Dunkirk is a commune
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...

 in the Nord department in northern France. It lies 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the Belgian border. The population of the city (commune) at the 1999 census was 70,850 inhabitants (71,300 inhabitants as per February 2004 estimates). The population of the metropolitan area was 265,974 inhabitants as per the 1999 census.

Name and languages

The name of Dunkirk derives from West Flemish
West Flemish
West Flemish , , , Fransch vlaemsch in French Flemish) is a group of dialects or regional language related to Dutch spoken in parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France....

 "dun(e)" (dune
In physical geography, a dune is a hill of sand built by wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes, formed by interaction with the wind. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter "slip face" in the lee of the wind...

) and "kerke" (church). Until the middle of the 20th century the city was situated in the French Flemish area; today the local Flemish dialect, a variety of the Dutch language
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, can still be found but has been largely replaced by French.

Middle Ages

Dunkirk was first mentioned in 1067 as Dunkirk .

Privateer base

The area was much disputed between Spain, the Netherlands, England and France.

At the beginning of the Eighty Years' War, Dunkirk was briefly in the hands of the Dutch rebels, from 1577. Spanish forces under the Duke of Parma
Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma
Alexander Farnese was Duke of Parma and Piacenza from 1586 to 1592, and Governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1578 to 1592.-Biography:...

 re-established Spanish rule in 1583 and it became a base for the notorious Dunkirkers.

The Dunkirkers briefly lost their home port when the city was conquered by the French in 1646 but Spanish forces recaptured the city in 1652.

In 1658, as a result of the long war between France and Spain, it was captured
Battle of the Dunes (1658)
The Battle of the Dunes, fought on 14 June , 1658, is also known as the Battle of Dunkirk. It was a victory of the French army, under Turenne, against the Spanish army, led by John of Austria the Younger and Louis II de Condé...

 by Franco-English forces. It was awarded to England in the peace the following year as agreed in the Franco-English alliance against Spain.

It came under French rule when Charles II of England
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 sold it to France for £320,000 on 17 October 1662.

During the reign of Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

, a large number of commerce raiders once again made their base at Dunkirk. Jean Bart
Jean Bart
Jean Bart was a Flemish sailor who primarily served the French crown as naval commander and privateer.-Early life:...

 was the most famous. The Man in the Iron Mask
Man in the Iron Mask
The Man in the Iron Mask is a name given to a prisoner arrested as Eustache Dauger in 1669 or 1670, and held in a number of jails, including the Bastille and the Fortress of Pignerol . He was held in the custody of the same jailer, Bénigne Dauvergne de Saint-Mars, for a period of 34 years...

 was arrested at Dunkirk.

The 18th century Swedish privateers and pirates Lars Gathenhielm
Lars Gathenhielm
Lars Gathenhielm, , before knighthood 1715 Lars Andersson Gathe, aka Lasse i Gatan, was a Swedish merchant and privateer.- Biography :Lars Gathenhielm was born on the estate Gatan in Onsala Parish in Halland...

 and his wife and partner Ingela Hammar
Ingela Gathenhielm
Ingela Olofsdotter Gathenhielm née Hammar, , was a Swedish privateer in service of King Charles XII of Sweden during the Great Northern War.- Biography :...

, are known to have sold their ill-gotten gains in Dunkirk.

The Treaty of Paris (1763)
Treaty of Paris (1763)
The Treaty of Paris, often called the Peace of Paris, or the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763, by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement. It ended the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War...

  between France and Great Britain included a clause restricting French rights to fortify Dunkirk, to allay British fears of it being used as an invasion base.

Dunkirk in World War II

In May 1940, during the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, the British Expeditionary Force
British Expeditionary Force (World War II)
The British Expeditionary Force was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940 during the Second World War. Commanded by General Lord Gort, the BEF constituted one-tenth of the defending Allied force....

 in France aiding the French, was cut off from the rest of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 by the German advance. Encircled by the Germans they retreated to the area around the port of Dunkirk. The German land forces could have easily destroyed the British Expeditionary Force, especially when many of the British troops, in their haste to withdraw, had left behind their heavy equipment. For years, it was assumed that Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 ordered the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 to stop the attack, favouring bombardment by the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

. However, according to the Official War Diary of Army Group A, its commander, Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt, ordered the halt. Hitler merely validated the order several hours after the fact. This lull in the action gave the British a few days to evacuate by sea. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 ordered any ship or boat available, large or small, to pick up the stranded soldiers, and 338,226 men (including 123,000 French soldiers) were evacuated – the miracle of Dunkirk, as Churchill called it. It took over 900 vessels to evacuate the Allied forces. More than 40,000 vehicles as well as massive amounts of other military equipment and supplies were left behind; their value being less than that of trained fighting men. The British evacuation of Dunkirk through the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 was codenamed Operation Dynamo
Operation Dynamo
The Dunkirk evacuation, commonly known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo by the British, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 26 May and the early hours of 3 June 1940, because the British, French and Belgian troops were...

. 40,000 Allied soldiers (some who carried on fighting after the official evacuation) were captured or forced to make their own way home through a variety of routes including via neutral Spain.

The city was again contested in 1944, and the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division
2nd Canadian Infantry Division
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was an infantry division of the First Canadian Army, mobilized on 1 September 1939 at the outset of the Second World War. It was initially composed of volunteers within brigades established along regional lines, though a halt in recruitment in the early months of...

 attempted to liberate the city in September, as Allied forces surged northeast after their victory in the Battle of Normandy
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

. However, German forces refused to relinquish their control of the city, which had been converted into a fortress, and the garrison there was "masked" by Allied troops, notably 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade. The fortress under command of German Admiral Friedrich Frisius
Friedrich Frisius
Friedrich Frisius was a German naval commander of World War II.-Life:...

 eventually unconditionally surrendered to the commander of the Czechoslovak forces, Brigade General
Brigade General
Brigade General is a rank used in many armies to denote the lowest rank of general, corresponding to command of a brigade. The rank is mostly used in countries where it is used as a modern alternative to a previous older rank of Brigadier or Brigadier General...

 Alois Liška
Alois Liška
Alois Liška was a Czech army officer who served in both World Wars, ultimately as a Brigade General commanding the 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade at Dunkirk in 1944/45. He was born on 20 November 1895 in Záborčí, some 17 kilometres south east of Liberec, and died on 7 February 1977 in Putney,...

, on 9 May 1945.

During the German occupation, Dunkirk was largely destroyed by Allied bombings; the artillery siege of Dunkirk was directed on the final day of the war by pilots from No. 652 Squadron RAF
No. 652 Squadron RAF
No. 652 Squadron RAF was a unit of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and afterwards in Germany.Numbers 651 to 663 Squadrons of the RAF were Air Observation Post units working closely with Army units in artillery spotting and liaison. A further three of these squadrons, 664, 665 and...

, and No. 665 Squadron RCAF
No. 665 Squadron RCAF
No. 665 "Air Observation Post" Squadron, RCAF was formed in England during the Second World War. It was manned principally by Royal Canadian Artillery and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel, with select British artillery pilots briefly seconded to assist in squadron formation...


Postwar Dunkirk

On 14 December 2002, the Norwegian auto carrier
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

MV Tricolor
MV Tricolor was a 50,000 tonne Norwegian-flagged vehicle carrier built in 1987, notable for having been involved in three English Channel collisions within a fortnight.-Collision and sinking, 14 December 2002:...

 collided with the Bahamian-registered Kariba and sank off Dunkirk Harbour, causing a hazard to navigation in the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...




The commune has grown substantially by absorbing several neighbouring communes:
  • 1970: Merger with Malo-les-Bains (which had been created by being detached from Dunkirk in 1881)
  • 1972: Fusion with Petite-Synthe
    Petite-Synthe is a former commune of the Nord département in northern France.The commune of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer was created in 1877, by its territory being detached from Petite-Synthe. In 1972 the commune of Dunkerque absorbed Petite-Synthe and Rosendaël. In 1980, a large part of Petite-Synthe was...

     and Rosendaël (the latter had been created by being detached from Téteghem
    Téteghem is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.-History:Téteghem is one of the common ending HEM. This suffix meaning house, dwelling, village ... became Ghem. Tete would come from an ancestor's name Tatto, perhaps, or Theodore Theodoric, personified by the giant of the town....

     in 1856)
  • 1980: Fusion-association with Mardyck (which became an associated commune, with a population of 372 in 1999)
  • 1980: A large part of Petite-Synthe is detached from Dunkirk and included into Grande-Synthe
    Grande-Synthe is a commune in the Nord department in the Nord-Pas de Calais region in northern France.It is the third-largest suburb of the city of Dunkerque and lies adjacent to it on the west.-History:...

  • 2003: Project of fusion with Saint-Pol-sur-Mer
    Saint-Pol-sur-Mer is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.It is the second-largest suburb of the city of Dunkerque, and is almost encircled by it.-Heraldry:-References:* -External links:*...

     (commune created by its territory being detached from Petite-Synthe in 1877). On 19 December 2003, the municipal councils of Dunkirk and Saint-Pol-sur-Mer
    Saint-Pol-sur-Mer is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.It is the second-largest suburb of the city of Dunkerque, and is almost encircled by it.-Heraldry:-References:* -External links:*...

     decided in favour of a fusion-association, which would create a new entity with a population of 94,187. The prefect requested a referendum
    A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

    , although this procedure was not mandatory (it became mandatory on 1 January 2005). The referendum took place on 5 December 2004, actually covering three communes: Dunkerque, Saint-Pol-sur-Mer and Fort-Mardyck
    Fort-Mardyck is a commune in the Nord department in northern France.-History:The fort of Mardyck was constructed in 1622 by architect Jean Gamel. It was built for the Spanish who ruled Flanders at the time. The fort was captured, lost, and captured again by the French between 1644 and 1658...

    . Although the yes won with 54 % of the votes, it did not gather 25% of the potential electorate, as required by the law. The prefect rejected the fusion proposal as a consequence.


Dunkirk has the third-largest harbour in France, after those of Le Havre
Le Havre
Le Havre is a city in the Seine-Maritime department of the Haute-Normandie region in France. It is situated in north-western France, on the right bank of the mouth of the river Seine on the English Channel. Le Havre is the most populous commune in the Haute-Normandie region, although the total...

 and Marseilles. As an industrial city it depends heavily on the steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

, food processing
Food processing
Food processing is the set of methods and techniques used to transform raw ingredients into food or to transform food into other forms for consumption by humans or animals either in the home or by the food processing industry...

, oil-refining, ship-building and chemical
Chemical industry
The chemical industry comprises the companies that produce industrial chemicals. Central to the modern world economy, it converts raw materials into more than 70,000 different products.-Products:...

Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...



The cuisine of Dunkirk is closely related to Flemish
Flemish can refer to anything related to Flanders, and may refer directly to the following articles:*Flemish, an informal, though linguistically incorrect, name of any kind of the Dutch language as spoken in Belgium....

Belgian cuisine
Belgium has been called a nation of gourmands rather than gourmets: a country, in other words, where "big cuisine" comes before "fine cuisine". It has been said that Belgium serves food of French quality in German quantities.-Frieten or frites:...

, perhaps one of the best known dishes is Coq à la bière, which is chicken in a creamy beer sauce.

The prototype metre

In June 1792 the French astronomers Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre and Pierre François André Méchain
Pierre Méchain
Pierre François André Méchain was a French astronomer and surveyor who, with Charles Messier, was a major contributor to the early study of deep sky objects and comets.-Life:...

 set out to measure the meridian arc
Meridian arc
In geodesy, a meridian arc measurement is a highly accurate determination of the distance between two points with the same longitude. Two or more such determinations at different locations then specify the shape of the reference ellipsoid which best approximates the shape of the geoid. This...

 distance from Dunkirk to Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

, two cities lying on approximately the same longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

 as each other and also the longitude through Paris. The belfry was chosen as the reference point in Dunkirk.

Using this measurement and the latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

s of the two cities they could calculate the distance between the North Pole
North Pole
The North Pole, also known as the Geographic North Pole or Terrestrial North Pole, is, subject to the caveats explained below, defined as the point in the northern hemisphere where the Earth's axis of rotation meets its surface...

 and the Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 in classical French units of length and hence produce the first prototype metre
The metre , symbol m, is the base unit of length in the International System of Units . Originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth's equator to the North Pole , its definition has been periodically refined to reflect growing knowledge of metrology...

 which was defined as being one ten millionth of that distance. The definitive metre bar, manufactured from platinum, was presented to the French legislative assembly on 22 June 1799.

Tourist attractions

  • The Musée Portuaire displays exhibits of images about the history and presence of the port.
  • The Musée des Beaux-Arts has a large collection of Flemish, Italian and French paintings and sculptures.
  • The Carnival of Dunkirk


Dunkirk has a ferry connection with Dover, England. The Gare de Dunkerque
Gare de Dunkerque
Gare de Dunkerque is a railway station serving the town Dunkirk, Nord department, northern France.-Services:-References:*...

 railway station offers connections to Calais, Lille, Arras and Paris, and several regional destinations.


  • USL Dunkerque
    USL Dunkerque
    USL Dunkerque is a French football club based in the commune of Dunkirk.They currently play in the Championnat de France Amateurs Group A. The club's nickname is The Doves. Their kit colours are white and blue. They play their home matches at the Stade Tribut in Dunkirk.-History:The club was...

    , French football
    Football (soccer)
    Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball...

     club, currently playing in the CFA
    Championnat de France Amateurs
    The Championnat de France amateur, commonly referred to as simply CFA and formerly known as National 2, is a football league competition. The league serves as the fourth division of the French football league system behind Ligue 1, Ligue 2, and the Championnat National...

  • The Quatre Jours de Dunkerque (or Four Days of Dunkirk) is an important elite professional road bicycle racing
    Road bicycle racing
    Road bicycle racing is a bicycle racing sport held on roads, using racing bicycles. The term "road racing" is usually applied to events where competing riders start simultaneously with the winner being the first to the line at the end of the course .Historically, the most...

  • Stage 2 of the 2007 Tour de France
    2007 Tour de France
    The 2007 Tour de France, the 94th running of the race, took place from 7 July to 29 July 2007. The Tour began with a prologue in London, and ended with the traditional finish in Paris. Along the way, the route also passed through Belgium and Spain...

     departed from Dunkirk.

Notable residents

  • François Rozenthal
    François Rozenthal
    François Rozenthal is a French ice hockey player.-Personal:Rozenthal is Jewish, and is the identical twin brother of Maurice Rozenthal, who is also a French ice hockey player.-Ice hockey career:...

    , ice hockey player
  • Maurice Rozenthal
    Maurice Rozenthal
    Maurice Rozenthal is a French ice hockey player.-Personal:Rozenthal is Jewish, and is the identical twin brother of François Rozenthal, who is also a French ice hockey player.-Ice hockey career:...

    , ice hockey player
  • Djoumin Sangare
    Djoumin Sangare
    Djoumin Sangare , also known as Jimmy Sangare, is a French footballer who plays for Kettering Town as a defender.-Career:...

    , footballer
  • Tancrède Vallerey
    Tancrède Vallerey
    Tancrède Vallerey was a French writer. He was born in Dunkirk, Nord.-Bibliography:Novels:* Celui qui viendra * L'Ile au sable vert * L'avion fantastique * Un mois sous les mers...

    , writer

Twin towns — Sister cities

Dunkirk maintains Sister City relationships with the following cities: Krefeld
Krefeld , also known as Crefeld until 1929, is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located northwest of Düsseldorf, its centre lying just a few kilometres to the west of the River Rhine; the borough of Uerdingen is situated directly on the Rhine...

, Germany since 15 June 1974 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough is a large town situated on the south bank of the River Tees in north east England, that sits within the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire...

, United Kingdom since April 12, 1976 Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

, Palestinian Authority Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 since 1960 Rostock
Rostock -Early history:In the 11th century Polabian Slavs founded a settlement at the Warnow river called Roztoc ; the name Rostock is derived from that designation. The Danish king Valdemar I set the town aflame in 1161.Afterwards the place was settled by German traders...

, Germany since 1960 Vitória, Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 since unknown date Corumbá
Corumbá is a municipality in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, 425 km northwest of Campo Grande, the state's capital. It has a population of approximately 96,000 inhabitants, and its economy is based mainly on agriculture, animal husbandry, mineral extraction, and tourism, being the...

, Brazil since unknown date Ramat HaSharon
Ramat Hasharon
Ramat HaSharon is a city located on Israel's central coastal strip in the south of the Sharon region, bordering Tel Aviv to the south and Herzliya and Kibbutz Glil Yam to the north. It is part of the Tel Aviv District, within Gush Dan metropolitan area...

, Israel since unknown date

Dunkirk has co-operation agreements with: Dartford district
Dartford (borough)
Dartford is the name given to a local government district and borough in north west Kent, England, which takes its name from its administrative capital. It borders Thurrock, to the north across the River Thames; to the west lies the London Borough of Bexley; to the south Sevenoaks district; and the...

, United Kingdom since March 1988 Thanet district
Thanet is a local government district of Kent, England which was formed under the Local Government Act 1972, and came into being on 1 April 1974...

, United Kingdom since June 18, 1993

External links

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