Heavy German bombing had rendered Dunkirk's harbour useless, and hundreds of thousands of men were stuck on the beach, hoping to be rescued. The Luftwaffe attacked the troops on the beach and reduced the town of Dunkirk to rubble whenever the weather was suitable. The RAF intercepted as many of the attacking aircraft as was humanly possible whilst being crippled by the distance they had to travel from Allied airfields to assist the beleaguered forces as well as pitting relatively inexperienced pilots against the more veteran German pilots. Despite the limitations, over the nine days of Operation Dynamo, the RAF flew 2,739 fighter sorties and an additional 822 reconnaissance and bombing missions. Fighter Command claimed 262 enemy aircraft downed for 106 of their own destroyed.
On the 29th of May, the British public were advised of the evacuation, many privately owned boats started arriving at Dunkirk to ferry the troops to safety. This fleet of small vessels famously became known as the 'Little Ships'. The contribution these civilian vessels made and the bravery of the crews in their part in the evacuation set a source to the term 'Dunkirk spirit', an expression still used today to demonstrate the British will and the ability to rally together in the face of overwhelming odds.
On the 4th of June, at the end of the operation, 198,000 British and 140,000 other Allied troops had been saved, while nearly all heavy equipment had been left behind. Although the Germans had taken over a million Allied prisoners in three weeks at a cost of 60,000 casualties, the evacuation has been seen as major morale boost to the British people and enabled the Allies to regroup for a fight that was to be joined in the skies over the “Home Turf” (The Battle of Britain), and to resist the anticipated German invasion of Britain (Operation Sealion).