The evacuation from Dunkirk on the French coast was hailed in Britain as an extraordinary achievement and the ‘little ships of Dunkirk’ swiftly entered the mythology of wartime brave deeds.
British soldiers wade out to a waiting destroyer off Dunkirk during the evacuation.
Troops evacuated from Dunkirk on a destroyer about to berth at Dover, 31 May 1940.
Troops evacuated from Dunkirk enjoying tea and other refreshments at Addison Road station in London, 31 May 1940.
Some of the 'little ships' used during the evacuation of Dunkirk being towed back along the River Thames past Tower Bridge, 9 June 1940.
German forces moved into Dunkirk hours after the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. Here German officers inspect a memorial on the sea front at Dunkirk.
Click through to the Collections item to see licencing options
The armistice declaration saw great rejoicing in Britain. This set the tone for the early annual celebrations held by ex-servicemen whose boisterous commemoration marked their victory and survival. In the early 1920s, hotels hosted Armistice Balls, known for their rowdy festivities.
However, given the huge casualties suffered, there was a great national sense of loss and grief. Armistice commemoration gradually become more solemn. The Cenotaph and grave of the Unknown Warrior became focal points of grief for those whose loved ones were buried overseas. Originally a temporary structure for the peace parade of 1919, the Cenotaph’s popularity led to a permanent monument being erected in 1920. In that same year 1.25 million people visited the open grave of the Unknown Warrior.
People began to make pilgrimages to the battlefield cemeteries erected by the Imperial War Graves Commission, tasked with commemorating and caring for the dead in perpetuity. Survivors were also not forgotten, with the first Poppy Appeal held in 1921, raising money to help ex-servicemen in need.
In Britain these rituals of remembrance are perhaps the most enduring of the legacies of the First World War. Today we still observe these acts to show respect to all those who have fought for their country.
Study for The Cenotaph, 1919, by Sir Edwin Lutyens. A sketch of Sir Edwin Lutyens’s proposed design for the Cenotaph with explanatory notes. This design was for the original wood and plaster structure which was unveiled in 1919.