A gripping chronicle, Dunkirk recounts the brave stand of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) against the German army and the dramatic rescue of 338,000 British troops from the beaches of Dunkirk at the outset of World War II. In May 1940, the small BEF was sent to help the Belgians and French against advancing German forces. Ill-equipped and undertrained, the Allied troops conducted a fighting withdrawal in the face of the formidable Germans. Winston Churchill feared that nearly all of the BEF would be killed or captured, but thankfully most were rescued and a defeat was turned into a victoryone that lives on in the annals of history.
General Julian Thompson draws from previously unpublished and rare materials to re-create the action on the beaches of the small townfrom the misunderstandings between the British and French generals to the experiences of the ordinary soldier trying to fend for his life and return to his homeland. Unlike other books on the subject, Thompson’s account gives full weight to the fighting inland as the BEF found itself in mortal danger due to the Belgian army’s collapse on one flank and the French troops’ failure on the other flank. Thompson aims to correct popular myths about the evacuation and set the history straight once and for all about the events that unfolded in May 1940.
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About the Author
Major General Julian Thompson served in the Royal Marines for 34 years and commanded the counter-invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. A professor in the Department of War Studies at Kings College, University of London, he is the author of six acclaimed books of military history. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
List of Maps vii
Twenty Wasted Years 1
Into Belgium: First Shocks 25
Back to the Escaut and Disaster on the BEF's Southern Flank 51
Counter-Stroke at Arras 82
Fighting on Two Fronts 101
Boulogne and Calais 145
The Withdrawal: II Corps on the Eastern Flank 174
The Withdrawal: Fighting the Panzers on the Western Flank 198
Comings and Goings at Dunkirk 221
The End at Dunkirk 245
The Final Battles 273
Select Bibliography 323
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very informative treatise with detailed descriptions of events. It addresses the leaders failures to understand the course of battle and stresses the importance of proper communication channnels that became even more important as the war waged on.
I really enjoyed reading this book, but the title is misleading. It's not about Dunkirk at all, but rather about the BEF in France in May/June 1940. It's terrifically detailed, and gives a wonderful sense of both the chaos and the plans involved. The writing is crisp, though not quite in the league of Ambrose or Beevor. It's written from a solider's perspective, so isn't too concerned about the political situation (or even the Navy or Air Force's view). Doctrinally, it places blame very clearly at the French door (Generals and politicians) and is surprisingly positive about both Gort and the Arras offensive. The condemnation of French tactics and more importantly focus on the BEF and leaves Thompson exposed to the charge of being anti-French, and it's certainly true that he is far more sympathetic with the British than the French. Thompson expects a fair amount of the reader: there's very frequent phrases like "the battalion was down to 200 men", and it's assumed the reader knows what a full strength battalion would be. Abbreviations are rarely explained, and the book would certainly benefit from both a glossary and an diagram showing the British Army structure from Army Group down to platoon level. But, having said all that, the book's strengths far outweigh it's weaknesses, and for those with more than a passing interest in WW2, is a must-read.
An interesting book which aims to dispel the idea that the British Expeditionary Force did hardly any fighting before being evacuated at Dunkirk. Instead, the author demonstrates that they had several weeks of continuous hard fighting. The narrative is easy to read. My one complaint (as usual with this type of book) is the maps. They are good, but not every place mentioned in the text is shown, and sometimes you have to search through several different maps of different scales to find out where the action actually takes place.
Excellent story. Very detailed
Experienced author writes without overviews or summaries. Difficult to get big picture on extensive detail.