren’t in living technicolor. Quickly churned out by intelligence officers behind the lines on commandeered newspaper presses, such pamphlets encouraging a surrounded enemy to surrender were used by all sides throughout the war.

Surely, the soldier striding off into the breaking waves is a bit of melodrama.

Sadly, no. Witnesses tell of a man who dropped his gear and told those around him that he was going to walk to England. Others had similar mental breakdowns and wandered off the beach.

Wasn’t it an absurd bit of luck that a small boat came upon that ditched Spitfire?

Over the dayslong fight, pilots wisely tried to ditch or bail near the Royal Navy vessels in the Channel or small boats that peppered the sea. There were a lot cases just like the one in the film, though maybe not with the nick-of-time heroics.

OK, but isn’t it absurd how long that Spitfire glides?

Not really. Veterans reported gliding their Spitfires 15 miles or more.

What was the deal with the French being denied places on the boats and ships?

This was the policy of high-ranking officers on the spot, not because they were trying to be cruel but for three reasons: Hope for France was essentially lost, the French military in the area was in such disarray that its policy about evacuation was unknown, and the ships evacuating men were British. Churchill was strongly in favor of taking the French off the beaches to encourage France to keep fighting. Some French officers made the heroic decision that they would not retreat and would cover their Allies’ escape to fight another day.

The situation was grim. In ways represented in the film, fights did erupt between the British and some French soldiers desperate to escape. Frantic men certainly were denied places on boats, while men who fell overboard had to be abandoned.

What about Commander Bolton’s last line, saying he would stay to lift off the French?

This line is more troublesome, because it suggests the French had their own Dunkirk. It’s true that after the British and other Allied troops were evacuated—there was an effort focusing on the French that resulted in 75,000 rescues. But the scene of the French Army manning the sandbag barricade while Tommy escapes through them is a bit more true to life, because the fact is that many tens of thousands of French and French colonial troops fought and died as a rearguard for the escaping British.

The vast majority of the French who’d been evacuated returned to France after it came to terms with Germany. This isn’t because most were particularly fond of their conquerors or Nazism but because their country was no longer at war and their officers and government told them to come home. Besides, Germany was essentially holding the country hostage to assure their good behavior.

What’s missing from the film that a historian might add?

In the film, we see at least one French soldier who might be African. In fact, soldiers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and elsewhere were key to delaying the German attack. Other African soldiers made it to England and helped form the nucleus of the Free French forces that soon took the fight to the Axis.

There were also four companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps on those beaches. Observers said they were particularly cool under fire and well-organized during the retreat. They weren’t large in number, maybe a few hundred among hundreds of thousands, but their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war. Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat. In fact, while Britain and other allies were licking their wounds after Dunkirk, the Indian Army picked up the slack in North Africa and the Middle East.

Finally, while it’s beyond the scope of the film, around 1 in 7 Allied soldiers who retreated to Dunkirk were captured and made prisoners of war—something that is only hinted at by the shot of Tom Hardy’s character surrendering. They had a horrible march to Germany in front of them and over four years of hunger and servitude. Note: Hogan’s Heroes is not good history.

Did an RAF pilot shoot down a dive-bomber over Dunkirk while gliding?

Peter is Mr. Dawson’s son who accompanies him to Dunkirk. Peter is portrayed as a calm, dutiful, and kindhearted young man, helping the soldiers get into the boat, taking care of his friend George after he gets injured, and having a memorial for George published in the local paper after his death.

Mr. Dawson is a seaman who decides to go to Dunkirk himself instead of just giving his boat to the army to use. Mr. Dawson is calm, dutiful, and determined to help the war relief efforts in whatever way he can. A major reason he wants to help is that his older son died in the war three weeks in, so he wants to honor his son's memory by helping in whatever way he can.

Dunkirk Evacuation References:

“The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships”. The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. 2010. Last accessed 16 November 2013.

Churchill, Winston (2003). “Wars are not won by evacuations, 4 June 1940, House of Commons”. In Churchill, Winston S.. Never Give In!: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches. New York: Hyperion.

Liddell Hart, B. H. (1999) [1970]. History of the Second World War. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80912-5.

Looseley, Rhiannon (2005). “Le Paradis apres l’Enfer: the French Soldiers Evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940” (MA dissertation (History), University of Reading). Franco-British Council. Last accessed 17 November 2013.

'Dunkirk': How historically accurate is Christopher Nolan's WWII battle film?

Soldiers from Britain, Belgium, Canada and France fight against the German army on the beaches of Dunkirk during the early stages of World War II.

Allied soldiers brace for German attack in 'Dunkirk.' (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Director Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is earning rave reviews for its you-are-there depiction of the Battle of Dunkirk — the heroic small-boat evacuation of British and Allied troops pinned down by German forces early in World War II.

The success wasn't just a miraculous victory in the war.

"Ultimately, Dunkirk was a turning point in human history," says Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay.

Historian Joshua Levine was a consultant on the film, a story that relies heavily on action. Dialogue is sparse, and there's even less of an explanation about what's happening during the battle.

But just how historically accurate is Dunkirk?

Christopher Nolan talks to his young 'Dunkirk' soldiers (from left) Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard and Fionn Whitehead. (Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon, Warner Bros.)

The characters are based in history, but are fictional

Nolan did extensive research on Dunkirk, already "sacred" historical ground for the British and taught to every schoolchild. But he chose to focus on imagined characters.

"We have fictional characters with fictional names we're not trying to tell anyone's story here," says Nolan. "But the bigger movements portrayed are accurate."

He adds: "Fiction frees you to be able to convey to the audience the greater truth of something. Which is why you end up wanting to combine characters or invent characters."

Christopher Nolan gives instruction to Kenneth Branagh on the set of 'Dunkirk.' (Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon)

Kenneth Branagh's Commander Bolton is a composite character

There are real high-ranking military officers mentioned in Dunkirk, including Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who was in charge of the evacuation. But Cmdr. Bolton (portrayed by Kenneth Branagh), who gives the most information about the battle during the movie, is a composite character.

&ldquoI am hopeful it will inspire people who are interested to look into the stories of the real people who were actually there.&rdquo

Bolton's duties in the film include the role of pier master, who oversees boarding soldiers onto water vessels. During the true battle, that task was handled by James Campbell Clouston.

"(Clouston) has an incredible story we could not do justice to in the film," Nolan says. "I am hopeful it will inspire people who are interested to look into the stories of the real people who were actually there."

Nolan jokes that he "begged. in a dignified manner" Tom Hardy to play a RAF Spitfire pilot because he felt confident the actor would make the most of the part with few words or physical movement while in the close confines of the Spitfire cockpit. "We&rsquore in that cockpit with him for the entire film. So it&rsquos about wiping the sweat out of his eyes or whatever, it&rsquos very small scale. I knew (Hardy) would be interested in that," the director said. (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

There are minor changes made for filmmaking

"If someone was looking with a strict historical eye, there are certain choices we made that we had to stand behind," says Nolan of Dunkirk.

For example, there are Messerschmitt Bf 109 planes featured in dogfights with British Spitfire planes. In the film, the German planes have yellow noses, the better for telling which are German and which are British during the fast-paced aerial scenes.

"In reality, the planes were not painted yellow until about a month after Dunkirk," says Nolan. "But it’s a very useful color scheme for trying to distinguish two planes in the air.

"We need to tell the story in a clear way," he adds. "And there are going to be things that we have done that are inaccurate, but they are done with eyes open and with respect for the real history."

Another example is the British destroyer seen in the film. Functional destroyers are hard to come by, and the one used on location is French.

"For someone extremely knowledgeable, they will see the differences. It’s a bigger boat, and longer," says Nolan. "But we dressed it to make it look like a British destroyer.

"But the funny thing is, the veracity of being onboard a real boat in real water trumped the historical accuracy of making a perfect (computer graphic) model," Nolan adds. "We could have made a historically accurate model. But it wouldn’t be real."

How Well Do You Know the Important Dates of WWII?

World War II wasn’t just the deadliest and most expensive war in human history. Its outcome ensured that the entire planet didn’t wind up saying words like “heil” and “obergruppenführer” for the rest of time. Each year during the war, there were days when things could have gone the other way – do you remember the vital dates of this momentous war?

Like 9/11, every American knows the significance of Dec. 7, 1941. It was a date that permanently altered the United States’ political importance, causing an evolution from an average society into a world industrial superpower. But do you know the vital dates that preceded and followed that Dec. 7 cataclysm?

For instance, the war may have never happened if it hadn’t been for Sept. 1, 1939. Do you know what occurred on that day? The following May, more troubling events emerged in Europe … what happened, and why?

Other vital events happened prior to 1939, before the start of the European fighting. Did you know that some of the deadliest combat of the war happened on the other side of Asia? Countless millions of people perished.

As the war dragged on and Nazi atrocities were unearthed, the world gathered against Hitler and his Axis allies. In June of 1944, the pendulum of karma began swinging the other way. We bet you know exactly what we’re talking about.

Prove it! Take our swashbuckling World War II quiz and see if you really know the dates that changed the history of the human race!

Watch the video: Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2005 (August 2022).