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The Royal Navy at Dunkirk (Hardback)

Commanding Officers' Reports of British Warships In Action During Operation Dynamo

WWII All Frontline Books Royal Navy Naval Frontline: WWII Dunkirk

By Martin Mace
Frontline Books
Pages: 428
ISBN: 9781473886728
Published: 19th September 2017



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The fact that the British Expeditionary Force was evacuated from Dunkirk in May-June 1940 has achieved the status of a legend. Whilst the part played by the 'Little Ship's in that miracle is equally well-known, the role of the Royal Navy's warships – the destroyers, minesweepers and personnel ships – is often overlooked. Indeed, more than 300,000 troops out of a total of 338,226, were evacuated from the harbour at Dunkirk in these vessels.

In the weeks after Operation Dynamo, the Admiralty issued an order requiring the Commanding Officers of those British warships involved to submit a report detailing their actions.

Described in their own words, with the events still fresh in their minds, the result is a vivid record of the chaos, improvisation, skill and bravery that all combined to rescue the basis of an army that helped carry Britain through the dark months and years that followed. It is a record that forms the basis of this book.

The title says it all. The Commanding Officers of the Royal Navy warships deployed to Operation Dynamo, plus shore based personnel, were required to submit reports regarding their ship’s actions during this operation. These were deposited in due course with the National Archives, and have now been collated to form this excellent book. These range from the report of Rear Admiral WAKE-WALKER, who commanded the operation as Senior Naval Officer Afloat, to Master W. J. PENNEY who commanded H.M. Tug, St. Clear.

They were written soon after the event, often based on contemporaneous notes. They contain a treasure trove of information about the reality of the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk, before it became idolised in British mythology. Reading the reports left me feeling very humble, and much better informed about Operation Dynamo.

There are six chapters, commencing with the Royal Navy destroyers that carried out the bulk of the evacuations, to other Royal Navy Warships, Auxiliary Minesweepers, Personnel Vessels, and Dutch Schuits, Trawlers and Coastal Craft. Importantly, the sixth chapter covers the shore based personnel, including Captain Bill TENNANT.

There are sixteen photographs included, but to me, they are not the reason for purchasing this book. This has to be the contents of the reports themselves, written by a variety of men, from differing perspectives. In my opinion, this is an invaluable piece of work on the subject of Operation Dynamo, and I heartily recommend it.

British Military History, Rob Palmer

About Martin Mace

Martin Mace has been involved in writing and publishing military history for more than twenty years. He began his career with local history, writing a book on the Second World War anti-invasion defences and stop lines in West Sussex. In 2006 he began working on the idea for Britain at War Magazine, This publication has grown rapidly to become the best-selling military history periodical.

Perfect Partner

The Dunkirk Evacuation in 100 Objects The Story Behind Operation Dynamo in 1940 (Hardback)

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,…

By Martin Mace

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