Battle for and Evacuation of Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo)

26 May 1940
End date: 
04 Jun 1940
Event location: 

Beaches and harbour of Dunkirk


Four contingents of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps were sent to support the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940. There was a need for animal transport companies to help with the supply of troops, as the British Army had disbanded its animal transport companies after the First World War. The British, French and Canadian Forces were cut off by advancing German troops in their push towards the Channel. The soldiers retreated to the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk from where 338,226 were evacuated, among them three contingents of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps, while one contingent was taken prisoner by German forces.

The Indian troops were subsequently stationed in various locations in the UK and received press and publicity coverage. They stayed in the UK until the end of 1943 to help on the home front. Their presence is not well documented in historical writing, however newspaper coverage and photographic evidence held at the Imperial War Museum attests to their presence. Their conduct is invariably praised, especially their bravery and discipline amidst the chaos at Dunkirk. In many ways, the Indian Army Service Corps contribution marks the beginning of India’s significant contribution to the Second World War and precedes the arrival of twenty-four Indian pilots who would train at RAF Cranwell in September 1940 to join the RAF.

Archive source: 

Imperial War Museum