There are simply no words to describe just how much I enjoyed reading this book. Within ‘Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man’, Hugh Sebag-Montefiore has written a beautiful in-depth account of one of the most dramatic events of the Second World War.
The evacuation of Dunkirk in May and June 1940, is still widely remembered throughout Britain as one of the most heroic and celebrated moments in British military history. It was the moment when British troops found themselves stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, and surrounded by the ever advancing German army. However, due to the heroic actions of the ‘Little Ships’ and the overall success of Operation Dynamo, an astonishing 300,000+ soldiers were snatched from the claws of their enemy, and taken across the English Channel to the relative safety of British shores. This military retreat therefore transformed into a military miracle!
The demonstration of both military men and ordinary citizens, who risked life and limb to help bring their soldiers home, not only gave the country a much-needed morale boost, but also ensured that Britain was able to continue its fight against Nazi Germany. It could therefore be argued that the evacuation of Dunkirk was a turning point in Britain’s road to victory.
The legendary ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ has gone down in history as a remarkable episode of comradeship, heroism and success. However in ‘Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man’, Sebag- Montefiore has brought to light many of the shockingly grotesque, haunting and emotional elements of the Dunkirk story. I have never ever been so moving by a book! For many years, I dismissed this book for fear that it would overwhelm me with complex military details. Yet I was pleasantly surprised to find myself immersed in the very human aspect of the evacuation.
Contempory accounts of the events in May and June 1940, written by both Allied and German soldiers, were heavily featured throughout this book. These – combined with Sebag-Montefiore’s brilliant story-telling – made it so that I felt like I was in the midst of the conflict, watching the drama unfold before me. The sense of fear, shock, frustration, loss, pride, courage and determination, (which were felt by so many of the soldiers involved), are magnificently conveyed throughout the book. I could not help but feel an immense amount of sympathy and gratitude, for all of those individuals who encountered such agonising ordeals during the battle for France.
Without a doubt this book is a substantial volume, which is crammed full with descriptions of the events which led to the evacuation of Dunkirk. Hugh guides his readers through the day-to-day developments, which led to the British retreat and eventually the fall of France. Not only that, but Hugh also sheds light on the gallant acts of bravery displayed by many of the servicemen throughout the battle.
On the other hand Hugh opens is readers’ eyes to the horrors of war, where sickening episodes of slaughter and unnecessary massacres were inflicted upon troops and civilians alike. What’s more, Hugh retells instances of panic, confusion and desertions, which ultimately led to numerous fatalities and the BEF’s fate upon Dunkirk’s beaches.
‘Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man’ is brilliantly written and evokes a great sense of pride. Hugh should be commended for his impressive research into the build-up of the evacuation, the evacuation itself, and the tragic story of those who had to endure yet more fighting after the evacuation at Dunkirk. The complex tale of the evacuation is able to flow smoothly with the assistance of useful maps, hard-hitting pictures, and a list of Who’s-Who in 1940. Moreover, my curiosity to discover the fates of many of those individuals whom I had encountered throughout the book, was satisfied by an Epilogue which explored their lives after the events of June 1940.
All in all, I can say to you is: ‘Buy this book!’ Sebag-Montefiore brings to life the horrors of war, and the beauty of heroism which comes with it. Greater understanding is brought to the evacuation of Dunkirk, as well as the emotional human impact. ‘Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man’ is an incredibly moving, informative and enthralling read. Indeed, it is one of – if not the – best book that I have ever read! I therefore encourage you all to read this book, along with the assurance that you will not be disappointed.
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