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Unique and historically significant films shot 75 years ago, during the evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk in 1940, have been discovered at the Library. They can now be viewed online on YouTube.

As HMS Whitehall enters Dunkirk harbour, other vessels set sail for England, with a pall of smoke in the background.

HMS Whitehall enters Dunkirk harbour, with other vessels leaving for England, and a pall of smoke in the background.

The reels of black and white footage capture key moments during Operation Dynamo, the rescue from Dunkirk of over 300,000 British and allied troops trapped by advancing German forces.

The films were shot by Lieutenant Philip Roderick Hall who was serving aboard the destroyer HMS Whitehall, one of hundreds of naval vessels, merchant ships and small boats that took part in the rescue.

There is also later footage of Lieut. Hall training as a Fleet Air Arm pilot. One scene shows planes attempting to land on the aircraft carrier HMS Argus. There are also scenes of Lieutenant Hall relaxing off-duty in England during the summer of 1941. Sadly he was killed in action on 14 June 1942, flying a Fairy Fulmar Mark II from HMS Argus to provide air cover for a Malta convoy. His plane was damaged whilst engaging with Italian torpedo bombers and, as he attempted a forced land at sea, he was hit by ‘friendly fire’ from HMS Wrestler.

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The two 16mm film reels were discovered and identified by a member of the Heald-Hall family, whose remarkable archive of correspondence, letter-books and diaries, spanning from 1866 to 1987, is housed in the Library.

The films, which have never before been broadcast and have been seen by only a handful of people, were digitised by the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University. The films can now be viewed on YouTube, while the original reels have been donated to the Imperial War Museum in London for specialist preservation.