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Destination Dunkirk (Hardback)

The Story of Gort's Army

WWII Naval Dunkirk Military

By Gregory Blaxland
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 436
ISBN: 9781526735232
Published: 19th November 2018

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It is a peculiar genius of the British to be able to turn a devastating defeat into something to be celebrated. Dunkirk is but the most recent example; militarily, the only redeeming feature was that it was not a catastrophe. The largely successful evacuation of thousands of British (and, let it not be forgotten, French) soldiers, albeit minus most of their equipment, now occupies a well established place in British historical memory. The outcome of the ignominious end of Britain's expeditionary army was soon transformed into a celebration of the 'Dunkirk Spirit'; the Blitz of the following months reinforced the idea that Britain alone was prepared to stand up to the forces that threatened the democratic world.

Originally published in 1973, this welcome reprint of Gregory Blaxland's beautifully narrated account of the campaign in France and Flanders is combined with an adept use of the wealth of memoirs and regimental histories that emerged in the decades after the war's end. It has the advantage that it is written by one who served in the campaign, admittedly as a very junior officer, and was himself evacuated from the beaches of the Dunkirk perimeter.

Popular memory concentrates on the evacuation; but there were several weeks of desperate fighting that preceded the final evacuation from Nantes and St Nazaire on 18 June. These engagements, fought amongst the confusion of coalition warfare and often suffering from lamentably poor communications, produced many heroes, of whom too many are nameless. Valuable time was bought that enabled the Dunkirk perimeter to be established.The fact that well over half a million allied soldiers were brought over to England is in itself a tribute to their tenacity. This is their story.

Blaxland wrote a stirring account. Although there are many more recent works of high standard and the evidence is at times anecdotal only this is a book which is a required inclusion in any library on the campaign in 1940 and a tribute to Gort’s Army.

Read the full review here

WW2 Talk

Using British and German war diaries and reports Gregory Blaxland, in his book "Destination Dunkirk" describes the loss of the under equipped British Expeditionary Force, together with its Belgian and French army counterparts. All three were overwhelmed by a well planned German onslaught which broke through the allied defences along a 50 mile front. Supported by Stuka dive bombers and tanks, it began to decimate three allied armies. Churchill was dumfounded and swiftly made plans to save what was left of the BEF through the channel port of Dunkirk. Diaries, eye witness accounts and personal correspondence illustrate the lack signals equipment and confusion which played and important part in the conflict.

Richard Gough, Military Author and Historian

About Gregory Blaxland

Gregory Blaxland was born less than a month after the end of WW1. He passed out of Sandhurst in July 1939 at the age of 20 and was commissioned into the Buffs. He was thus one of the youngest British Army Officers at the outbreak of WW2, and was part of the initial British Expeditionary Force in September 1939 until his evacuation from Dunkirk on May 31st 1940. He saw active service throughout the remainder of WW2, including in North Africa, Italy and Greece. After the war he continued his career as a professional soldier, and in February 1954, four months after getting married, he was sent to join his regiment in Kenya. Within 48 hours of his arrival he had contracted polio and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He established a new career as an author and journalist, and became a successful and respected military historian. He died in 1986 at the age of 67, and was survived by his wife, son and daughter.

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