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The events of Dunkirk – the evacuation of the troops by the “little ships” has become part of the British myth. Here using commentary from the survivors together with archive material the story of Dunkirk is retold, bringing alive the desperate situation the hemmed-in troops faced together with the bravery and sacrifice of those who rescued them. With great effect, Sinclair McKay embeds the story of Dunkirk into the World War II narrative, giving us the behind-the-scenes military and political views of the situation, how the public seized on the event as a strengthening of national resolve, how it affected the progress of the war and finally how it remains lodged in the national subconscious.
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When Churchill made one of the most inspiring speeches of the 20th century - 'we will fight them on the beaches' - some thought that it was his way of preparing the public for the fall of France. Others heard it as a direct appeal to the Americans. The Prime Minister was speaking in the Commons in June 4 1940, giving thanks for the miracle of deliverance, the harrowing and breathless evacuation of over 338,000 troops - British and French and Belgian - from the beaches and harbour at Dunkirk in the teeth of nightmarish German onslaught. Churchill was determined it shouldn't be labelled a victory. He was already too late. Hours later, broadcaster JB Priestley was to call it 'an absurd English epic'. The last of the boatloads had returned to Dover in the small hours of June 4th. And the mythologizing had already begun - from euphoric American journalists to the thousands of women who lined up on railway platforms, crowding round exhausted soldiers as if they were movie stars. But was Churchill privately convinced that the Germans were about to successfully invade England? Those days of Dunkirk, and the spirit, and the image of the indefatigable little ships, are still invoked now whenever the nation finds itself in any kind of crisis. But there is a wider story too that involves a very large number of civilians - from nurses to racing enthusiasts, trades union leaders to dance hall managers, novelists to seaside cafe owners. And even wider yet, a story that starts in September 1939: of young civilian men being trained for a war that was already 25 years out of date; and the increasing suspense - and occasional surrealism - of the Phoney War. The 'absurd epic' of Dunkirk - told here through fresh interviews with veterans, plus unseen letters and archival material - is the story of how an old-fashioned island was brutally forced into the modernity of World War Two.
Seen through the eyes of those who lived through it, both at home and on the beaches of northern France, McKay puts the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’ in its true context by taking the reader through the weeks and months leading up to the evacuation of more than 300,000 men from France to the safety of England. From the recruitment of young men in the summer of 1939, through the so-called ‘phoney-war’, to the unleashing of the German blitzkrieg, this enthralling book brings home the importance of Dunkirk to the British people, a defining moment when ordinary people displayed extraordinary courage to defy a technologically ruthless enemy.
Publication date: 18/09/2014
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd
|Publication date:||18th September 2014|
|Publisher:||Aurum Press Ltd|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography, History,|
Sinclair McKay writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph and The Secret Listeners and has written books about James Bond and Hammer horror for Aurum. His next book, about the wartime Y Service during World War II, is due to be published by Aurum in 2012. He lives in London. Author photo © Liam BerginMore About Sinclair McKay