Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       March 31, 2018


Author  A.D. Divine D.S.M. O.B.E.

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9780571342570
Publisher:         Faber
Release Date:   re-released Februry 2018  

Website:    https://www.allenandunwin.com 

There was a mass evacuation of 340,000 British, Allied, French and Belgium troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in France, during the days of May 26 to June 4, 1942; an heroic feat by any standard and particularly so when it was carried out by a flotilla of assorted craft, some captained and crewed by amateurs and others by seasoned leisure time sailors, some military craft, basically anything that could float, cross the English channel and return, was a called into service.

All this was done under repeated attacks by the Germans, from land, air and sea, who thought that they had managed to contain the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF)  into a small area of Dunkirk, with the ocean, that had until now proven to be the one fixed escape route for fleeing armies for centuries, at their back but unable to be used in any tangible way, as to this stage in the invasion of the Low Countries of Europe, the Germans has a far superior force in numbers and equipment, blocking all routes via land and sea.

In an ironic twist of fate, put into motion by Hitler, who gave the order to have Panzer troops called back from an attack on the Somme-Aisne Line, which in the three days it took for the German chain of Command to change the orders, was enough time to get support for the stranded BEF troops into place.

AD Devine was one of the men called into service to help in the evacuation. As a war correspondent he had direct experience of war reporting on Operation Dynamo, becoming wounded and latterly receiving a medal. He was amongst a group of journalist who stood on the White Cliffs of Dover in 1940, watching from afar, the shelling of Boulogne. He like many others had done sailing in peace time; through his contacts at the Ministry of Information and the Admiralty he had acquired papers that put him in the navy for 30 days.

Devine had already begun to look for a small boat that would make it to Dunkirk and back, rapidly getting her ready with the help of another man, setting sail as a member of the flotilla. Little Ann, became stranded on a sandbar and was abandoned. A second vessel, White Wing, was acquired and so began his journey into hell, as he, along with Rear Admiral AH Taylor, the man in charge of operation Dynamo small boat fleet, set out to cross the Channel to organise the evacuation of the last of the troops off Malo-les-Bains.

From his hospital bed, Devine began compiling the book, Dunkirk, as he feared the history of Dunkirk would only be reflected through the Admiralty logs, kept in a somewhat haphazard manner, due to the situation as it unfolded,  understanding from first-hand experience, the event was so significant that it deserved a far better treatment .

Churchill, on June 4, 1940,described in a speech to Parliament the evacuation of Dunkirk as, ‘ a colossal military disaster’ as well as ‘a miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity’.  Such was Dunkirk; both a tragedy and a triumph.

Over the years, Dunkirk as softly merged into the history of the world during World War II, never perhaps receiving full recognition for the valour and bravery of the men and women who were involved in all aspects of the rescue mission; the troops, the sailors and the public and the boat owners who gave everything they could to support such a daring undertaking.

Released in original format, the wording is formal English which in many ways adds to the overall significance of the book, which is history recorded through the eyes of a man who was there; perhaps some aspects may have been left out, wittingly or otherwise, none-the –less Dunkirk offers to a new generation, the facts behind a war which are not glorious, just basic, raw and in the end words that go down in recorded history, as detailing just another event!