Book Review
Dunkirk Evacuation
Dunkirk Evacuation - Operation Dynamo
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


The following portion of the introduction is from Pen and Sword:
The ‘miracle’ of Dunkirk is one of the most inspiring stories of all time. The British Expeditionary Force had been all but surrounded, and, with the French armies collapsing on all sides, it appeared that Britain was about to suffer the heaviest defeat in its history.

When Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet finally accepted that the Battle of France had been lost, preparations were made to try and rescue as many soldiers as possible from one of the few ports left open to the British Expeditionary Force – Dunkirk.

So rushed and chaotic was the retreat to the Channel coast, with thousands of guns, vehicles and tanks being abandoned, there was little time for soldiers to consider taking photographs of the shocking scenes of death and destruction which surrounded them. Yet images do exist of the ships and boats of all descriptions which braved the bombs and guns of the German Air Force to rescue Britain’s only field army from the clutches of Hitler’s panzer divisions.

One man in particular, Sub-Lieutenant John Rutherford Crosby, a member of the crew of the minesweeper, and converted Clyde paddle steamer, HMS Oriole, left a legacy of dramatic images. These include the never-to-be-forgotten scenes of long lines of tired and anxious troops stretching into the sea and of bombs exploding on the packed beaches – all with his own personal little camera.

Other images in this book paint a vivid and memorable picture, as no words ever could, of the greatest evacuation of troops under fire.


This offering from Pen and Sword is part of the ‘Images at War’ series. This series of books are soft backed offerings having a good card cover with a very good spine to the book that keeps the contents in good order. This book covering ‘Dunkirk Evacuation - Operation Dynamo
’ has been authored by John Grehan and Alexander Nicoll. This title from John Grehan is one of 46 offerings covering conflict from the Napoleonic Wars to World War 2, Alexander Nicoll on the other hand appears to be just getting started and is the only title credited to him by Pen and Sword. The contents of this title are provided over 166 pages of good quality semi gloss paper.

The contents are presented in the following sections:
Introduction – Retreat to Dunkirk
Chapter 1 – Day 1 – Sunday 26th May 1940
Chapter 2 – Day 2 – Monday 27th May 1940
Chapter 3 – Day 3 – Tuesday 28th May 1940
Chapter 4 – Day 4 – Wednesday 29th May 1940
Chapter 5 – Day 5 – Thursday 30th May 1940
Chapter 6 – Day 6 – Friday 31st May 1940
Chapter 7 – Day 7 – Saturday 1st June 1940
Chapter 8 – Day 8 – Sunday 2nd June 1940
Chapter 9 – Day 9 – Monday 3rd June 1940
Chapter 10 - Day 10 – The Aftermath

The text entries in this title start with a nice introduction covering the deployment of the BEF to France and the conditions that they deployed under to their section of defence. The French had it would seem put a good deal of effort into tank traps and machine gun emplacements, but all of this was of little use as the invasion of Belgium saw French and British troops concentrated to prevent a thrust into France, the main thrust came through the Ardennes and so met little resistance and sowed the seeds of defeat. This introduction does a good job in short order of letting the reader know what happened. The text at the start of each chapter does a good job of describing the intent of each day as well as what actually occurred with the result being a rounded knowledge but not in-depth history.

It is of course the pictorial content that has or will encourage most people to shell out for this title, and I can tell you for free that it will be or is money well spent. The photographs cover the major players as you would expect, but it is the photographs that show the chaotic nature of a retreating army that comes through strongly and no matter how brave the actions carried out the result will not be changed. The photographs cover the retreat of British, French and Belgian troops and the conditions that met them along the way to the small vessels that they hoped would save them from death or imprisonment.

The photographs have been well chosen showing the conflict on the ground and the men running into the sea to make it to a vessel and escape. The situation on the retreat is well covered as is the coverage of the vessels that went to the rescue of what was in effect the British army as regards trained men. The destruction of the vehicles and equipment left behind and it should be remembered the soldiers of other European nations were also brought to Britain to continue the fight. Also shown here is of course the victor and you cannot take away from the German military just how stunning their success was. Some of the images that I found most appealing was that of German troops with downed British aircraft and vehicles.

As I have said the photographs provided are a great pictorial history of events during World War 2 and it also has to be remembered that the people who were engaged are fast leaving us and World War 2 is slipping from living memory. So while the value of the photographs is undeniable, for me it is the exceptionally well written captions that make this book and the titles in the series especially valuable. The captions add depth to the photographs and provides information that cannot be attained from the image alone.


This title as part of the Images at War series provides a visual delight covering the retreat of a defeated army to the coast and the successful rescue from the sea. The images do not try to narrate a story in a different light but instead presents the what and the how of history around the escape from Dunkirk that enabled the British and other nations to continue the fight. The captions add a lot to the photographs and the authors should be thanked for their work in this regard. This title as with most of the books in this series are a must have for any modeller who wants to show things as they were and not as war is presented to us.
Darren Baker takes a look at a recent release from Pen and Sword titled and covering ‘Dunkirk Evacuation - Operation Dynamo '.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 9781526770356
  Suggested Retail: £15.99
  PUBLISHED: Aug 11, 2020

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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70’s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70’s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

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