They were the forgotten heroes of Dunkirk, tens of thousands of brave British and French troops who sacrificed themselves to evacuate more than 300,000 of their comrades in one of the most daring rescue missions of World War Two.
But as the men they saved returned to the safety of UK shores, those who were left behind endured brutal and untold horrors at the hands of the Nazis.
Rounded up as Prisoners of War, humiliated officers and soldiers stripped of their rank were forced to drink ditch water and eat putrid food. Now a series of never-before-seen images give a haunting glimpse into the hard lives endured by the 80,000 Allied POWs captured after the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Harbour towns including De Panne were left in total ruin, abandoned army vehicles littered the streets and beaches, and fallen British soldiers were committed to meager graves marked only by simple wooden crosses.
As Allied troops were attempting to evacuate in May 1940, the Nazis committed an infamous war crime upon British soldiers. Known as the Le Paradis massacre, 97 British prisoners who had been defending their position in a farmhouse in Northern France were massacred after surrendering to SS troops.
The images show how French colonial troops, who were drafted from Senegal, Mauritania and Niger, were made to pose with German troops who saw the men as little more than a curious novelty.
Social historian Matthew Smaldon is now sharing the photographs taken by German soldiers to show the reality of what the captured men went through as depicted in Christopher Nolan’s wartime film Dunkirk featuring Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.
The father-of-two from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, said: ‘These were all taken by German soldiers either during or shortly after the campaign in France in 1939/1940, and show the destruction in Dunkirk and De Panne further up the coast.
He added: ‘These photographs have come from various places including auction sites, antique shops and junk shops.’
Never-before-seen photos have been released giving a glimpse into the lives of the 80,000 Allied POWs who were captured after the evacuation of Dunkirk. British soldiers resigned to their fate were seen carrying their belongings through a field in a photo taken by a German soldier in May/June 1940
Social historian Matthew Smaldon is now sharing the snaps taken by German soldiers to show the reality of what the captured men went through. Four British soldiers who did not make it back home were committed to meager graves (pictured) marked only by simple wooden crosses with their helmets resting on top
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