For eleven days in May of 1940, 215,000 British and 123,000 French troops were evacuated from Dunkirk by both British naval ships and many privately-held vessels arriving from England. The Belle Poule and the Etoile were manned by Free Frenchmen sailors and arrived with the fleet to evacuate the cornered Allies from the shores of France to the safety of Britain. The evacuation was a stunning success for tens of thousands of souls would live to fight another day. Lost in the battle were many more as well as tanks, small arms and artillery which could not be replaced. In recognition of this service during World War 2 under the leadership of the Free French forces, the Belle Poule and the Etoile were honored with the ability to fly the French flag with the cross of Lorraine. In 1945, at the end of the war, the Belle Poule and her sister ship returned to France.
Since 1978, the tall ship Belle Poule has been sponsored by the city of Pauillac, France. Both ships continue to serve the French Navy through training of naval cadets in seamanship. The ships have sailed to many ports around the world showing the French flag. The vessel was present at OPSAIL in New York City during Fleet Week 2012.
Provided images courtesy JR Potts, AUS 173d AB.