Dunkirk wreck is still visible after 77 years

Wreck of ship lies half-buried in sands
A guided visit to the wreck of the Crested Eagle paddle steamer has been organised for the end of next month on Zuydcoote beach near Dunkirk

Visitors can take guided trips to the site when tides are very low – as at the end of next month

The remains of this wreck have bemused visitors to the beach at Zuydcoote on the Channel coast but it is a tragic reminder of the Second World War Dunkirk evacuation that cost 90,000 killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

It is the Crested Eagle paddle steamer which was run aground on May 29, 1940 after being attacked by German dive bombers and set on fire, killing 300 soldiers and crew.

The attack came as part of Operation Dynamo when 340,000 British, French and Belgian troops were rescued from the Dunkirk beaches by a flotilla of dinghies, yachts, pleasure cruisers and fishing boats as the German Army surrounded them.

For the past 30 years the Flanders environment centre CPIE has been organising wildlife visits to the beach and for the past five or six years has organised specific visits to the Crested Eagle at one of the ‘Grandes Marées’ low tides when the sea recedes for hundreds of metres.

The Ramsgate paddle steamer is one of the ships visible at low tide, but there are many others farther out. A visit is being organised by the CPIE next month, on May 27, just two days before the anniversary of the tragedy.

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Bruno Pruvost, a local diver, leads the visits and we carried a full interview with him last year in The Connexion in our article 'Super-tide reveals Dunkirk wrecks' for our Big Picture feature.

The tours are free (in French) but places must be reserved on the CPIE website (search in the Agenda section for Les épaves de la plage de Zuydcoote) or call 03 28 26 86 76 or email centreressources@cpieflandremaritime.fr.

Other visits are planned when low tides allow in July, August, September and October.

July 27 sees the release of a new film, Dunkirk, on the evacuation by British film director Christopher Nolan, who made the The Dark Knight Trilogy Batman films.

Made by Warner Brothers, the film was largely filmed in Dunkirk and the Zuydcoote area and stars Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles and Jack Lowden.

Here are some previews from the film company…

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