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Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind by [Longden, Sean]
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Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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Length: 528 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Product Description


Sean Longden is a rising name in military history, and is able to uncover the missing stories of the Second World War. (Guardian)

Meticulously researched, very well written and deeply moving. (Andrew Roberts)

A moving and fascinating antidote to the Dunkirk legend. (Time Out.)

...few readers will be unmoved by Sean Longden's account. (Dominic Sandbrook, Evening Standard.)

An eye-opener and .... an excellent piece of work. (British Army Review)

Serves as a great and convincing riposte to the banner-waving tale that is normally told (Catholic Herald)

Book Description

The true story of the 41,000 British soldiers who were left behind after the evacuation of Dunkirk, May 1940.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1041 KB
  • Print Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002S0KBNG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #139,291 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My mum bought me this for my birthday. I read it in two long days! My Grandfather was captured at Calais (one of The Rifle Brigade). He wouldn't talk too much about it, only opening up a little towards the end of his life. He would talk for a while, then change the subject. He was very bitter about not being rescued like those at Dunkirk. I used to say to him, 'Had you been rescued, you might not have been here today, as you could have died elsewhere'. He felt let down by the government and therefore had no desire to try and escape. Until I read this book, I had little understanding of what he and others went through. I was not aware of the continued fighting and other rescues after Dunkirk, despite having read a lot about the War. Perhaps it was a shame it wasn't written earlier. I might have asked my Grandfather more before it was too late.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover
This book aims to tell the normally forgotten story of those left behind. It's a story that should be told: there are many reasons that it generally hasn't been. One is the difficulty in finding people prepared to talk about it. I didn't know my own father and his cousin had been amongst those left behind to fight (which they did - ferociously, as is shown by the casualty figures on both sides) until an acquaintance mentioned it when I was a teenager. He didn't talk about it even once I did know. This was common.

This book is therefore unavoidably based on evidence from only a small proportion of those involved. That can't be helped, but it presents their experience as everyone's experience. To take an early example, it reads as though all prisoners were sent back through Trier. Many were - my father probably was - but there were also other routes, with people marched from Arras and the coast up through the Netherlands to towards the mouth of the Rhine to be transported by Rhine barge. Looking at the German records shows how many transit camps (Dulags) there were all along the Rhine and there were other routes to them between the extremes of the Rhine mouth and Trier.

There are further examples, and as other reviewers have said, there are also errors of simple fact and typesetting.

So in short: I'm glad the book was written; I recommend reading it; but don't take it as the universal story of all those left behind, and watch out for mistakes.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Not quite a 5*.

The narrative covers the immediate events leading to Dunkirk and many cameos may be remembered from the film Dunkirk. As Longden is at pains to point out, and the raison d'etre for the book, the battle for France did not end at Dunkirk. Longden uses the technique of a broadsweeping review that then focusses on the individual and frequently harrowing tales of individual soldiers. This is not a book for the faint hearted and will not feature high on German best-seller lists. It is well written, well researched and well sourced with a comprehensive list of sources making this a scholarly tome.

What detracts from the tale and is ultimately inexcuseable in a book that is intrinsically a first rate history are numerous howlers when he talks numbers. Britain is not 20 miles across the sea from Dunkirk. The nearest land is Ramsgate some 40 miles distant. The loss of 31 out of 71 bombers is a loss of 44% not 56%; 56% was the percentage that survived. Wholly indecypherable is the statement that two defensive lines were attempted around Brest, one at 100 miles (30 kilometres) and the other at 40 miles (12 kilometres).

Finally some 'shocking' figures are not as shocking as apparently presented. He evidenced that 76 prisoners had to share just 5 toilets. As recently as 1992 the Health and Safety at Work Act code of practice suggests 5 toilets for 76-100 workers. Now I accept that the provision in the Stalag would be rather more austere that a modern workplace but the numbers of toilets are actually quite good for a POW camp.

My criticisms in the previous two paragraphs should not however detract from the value of this book as an excellent reference to those that were left behind. If reprinted I hope the author corrects these errors.
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