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Dunkirk (Municipality, Nord, France)

Dunkerque, Duinkirk, Duynkercque

Last modified: 2008-09-06 by ivan sache
Keywords: nord | dunkirk | dunkerque | duinkirk | duynkercque | cross (red) | chamber of commerce and industry | cross (blue) | lion (black) | malo-les-bains | star (white) | petite-synthe | rosendael | mardyck |
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[Flag of Dunkirk]         [Logotype flag of Dunkirk]

Flags of Dunkirk
Left, traditional flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 25 February 2001
Right, logotype flag - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 26 July 2004

See also:

Presentation of Dunkirk

The maritime city of Dunkirk (in French, Dunkerque; in Dutch, Duinkerke; in local Dutch, Duynkercque; 78,850 inhabitants in 1999; 3,734 ha) is located on the North Sea, 10 km south-west of the border with Belgium. Dunkirk is considered as the cultural capital city of French Flanders.
The municipality of Dunkirk was increased by the incorporation of the neighbouring former municipalities of Malo-les-Bains (split from Dunkirk in 1881, reincorporated in 1970), Petite-Synthe (incorporated in 1972), Rosendaël (split from Teteghem in 1856, incorporated to Dunkirk in 1972) and Mardyck (incorporated in 1980 with the status of associated municipality). In 1980, the borough of Albeck was separated from Dunkerque-Petite-Synthe and incorporated to the neighbouring municipality of Grande-Synthe. A project of incorporation of the municipalities of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer (split from Petite-Synthe in 1877) and Fort-Mardyck into Dunkirk failed in 2004.

In the VIIth century, a chapel was built in a small fishers' colony located in a small inlet protected by dunes; the place was named the dunes' church, in ancient Dutch duyn kerke. The legend says that the town was fortified by the Viking Allowyn, who was converted to the Christian religion by St. Eloi, and therefore protected from the assault of the pagan Vikings. The first city wall was indeed built in 960 by Baudouin III le Jeune, the fourth Count of Flanders. The port, specialized in herring fishing, increased, whereas the hinterland was completely revamped by drainings, organized according to the wateringue system, and a dense network of polder canals, locally known as watergangs. Surrounded by thick city walls, Dunkirk experienced several sieges, for instance by the French in 1558. The wealthy city was highly coveted by the great powers, and Dunkirk was successively ruled by Flanders, Burgundy, Austria, Spain, Britain and France. During the famous battle of the Dunes, won by Turenne on 25 June 1658, the city changed three times of sovereign: Turenne seized the city from the Spaniards and Louis XIV delivered it to England on the evening of the battle.

Dunkirk was eventually purchased from England and incorporated to the Kingdom of France in 1662; the city was personally favoured by King Louis XIV, who needed its corsairs, famous since the XIVth century. The most famous of them, Jean Bart (1650-1702), nearly ruined the Dutch maritime trade. Bart served in the Dutch fleet under Admiral De Ruyter until 1674, when the war between France and Holland broke out. He joined the Marine Royale in 1679, campaigned in the Mediterranean Sea against Spain and later in the Channel against England and Holland. On 18 June 1694, Jean Bart won the battle of Texel, recapturing 80 French ships loaded with grain escorted by eight Dutch war vessels; this act probably saved France from famine. On 5 July, the son and the brother-in-law of Jean Bart presented to the king in Versailles the two Dutch ensigns captured from the flagship Prince of Friesland.

Dunkirk, nicknamed "The Heroic City", was the seat of the Dynamo Operation in May 1940. In nine days, 338,226 allied soldiers were evacuated from the "Dunkirk hell" by the sea.
On 20 May 1940, two German Panzer divisions commanded by Guderian reached Abbeville and the sea, respectively, therefore splitting the allied troops into two parts: one million of French, Belgian and British soldiers were caught in the trap. On 24 May, the German panzers set up six bridgeheads on river Aa and reached the city of Bourbourg. An order by General Von Rundstedt, confirmed by Adolf Hitler, who was only interested in seizing Paris, stopped the breakthrough up to 27 May. The Allies grouped their troops in a 100 x 40 km stripe between Lille and Dunkirk. The French General Weygand proposed to counter-attack but the British War Cabinet supported General Gort's plan, ordered the evacuation and set up the Dynamo operation. The operation was commanded by Vice Admiral Ramsay from a cellar of the castle of Dover and lasted from 26 May to 4 June. On 29 May, the stripe was reduced to a thin piece of land between Dunkirk, Bergues, Nieuwpoort and Veurne. The Royal Navy commissioned 39 destroyers and several auxiliary ships. However, the flatness of the beaches forced the big vessels to moor at a distance from the coast. The famous "Little Ships", that is some 370 ferries, trawlers, tugboats, barges and yachts, shuttled the soldiers to the big vessels. The evacuation was protected by the Royal Air Force but the German bombers, supported by stukas, systematically bombed the town of Dunkirk, the beaches and the big vessels. On 29 May, 400 bombers sunk 250 ships and two modern French torpedo boats, the Jaguar and the Sirocco. Fortunately, the cloudy weather and the smoke caused by the blazes prevented the Luftwaffe to fly except on 27 and 29 May and 1 June. The evacuation was made more complicated by the limited number of ships compared to the number of men. On 4 June, the Shikari completed the evacuation, some seven hours before the entrance of the German troops into the port of Dunkirk. The Germans could capture "only" 35,000 soldiers, mostly French troops involved in rearguard action. The operation was celebrated in London as a great success, even if Churchill mentioned that wars cannot be won with evacuations. The New York Times wrote (something like): "As long as English is spoken, the name of Dunkirk shall be pronounced with the greatest respect".
The port of Dunkirk, totally rebuilt along with the town after the Second World War, is the first port in France for ore and coal imports, fruits traffic, and cargo tonnage other than oil products, and the second port in France after Calais for trade with the United Kingdom. It is made of the Eastern (traditional, behind locks) and Western (tidal, dredged in 1972) Ports. The organization of a Port Authority (incorporated in 1966) traces back to the creation of the Chamber of Commerce of Dunkirk by King Louis XIV in 1700. The first modern basin (Bassin du Commerce) was dredged in 1848.

In spite of its complicated history, Dunkirk has preserved the tradition of Carnival. Two centuries ago, there were two main festivals in Dunkirk: the Carnival, scheduled for Mardi-Gras and following the European tradition with street parades, and the foye, a banquet offerred to the seamen by the shipowners before the leave for the grande pêche in Iceland. The foye progressively disappeared and was incorporated into the Carnival, which has therefore both Flemish and maritime roots. The Carnaval of the port of Dunkirk was already famous all over France in the early XIXth century. Several of the Carnival brotherhoods, called bandes, have kept Flemish names such as the Kakernesches (the younger children), the Snustreraers (the martens) and the Visscherbende (Fishers' brotherhood) and the local Dutch dialect is still used on their songs. The main street parade, led by the masked masquelours and the musicians wearing the traditional fishers' dress, stops in front of the City Hall and claims 450 kg of kippers. The Mayor stands on the balcony and throws a (plastic) lobster down to the crowd. The happy few who can catch one of the six threwn lobster is granted a real lobster, but most of the winners prefer to keep the plastic trophy. The tradition of throwing something from the balcony is common in most carnivals of the north of France and Belgium. The parade ends near the statue of Jean Bart where a special dance and song are performed. During the parade, most bandes stop at "chapels", which are indeed houses whose inhabitants offer food and beverages to the. Like in Binche and elsewhere, the intrigueurs and figuemans, dressed so that they cannot be identified, mock the spectators and tell them a few plain truths. This was one of the main traditional aims of the carnival. The parades goes to the different boroughs of the city, and fish is also threwn form the balcony of the city halls: herrings (80 kg) in Petite-Synthe (80 kg) and Saint-Pol-sur-Mer (250 kg) and dried whitings (150 kg) in Rosendaël. It is considered that some 930 kg of fish are released in Dunkirk during the Carnival.

Dunkerque is also famous for the cyclist race Les Quatre Jours de Dunkerque (Dunkirk Four Days), won for the first time by Louis Deprez in 1955. The list of the winners of the race is quite impressive, including Jacques Anquetil (1958, 1959), Freddy Maertens (1973, 1975, 1976, 1978), Bernard Hinault (1984), Stephen Roche (1990, Johan Musseuw (1995, 1997) and Alexandre Vinokourov (1998). The race is mostly a Belgian (22 wins) and French (20 wins) affair.


Ivan Sache, 9 July 2006

Flags of Dunkirk

The traditional flag of Dunkirk is one of the most ancient city flags in France, shown in ancient flag charts (e.g. Danckert's flag chart [ca.1700] [dan05], flag #77, labelled "Vl. van Duynkerken"). It is made of six horizontal stripes, white-blue-white-blue-white-blue.
In July 2004, the historical flag of Dunkirk was not hoisted over the city hall, along with the French and Flemish flags. Instead, there was a white flag with the municipal logotype. The municipal logotype of Dunkirk bears the motto Les grands horizons, which means "great horizons / forecasts".
However, the TV images of the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque confirm every year that the traditional striped flag is widely used in the town, for instance on the sea front.

Ivan Sache & Olivier Touzeau, 9 July 2006


[Flag of Malo-les-Bains]

Flag of Malo-les-Bains - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 9 July 2006

The town of Malo-les-Bains (16,182 inhabitants in 1999; 376 ha) is located east of Dunkirk. It was founded as the sea resort of Dunkirk before 1870 by a shipowner from Dunkirk called Malo. The municipality of Malo-les-Bains seceded from Dunkirk in 1881 and was reincorporated to its mother municipality in 1970. Malo-les-Bains was considered in the beginning of the XXth century as "The Queen of the Northern Beaches" ans has kept its unique architecturte. The resort is renown for its sand beach, its promenade with the casino and its aquarium.

The flags of the former municipalities incorporated to Dunkirk are still flown on the promenade of Malo along with the municipal flag of Dunkirk. The flag of Malo-les-Bains and its use were independently confirmed by Ludovic Leu.
The flag of Malo-les-Bains is red with a white star near the hoist and a yellow lower right quarter. The design is based on the municipal arms (Armorial Général des Communes de France): De gueules à une étoile d'argent, accompagnée en chef de deux roses du même, sur des ondes d'argent; au chef d'or chargé d'un lion de sable (Gules a mullet argent surmonted by two roses of the same on waves argent a chief or a lion sable). The chief is of course the chief of Flanders.

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 9 July 2006


[Flag of Mardyck]

Flag of Mardyck - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 9 July 2006

The village of Mardyck (in Dutch, Mardijk; 372 inhabitants in 1999; 869 ha) is located west of Dunkirk and Fort-Mardyck. It was incorporated to the municipality of Dunkirk in 1980 with the status of associated municipality.
Mardyck is one of those places where nearly nobody would like to live. The village is located within the industrial park and surrounded by three plants that have received the "Seveso" label (owned by Total-Fina-Elf, Copenor and Stocknord). Within a 10-km radius, 14 plants deserve the "Seveso" label, not to mention the nuclear power plant of Gravelines. The Norwegian gazoduct Norfra, set up in 1998, runs at the limit of the village. In 1991, a risk analysis recommended to build an artificial hill of 100 m in height and 300 m in width in order to protect the village in case of an industrial accident. After the explosion of the AZF plant in Toulouse in 2001, the project of transferring the villagers eleswhere has resurfaced. It would be easier there to move the inhabitants than to move the dangerous plants far away from the cities, as it has been recommended in Bordeaux, Marseilles and Lyon.

(Based on an article by Stéphane Sarpaux in L'Interdit, November 2001)

On 2 January 2002, the Total plant released sulphur dioxyde in a concentration much higher than the norm. Several inhabitants of Mardyck were poisoned, a few of them had to be hospitalized. On 25 June 2002, Mouvement National de Lutte pour l'Environnement asked the authorities to organize and fund the transfer of the inhabitants of Mardyck who would require it.
In Mardyck in particular and in France in general, concern for the industrial risk has dramatically increased after the AZF explosion. Mardyck was indeed one of the richest municipalities in France because the chemical companies whose plants are located on the municipal territory paid a lot of business taxes. Therefore, earlier proposals of transferring the villagers were rejected in the 1980s. It is said that Dunkirk "purchased" Mardyck in 1980, being mostly interested in the business taxes.

The flag of Mardyck, as reported to Arnaud Leroy, is horizontally divided blue-yellow-blue-yellow-blue-yellow. The design was clearly inspired by the flag of Dunkirk and the colours are taken from the arms of Mardyck (Armorial Général des Communes de France): D'azur à une barque d'or portant un Saint-Nicolas de carnation, vêtu d'argent et d'or, crossé et mitré du même et bénissant de la dextre (Azure a barque or carrying a saint Nicholas proper dressed in argent and or with a crozier and a miter of the same blessing with the dexter).

Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 9 July 2006


[Flag of Petite-Synthe]

Flag of Petite-Synthe - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 9 July 2006

The town of Petite-Synthe (in Dutch, Klein-Sinten; 16,707 inhabitants in 1999; 1,145 ha) is located in the south-west of Dunkirk. It was Iincorporated to the municipality of Dunkirk in 1972. In 1980, the borough of Albeck was separated from Dunkirk-Petite-Synthe and incorporated to the neighbouring municipality of Grande-Synthe. The municipality of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer seceded from Petite-Synthe in 1877.

The flags of the former municipalities incorporated to Dunkirk are still flown on the promenade of Malo along with the municipal flag of Dunkirk. The flag of Petite-Synthe and its use were independently confirmed by Ludovic Leu.
The flag of Petite-Synthe is vertically divided blue-red. Blue is not shown on the municipal arms, which are D'argent à la croix de gueules, cantonnée de quatre grelots de sable (Argent a cross gules cantonned by four hawk's bells sable). However, the traditional bicolour flag of the neighbouring municipality of Grande-Synthe is vertically divided blue-yellow. Petite-Synthe might have replaced the yellow stripe by a red stripe alluding to the cross on the arms, but this explanation might be too far-fetched.

Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 9 July 2006


[Flag of Rosendael]         [Flag of Rosendael]

Flag of Rosendaël, two versions - Images by Arnaud Leroy, 9 July 2006

The town of Rosendaël (in Dutch, Rozendaal; 18,272 inhabitants in 1999) is located east of Dunkirk and Malo-les-Bains. The municipality of Rosendaël seceded from Teteghem in 1856 and was incorporated to the municipality of Dunkirk in 1972.

The flags of the former municipalities incorporated to Dunkirk are still flown on the promenade of Malo along with the municipal flag of Dunkirk. There the flag of Rosendaël seems to be horizontally divided green-red-green-red-green-red. However, Ludovic Leu reported that the flag is horizontally divided red-green-red-green-red-green. It is therefore possible that the flag was once hoisted upside down on the promenade.
The canting arms of Rosendaël are Argent a rose gules. The origin of the green colour on the flag is not known. However, the footballers of FC Rosendaël wear a vertically red and green striped jersey, of the official colours of the club.

Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 9 July 2006

Historical, unidentified flag of Dunkirk

[Other flag of Dunkirk]

Historical, unidentified flag of Dunkirk - Image by Ivan Sache, 18 July 2004

Danckert's flag chart [ca.1700] [dan05] shows an other flag for Dunkirk, as #79, labelled "Franse Vl. van Duinkerk" - French flag of Dunkirk.
The flag has a white field with a red cross in canton. The cross has equal arms, which touch the upper and left borders of the flag. The cross is put on a white canton, which is separated from the main white field by a thin black fimbriation.

Ivan Sache, 18 July 2001

Yacht Club de la Mer du Nord

[Burgee of YCMN]

Burgee of YCMN - Image by Ivan Sache, 25 December 2004

Soon after the end of the Second World War, Yacht Club Dunkerquois was founded in Dunkirk. Beforehand, the yachtmen from Dunkirk sailed with Yacht Club du Nord de la France in the neighbouring town of Calais. The two clubs merged under the flag of Yacht Club du Nord de la France.
In 1958, the Dunkirk section of YCNF seceded and formed Yacht Club de la Mer du Nord. Since then, YCMN has promoted yachting and racing in the North Sea.
In 1963, the club was awarded the national Neptune d'Argent, as the most dynamic and competent yacht club of the year. The sailing boat Dunkerque, from YCMN, won the Tour de France à la Voile in 1979, 1980, 1981. In 1983, four members of YCMN won the World Quarter Ton Cup on the Comte de Flandres.
The match-racer and skipper Bertrand Pacé learned to sail and skip with YCMN.

The burgee of YCMN is white with a blue cross and a black lion in canton. The blue cross recalls the flag of Dunkirk, whereas the lion is the well-known Flemish lion.

Source: YCMN website

Ivan Sache, 25 December 2004

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Dunkirk

[Flag of CCI Dunkirk]

Flag of CCI Dunkirk - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 29 March 2004

The flag of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Dunkirk is made of the logotype of the CCI on a white field, with the hoist and the fly delimited as if the white field was made of ellipse on a blue field. As far as I could see, the limit between the white and blue fields were of about 1/4 of the length at the upper hoist and lower fly, and about 1/8 at the upper fly and lower hoist.

Olivier Touzeau, 29 March 2004