"Fight back to the west"
On 26 May, Anthony Eden told Gort that he might need to "fight back to the west", and ordered him to prepare plans for the evacuation, but without telling the French or the Belgians. Gort replied: "I must not conceal from you a great part of the BEF and its equipment will inevitably be lost". He had foreseen the order and preliminary plans were already in hand. The first such plan, for a defence along the Lys Canal, could not be carried out because of German advances on 26 May, with 2nd Division and 50th Division pinned down, and 1st, 5th and 48th Divisions under heavy attack. 2nd Division took heavy casualties trying to keep a corridor open, being reduced to a brigade strength, but they succeeded; 1st, 3rd, 4th and 42nd Division escaped along the corridor that day, as did about one-third of the French 1st Army. As the Allies fell back, they disabled their artillery and vehicles and destroyed their stores.
Map of the battle
On 27 May, the British fought back to the Dunkirk perimeter line. The Le Paradis massacre took place that day, when the 3. SS Division Totenkopf machine-gunned 97 British prisoners near the La Bassée Canal. These prisoners were from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. The Germans lined them against the wall of a barn and shot them all; only two survived. Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs and leaflets on the Allied armies. The leaflets showed a map of the situation. They read, in English and French: "British soldiers! Look at the map: it gives your true situation! Your troops are entirely surrounded – stop fighting! Put down your arms!" The Allied soldiers mostly used these as toilet paper. To the land- and air-minded Nazis, the sea seemed an impassable barrier, so they really did think the Allies were surrounded; but the British saw the sea as a route to safety.
As well as the Luftwaffe 's bombs, German heavy artillery (which had just come within range) also fired high-explosive shells into Dunkirk. By this time, the town contained the bodies of over 1,000 civilian casualties. This bombardment continued until the evacuation was over.