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A masterful account,
This review is from: Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man (Paperback)
Any attempt to recount the debacle at Dunkirk founders to a certain extent on the lack of information from the French side. Inevitably the British perspective gradually takes over simply because of the availability of source material and the wilingness to examine the topic. No French historian to my knowledge has attempted to produce an overview of the 1940 campaign and the defeat of the French armies. Certainly there have been some superb histories covering the machines used by the French and the engagements in which they fought but they have only really dealt with small and isolated aspects of the overall campaign. Nothing has been attempted on the scale of Horne's 'To lose a battle' and thus one is left with a kind of vacuum. This is disappointing as the view has often been expressed that the British deserted the French in their hour of need. However, what is needed is an answer to the question (and once again no French historian has actually attempted to answer it) why should young Britsh, Dutch and Belgian men die for France when the French for the most part were not prepared to do so themselves? A detailed and well researched French perspective on this campaign is long overdue.
Sebag-Montifiore does attempt to address the French view and includes interesting details in his supeb work of the deteriorating relationships between the two allies. It is refreshing to read a history which covers the events in such detail but also does not ignore any of the human aspects. He tries to be fair to the French and includes several accounts of how French soldiers suffered from British prejudice and mistreatment as well as the other way round. Here I felt that more could have been made of the evacuation of the French troops as well - for example the 2nd DLM crossed the channel - and accounts from of this would have added an extra dimension to the book. Still one is impressed by the detail he does manage to include. One impression that shines through in his material is the professionalism of the British soldiers despite defeat and here perhaps is the vital difference between them and the French army. The latter certainly contained highly professional and competent elements but overall does not seem to have reached the same level as the British. Once again Horne also bears this out.
Is this work defenitive? Well no because a definitive account of this action would probably stretch to over 2,000 pages. However, it is as near definitive as can be expected and superceeds all other accounts of the evacuation. We can confidently describe it as a masterwork and it is one that should be read by anyone interested in the campaign in France. Do not be put off by the length as there is a lot of information and detail that needs to be included. Sebag-Montifiore has done the subject justice.