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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caution for the history buffs., 31 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind (Kindle Edition)
Having skipped down through the other reviews, I want to sound a note of warning to my fellow military history buffs - there is a lot of unsubstantiated revisionism at the beginning of the book, and there's a lot of missing the point indicating he doesn't understand - or chose to ignore - the relative situation on both sides of the war in 1940.

Broadly, he devotes the introduction and opening section to why the BEF ended up in headlong retreat to Dunkirk. The assertion being that Germans had superior equipment, therefore the BEF was doomed from the start. For non-military history types, this is basically wrong; British tanks were superior in a 1 on 1 situation - the A12 was impervious to everything the Germans had, and the A13 was arguably the equal of the Pz.38t. The main difference, and the deciding factor is the way they were deployed and commanded.

Similarly, the British Lee-Enfield rifle is hugely better as an infantry weapon than the German equivalent. The British 2pdr Anti-Tank Gun was the best AT weapon in the field at the time (the German '88' was still technically an AA weapon with Luftwaffe units and rarely used as an AT weapon). The British had a lot of 2pdrs, and knew how to use them - as the German Panzers repeatedly discovered.

He also mocks (there's no other word to describe the tone of that piece) the fact the troops were issued with WW1-vintage gear. This also is highly puzzling; some troops were issued with 1918 spec equipment, but also with 1937 pattern - the stuff was mixed. The Germans similarly had a mixed vintage of equipment, with the SS regiments getting left-over WW1 or Czech stuff. The British khaki battle dress was mud coloured, whilst the Germans were stomping round in dark blue/grey battle dress.

Lastly there's another odd bit of implied derision of the BEF using requisitioned lorries and buses painted in camo. This is to lead the reader to think that by using requisitioned stuff the BEF was at best amateurish. This again is disingenuous - the BEF was the only fully mechanised force in France in 1940. Everybody walked to war except the British - a lot of Germans walked, a lot of French walked, as did the Belgians and the Dutch.

Now whist this isn't strictly relevant to the story of those left behind after Dunkirk, it does raise a question - if you're not going to bother checking the factual basis of these bits, are you going to bother checking the other bits?

My own impression is that the author wanted to make the reader angry - very angry - at the BEF basically being a bunch of amateurs without a clue in the world who were doomed from the off because they were all using WW1 era stuff and operating like an army of Clive Dunns.

It isn't necessarily a bad book, but all the claptrap at the start does detract from the serious story of the ones who went into captivity.
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