Dunkirk FC were founded in 1946 and their nickname is ‘The Boatmen’. The first league they joined was the Notts Amateur League, of which they were members until 1975. They won the Premier Division in that season, the clubs first major honour. Accepted into the Notts Alliance League, they got off to a good start, eventually finishing runners up. Five years later they were champions.
In 1981-82, Dunkirk reached the semi-final of the Notts F.A. Intermediate Cup, a feat they repeated the following season. In the league they led Division One for much of the season. In 1986-87, the club finished ninth and reached the semi-final of the League Cup, losing 2–0 to John Player.
The following season saw the club improve on that semi-final by winning the League Cup, with that season’s leading scorer, Mark Frettingham, hitting all three goals in the final. At the end of the 1988-89 season, followers of the club might have been forgiven for thinking their team might never win the Notts Alliance Senior Division title.
After hitting top spot on 25 October, they lead the table for 25 weeks, then dropped six points in as many games to finish second behind Hucknall Town by four points. The next season saw them runners up again, this time behind John Player by two points. In the Notts Senior Cup they reached the quarter-finals before going out to Eastwood Town in a penalty shootout.
Dunkirk again ended as bridesmaids in 1990/91, seven points adrift of Rainworth Miners Welfare who took the title in a late burst. In the League Cup they reached the final with Pelican. Dunkirk lost 2–0 after a replay, having drawn 2–2 in the first game.
In 1991-92 they slipped to ninth in the league, but improved up to fourth the following season. They also entered the FA Vase for the first time but made a quick exit by losing at home 5–1 to Lincoln United. 12 months later they beat Nettleham 5–3 to win their first match in the competition, but the best was yet to come. In 1993-94 they had a magnificent run in the FA Vase, reaching the last 16 before bowing out to Tiverton Town. 1995-96 saw the Boatmen make their debut in the Central Midlands Premier League, scoring 130 goals as they finished runners up to Killamarsh Juniors and so gained promotion to the Supreme Division. In the 1997-98 season they finished in fourth place and won the League Cup beating Clipstone Welfare 2–0 in the Final at Watnall Road.
In the 1998-99 season Dunkirk secured runners-up spot again, snatching it from Goole on the last day of the season with a 2–0 win over South Normanton Athletic.
The high expectations for the 1999-2000 season never materialised with the club finishing sixth in the league. The 2000-01 season saw the Boatmen’s worst season in the Supreme Division, finishing tenth.
2002-03 saw the Boatmen beat Sutton Town on penalties to win the Floodlit Cup and also reach the League Cup final, losing 2–0 to Dinnington Town at North Street. Dave Harbottle took over the reigns as player/manager and quickly drafted former Dunkirk player Wayne Manners as his assistant. They guided the club to sixth in the league.
The 2004-05 season may be the greatest season to that point in history for the Boatmen, winning the Central Midlands Supreme Division for the very first time and also reaching the Floodlit Cup and League Cup finals. They lifted the Floodlit Cup for the second time in three years with a 2–0 win against Clipstone Welfare. Unfortunately the Boatmen lost in the league Cup final, losing 1–0 in a tight game against Sandiacre Town at North Street, After Dunkirk’s memorable season promotion was denied due to the ground not being up to the required standard for the league above. This disappointment led to many players moving on to higher placed clubs in the football pyramid which meant the Boatmen needed to regroup. This rebuilding period gave Dunkirk the opportunity to blood many of the clubs’ under-19 players into the first team and, after a difficult season, they finished in eighth position.
In the 2007-08 season Dunkirk went into the campaign with an optimistic view that silverware may be returning to the club but after a poor start their league title dreams looked to have slipped away from them. Dunkirk now turned to the cup competitions and after a good run in the FA Vase where they lost narrowly to Oldbury United in the second round after a replay a bit of confidence returned to the side. The second half of the season saw this confidence flourish with the Boatmen storming up the table to grab what looked to be an impossible fourth place league finish as well as reaching the League Cup final at North Street where they defeated Blidworth Welfare 1–0 after extra-time. This was to be the final season in the Central Midlands League an after a 13-year successful time in which they claimed one League Title, two League Cups, and two Floodlit Cups as well as three second positions and were losing finalists twice.
The 2008-09 season help fresh optimism for Dunkirk as they were accepted to become founder members of the East Midlands Counties Football League, which was a step up in league terms for the club. This step up also gave Dunkirk the opportunity to enter the FA Cup for the 1st time in their history.
The first game of the 2008–09 season was in the FA Cup, where they faced Alvechurch of the Midland Football Alliance (step 5). Alvechurch proved to be a little too strong as they raced into a 4-goal half-time lead. Despite a spirited second half performance the game ended 4–1. In Dunkirk’s first ever step six league campaign they were unbeaten until the end of October when they crashed to a 3–0 defeat against eventual league winners Kirby Muxloe. For most of the season though, Dunkirk found themselves just behind the front two, but with only 12 games remaining did top the table. This though was to be the highlight of the season and after the spell at the top they dwindled away and had to settle for fifth.
The campaign though started with three defeats in their opening six matches but they went on a 30-game unbeaten run which pushed them into second place, 18 points behind Bardon Hill Sports with eight games in hand. The expectations the club set themselves though were met when they saw the season out with nine straight wins to take the East Midland Counties title by six points over Gresley. This gave the club the opportunity to be promoted and they were accepted into the Midland Football Alliance, putting Dunkirk into step five for the first time.
As well as league success the club also had good cup runs when they reached the 3rd round of the FA Vase but narrowly lost out on penalties to Pickering Town after a replay.
They also reached the semi-finals of the Nottinghamshire Senior Cup where they crashed out against Northern Premier League highflyers Retford United 4–0. In the East Midlands Counties League Cup the Boatmen reached the final again where they faced Gedling Town but unfortunately they returned home with runners-up medals as Gedling snatched a 2–1 victory in extra time.
The 2010-11 season saw Dunkirk ply their trade in step five football for the first time in their history and after a very enjoyable season they claimed a creditable eighth-place finished although they were only four points behind third position in the table. The club also enjoyed cup success as they claimed their first ever win in the FA Cup with an exciting 4–3 extra-time win over Northern Counties East League side Dinnington Town. They also showed their pedigree as they saw off step 4 side Grantham Town3–2 in extra-time after a replay, before bowing out in the 1st Qualifying round against local rivals Carlton Town again after a replay as they went down to a 2–1 home defeat. This campaign also saw the Boatmen reach the third round proper of the FA Vase as Northern League side Ashington made the long trip to Nottingham, but Dunkirk fell just short as Ashington came from behind to win 2–1. Again Dunkirk reached the semi-final of the Nottinghamshire Senior Cup and the draw couldn’t have been tougher as they were paired against Conference North highflyers Eastwood Town but lost 1–0 in the last minute.
During the 2010-11 season the club were left in total shock as they were left to deal with the sudden death of long-standing Chairman Jack Riley. Jack had been an instrumental part of the club for many years, and the club had to pull together which they did as they again looked to push forward. They appointed a new Chairman as former Nottingham Forest favourite David Johnson took on the role.
After an excellent first season in step 5 football, Dunkirk had fresh optimism that they could challenge at the top of the table. The 2011–12 season though saw them find themselves in an unfamiliar position as they struggled near the lower reached of the division, only just avoiding relegation during the last few weeks, finally finishing 18th. The reserves claimed the Central Midlands League Reserve League Cup with a 2–1 win against Radford Reserves that was played at Grange Park.
The club rebuilt again during the 2012–13 season but inconsistency was their main problem. They did however finish in a creditable 10th position winning 18 of their 42 matched, losing 16 and drawing eight. The reserves, under the guidance of Mark Harbottle, claimed silverware for the second successive season as they won the Central Midlands League Reserve Supreme Division with a very young side. Dunkirk though were once again on the lookout for a new chairman as David Johnson had to resign from his position due to work commitments.