Operation Cycle, the evacuation from Havre, 10-13 June 1940

Operation Cycle was the code name for the evacuation of British and Allied troops from Havre on 10-13 June 1940. Although much of the BEF escaped from Dunkirk, the 1st Armoured and 51st (Highland) Divisions were trapped south of the Somme when the Germans reached Abbeville. They then fought in the Battle of France, the second phase of the German campaign in the west, which began on 5 June.

After some heavy fighting on the Somme the Germans broke through the French lines. The Highland Division, along with part of the French army, began to head for the port of Havre, sending an advance party to secure the port.

The evacuation was authorised on 9 June. Admiral Sir William James, the commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, dispatched the destroyer leader HMS Codrington, six British and two Canadian destroyers, a number of smaller warships and a fleet of transport ships to Havre, where they were to rendezvous early in the morning of 10 June.

After a twenty four hour delay the evacuation got underway on 11 June. On that day the personnel ship Brugeswas destroyed by German bombing. Admiral James requested support from the RAF, and on the next day British fighters began to patrol over the harbour. That night saw the most men evacuated, and by dawn on 13 June the evacuation was complete. A total of 11,059 men were evacuated from Havre, 9,000 of whom were taken directly to Cherbourg.

The rest of the Highland Division was unable to reach Havre, after German troops reached the coast close to St Valéry-en-Caux. The retreating allied troops were forced to take up a position from St Valéry-en-Caux east to Veules. Admiral James was able to organise yet another evacuation fleet, but a thick fog prevented most of this fleet from reaching the right beaches. On the night of 10-11 June 2,137 British and 1,184 French troops were rescued from the eastern end of the defended perimeter, at Veules, but later on 11 June the remaining troops were forced to surrender. Amongst them were 6,000 men from the Highland Division, who became the only large British formation to reach the coast but not be evacuated. 

Between Operation Cycle, and Operation Aerial (the withdrawal from north western France) a total of 191,870 men were rescued, amongst them 18,246 Frenchmen, 24,352 Poles and 4,938 Czechs. When combined with Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk, a total of just over half a million Allied soldiers man were rescued from France between late May and late June.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 February 2008), Operation Cycle, the evacuation from Havre, 10-13 June 1940 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/operation_cycle.html

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