Dunkirk : The Real Story in Photographs
The Second World War saw heroic efforts made by the Allied forces from its very outset, but in May 1940 disaster befell the British Expeditionary Force in France. Isolated from the rest of their allies, they faced insurmountable numbers of enemy troops. All was so very nearly lost, until the German land forces were given the surprise order by Adolf Hitler to halt briefly.
Taking advantage of this unexpected but welcome turn of events, the British troops fled for the beaches of Dunkirk and fortified them while the Royal Navy dispatched almost 900 ships and boats to rescue British and Allied soldiers from the jaws of defeat. In all, over 300,000 men were evacuated, while 40,000 brave rearguard troops lost their lives or their freedom for the good of their allies. Operation Dynamo, and its remarkable evacuations from the beaches of Dunkirk, was hailed by Winston Churchill as a `miracle of deliverance', but he also warned that `wars are not won by evacuations'.
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Tim Lynch, Dunkirk: The real story in photographs
Published by The History Press, 2017
This book describes the rescue of over 300,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in May and June 1940. The title suggests a coffee table book, however inappropriate that might be, but the reality is quite different. The format is smaller, for one thing, and it's a paperback. Yes, there are plenty of photographs illustrating the lead up to the evacuation of Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo itself and a description of the aftermath. But there is also plenty of text describing, in a straightforward way, why the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had to be rescued from the Nazis and how this was achieved.
The excellent range of black and white photographs captures the evacuation from the soldier's point of view and how they were greeted on their return. They manage to convey the size of the rescue mission and the vulnerability of the troops, but also their good humour and resilience at a desperate time. The photographs are supported by several boxes of standalone, bite-size background information and quotations from political speeches. Overall, the layout is attractive and rewards readers dipping in for information as well as those with a more thorough approach.
The photographs themselves are sourced from The Mirror's archive (Mirrorpix) and enhanced by cartoons by Zec, that paper's cartoonist at the time. The author also supplies many from his own collection and it would have been interesting to read about his background and how he acquired the photos. It would also have been useful to include an index and perhaps a preface to explain the unique character of the book and its genesis. While it is clearly aimed at those with little knowledge of Dunkirk, the book is a fascinating and accessible pictorial addition to existing coverage of the period.
Friends of the National Archives