4 June 2018

The Dunkirk Evacuation in 100 Objects - The Story Behind Operation Dynamo in 1940

At 18.57 hours on Sunday, 26 May 1940, the Admiralty issued the directive which instigated the start of Operation Dynamo. This was the order to rescue the British Expeditionary Force from the French port of Dunkirk and the beaches surrounding it. The Admiralty believed that it would only be able to rescue 45,000 men over the course of the following two days, ‘at the end of which’, read the signal to Admiral Ramsey at Dover, ‘it was probable that evacuation would be terminated by enemy action’. The Admiralty, however, was wrong.

Between 26 May and 4 June 1940, when Dynamo officially ended, an armada of ships, big and small, naval and civilian achieved what had been considered impossible. In fact, in this period a total of 338,682 men had been disembarked at British ports. Such a figure has exceeded the expectations of most. Little wonder, therefore, that an editorial in The New York Times at the beginning of June declared, ‘So long as the English tongue survives, the word Dunkirk will be spoken with reverence’.

Through 100 objects, from the wreck of a ship through to a dug-up rifle, and individual photographs to large memorials, all of which represent a moving snapshot of the past, the author sets out to tell the story of what came to be known as The Miracle of Dunkirk. The full-colour photographs of each 100 items are accompanied by detailed explanations of the object and the people and events which make them so special or relevant.

While similar in concept to Roger Moorehouse's The Third Reich in 100 Objects, this book provides a different approach. Not just another re-telling of the Dunkirk story, Martin Mace's book highlights many facets of the evacuation, which creates a rich narrative about the wider story of Dunkirk. Details of individual Little Ships, the Wormhout Massacre, the story behind some of the famous photos of the evacuation, experiences of RAF pilots through log-books, and how Dunkirk was featured in wartime books and paintings are all woven together to explain the story in great detail. If you have any interest in Dunkirk, I would seriously consider adding this book to your collection.

Available from:
Pen and Sword

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