Dunkrik: Fight to the Last Man
Hugh Sebag-Montefiore

Many reviewers have thrown superlatives at this account of the dramatic actions undertaken by the British Expeditionary Force in the summer of 1940. I will also add my name to that list, but before I launch into superlative mode, its important to stress that above anything else, this account is a great solid well researched read.

The author has managed to bring together new ingredients, to what some would view as a tired recipe not worthy of much time (many authors brush past the BEF and the 1940 campaign in that vain) or effort, and re-invigorate it to new and old alike. This book can stand proudly alongside the earlier works of Horne, Benoist-Mecbin, & Pallud and above those of say Divine, Blaxland, May or Powaski

The human narrative runs strong throughout this book, and we are introduced to it in no uncertain way, when we are thrust into the sexual appetites of the newly arrived British soldier, Officer & ranker alike, upon there arrival in France. From this less than military start, the author seamlessly moves to the safer and more familiar ground of historical deployment, strategy, equipment and actions.

The authors ability to keep you transfixed on the various strands & complexities of fighting a campaign as part of an alliance, is remarkable. We are able to witness how the High Commands of Great Britain & France rubbed along prior to the campaign, with the odd chaff mark to show for there exertions. To the later explosion(s) & implosion(s) that so marked there route, once the Germans unleashed there Blitzkrieg style of warfare. This dynamic is also reflected in the numerous personnel tales, that makes this book stand out. The exhaustive detail of the author and his superb placing of narrative, has produced a fabulous read that transports you beyond the norm.

You may not be able to smell the cordite, but you can certainly sense the shot being fired.

Structurally the book is good, though the placing of the maps as a whole towards the rear of the book (and not within the text to which it refers) was in my opinion a bit irksome. The maps themselves were refreshingly detailed, beyond the usual sweeping arrows assortment that some authors try to pass off. The book is well noted (a must for modern historical literature), and contains some real nuggets of information. The Bibliography and Sources section is also similarly detailed.

Some 36 chapters chart the progress of the BEF, from its arrival in late 1939,through its trials in the face of the German onslaught , its dogged defence & determination with outdated equipment and tactics, to its remarkable Last Man stands at places far less well known than Dunkirk, until finally recounting the ‘Miracle’ and its subsequent flight from France, the sacrifice of the Highland Division and the still murky surroundings that shroud the sinking of the Lancastria.

Sebag-Montefiore’s book is a must for anybody interested in military history of the period.Its absence from your personnel library will leave a hole to fill that may not ever be filled by future publications.

(Reviewed by Andy Hill)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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