Where’s The Bloody Air Force

During and immediately after the Dunkirk evacuation, the cry of ‘Where was the RAF?’ seemed to indicate that Britain’s Air Force did little or nothing to help the famous escape by British troops from the beaches around the French coastal town of Dunkirk. But as Norman Franks explains, the RAF were very much there!


Oil storage tanks behind the port of Dunkirk burn.
An RAF fighter pilot over Dunkirk - an image from Christopher Nolan’s new film in which the RAF’s participation over the beaches is faithfully represented.

For the retreating soldiers on the Dunkirk beaches, tired, hungry, and waiting patiently for some sign of rescue, being constantly bombed and strafed by German aeroplanes, seemingly without interference, naturally led to the question asked by one of the actors in Christopher Nolan’s new Dunkirk film: “Where’s the bloody Air Force?” Today, we certainly know that the RAF were there, although they were not always seen. There are many reasons why this was the case.

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