The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Dunkirk, France

Dunkirk (French: Dunkerque; Dutch: Duinkerke) is a harbour city and a commune in the northernmost part of France, in the département of Nord, 10 km from the Belgian border.

Population of the city (commune) at the 1999 census was 70,850 inhabitants (71,300 inhabitants as of February 2004 estimates). Population of the whole metropolitan area (aire urbaine) was 265,974 inhabitants at the 1999 census.

Its name is derived from the West-Flemish "duin" (dune) and "kerke" (church).



The area was much disputed between Spain, England, the Netherlands and France, until it became definitively French when Charles II of England sold it to France for £40,000 on 17 October 1662. During the reign of Louis XIV, a large number of pirates had their base at Dunkirk; Jean Bart was the most famous, known for attacking Dutch ships.

In World War II, heavy fighting took place around Dunkirk during the German invasion (see Battle of Dunkirk) in 1940, but a lull in the action unexpectedly allowed a large number of French and British soldiers to escape to England. 340,000 men were evacuated amidst constant bombing (the miracle of Dunkirk, as Winston Churchill called it). The British evacuation of Dunkirk was codenamed Operation Dynamo. During the war, Dunkirk was largely destroyed by bombing.

On 14 December 2002, the Norwegian auto carrier Tricolor collided with the Bahamian-registered Kariba and sank off Dunkirk harbor, causing a hazard to navigation in the English Channel. The following night, a German vessel, the Nicola, hit the wreck and had to be towed free. On 1 January 2003 the Turkish-registered fuel carrier Vicky struck the same wreck, but was freed by a rising tide.


Dunkirk is the third largest harbour in France, after Le Havre and Marseille. It is also an industrial city, heavily dependent on the steel, food processing, oil refining, ship building and chemical industries.

Tourist attractions

  • The Musée Portuaire hosts exhibits 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.


Dunkirk has a ferry connection with Ramsgate and Dover in England.


  • The 'four days of Dunkirk ' is an important cycling event.

External links

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46