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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 119 customer reviews

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Length: 528 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Review

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 119 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #162,505 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 Verified Purchase
A comprehensive account of the fate of those members of the BEF (and 2nd BEF) who were not evacuated from Dunkirk and the other beaches on northern France in the summer of 1940. The narrative is built around the accounts of about half a dozen men from different parts of the BEF, and their experience in the immediate aftermath and the rest of the war spent in captivity.

Shocking accounts of neglect and abuse of prisoners by the German forces, though at times the author brushes over too easily the harsh treatment meted out to other nationalities, implying that only the British and then later the Russians had a hard time of it.

This book helps to challenge the myth of the PoW experience created by entertaining, but not accurate, films after the war, escape committees, full uniforms, and gentle mocking of the guard force are not seen here. It would have been interesting to see greater contrast between the experience of officers, and ORs, the former of whom predominantly did not work, and therefore did spend more time thinking about escape.

In covering such a broad timeframe the book is at times of guilty of having breadth but not depth. 1940 is covered well, but the years following provide a broad coverage of the experience, leaving the reader wanting to know more detail about other aspects. For example it is hard to gauge the post-1943 decreasing morale of the German army and the impact this had on the guard force, and the PoW experience.

Noting others reviews here, for the prospective reader it is worth noting this is not a history in the "forgotten voices" frame, focusing rather on a historical narrative interspersed with 1st person accounts of their experience. Well worth a read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book goes a long way to filling out what has almost become the myth of the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Not only where thousands of allied servicemen plucked from the shores of Europe after the events at Dunkirk, many thousands more were never rescued at all, and ended up as prisoners of war. This book tells their story.
There are tales of groups of men trying to get to the next port along the coast where they might stand a chance of rescue, and then the story of those taken prisoner.
It sometimes makes grim reading; prisoners were not generally treated well, even by regular German forces, and those who eventually survived their years of imprisonment needed to be strong - or in some cases, lucky.
Longden's style is engaging and detailed, and his research appears to be excellent.
If you think you know the story of Dunkirk, this book might make you think again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book would recommend.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
very pleased with this book,
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Format: Paperback
I have to admit that prior to reading this book I was totally ignorant of what our men experienced as POWs in the hands of the Germans. I couldn't put it down, and found it heartbreaking, fascinating and uplifting. The sheer strength of character that these men displayed to survive their horrific treatment by the Germans and their sense of betrayal at our own Government was amazing.

It's a story that needed to be told, as even now children at school are not made aware of those who were left behind at Dunkirk. Dunkirk is still always hailed as a victory due to the large number of men they successfully evacuated.

My main reason for buying this book was that my grandfather fought in the 51st Highlanders and was one of the rearguard. Luckily he was one of the few from the 51st who made it home without being captured, through sheer luck. He found himself, along with a few other men, separated from his platoon and they trudged through France to get to a port in the hope of finding a way home. He got one of the last 2 boats to leave from the port they reached and finally made it home 2 weeks after those from Dunkirk, by which time my great-grandmother and nana had been told he was missing and assumed to be either dead or captured! Unfortunately I don't know which port he made it home from as apart from telling us how after disabling the bren gun with hand grenades they made a run for it to the boat and how hunger during the trek to the port made them eat pig food, he refused point blank to speak about anything he experienced during WWII. Like another reviewer I wish this book had been available earlier whilst my grandfather was still alive in the hope that I could have got him to tell me a little more, even if it was just the name of the port.
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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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