Retreat & Rearguard: Dunkirk 1940 by Jerry Murland
(Pen & Sword 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 366 2, 257pp, hardback, illustrated, £25.00)
Compared to battlefield sites like Arnhem, Bastogne or Normandy, the fields of battle in Belgium and France where the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) fought in May-June 1940 are rarely visited, except perhaps Dunkirk itself, scene of the great ‘Miracle’ of 1940. This new book by military historian Jerry Murland aims to change this, and follows on from a series of excellent Retreat and Rearguard books he has written about the First World War.
The book is formed of fifteen chapters starting with some background to the BEF in 1940 and then quite cleverly following the different phases of battle from the opening shots in May 1940 to the final line of defence around Dunkirk. Each chapter is well researched with good personal accounts and much detail on individual soldiers who took part in the actions. The maps really are first class and help to make sense of an often confusing situation. The depth of research is apparent when you read this book and while it is not a guidebook as such, it offers the ability to translate each chapter to an area of battlefield and go there and make sense of that. particularly enjoyed the chapter on the virtually unknown actions around Ypres in May 1940, a battlefield far more connected to its 1940 history.
This is a superb and highly informative book, and a masterpiece of research on a much neglected aspect of the British experience of WW2. Ideal for those wanting to follow these sites on the ground, and perfect for those who want to understand a complex period in our military history. Highly recommend, one of my favourite WW2 books of 2016.
The book can be purchased from the Pen & Sword website.