Men They Left Behind
Constable, hardback, 480 pages, £20
Author Sean Longden provides an in-depth analysis of the mystery behind
why 40,000 British soldiers were left abandoned by their leaders during
the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940.
In fact a whole battalion - the 51st Highland Division - were still fighting
alongside their French allies and attempting to repel the advancing Germans
as the final boat left its moorings in Dunkirk en route back to England.
Thousands more British troops were left stranded from their battalions
and regiments throughout the French countryside, as well as many soldiers
who had been hospitalised through injury or sickness. Many were later
captured by the Germans and forced to spend a desperately grim five years
in prisoner of war camps.
This book is about the defeat at Dunkirk and not the so-called victory
trumpeted by the British propaganda machine at the time or via the subsequent
movies made about 'the heroic struggle'.
It is broken up into four main sections: the experiences of the British
troops in their training prior to going to France; the 'phoney war'; their
involvement in battles before the evacuation by 300,000 soldiers; and
the fate of three groups of men left behind.
The most harrowing part of the book is the description of the extreme
hardships inflicted on the POWs on the march into Germany. Soldiers were
routinely beaten, starved and in some cases murdered in cold blood.
It also vividly describes in chilling detail the five years that the surviving
POWs spent in the camps.
One important question has to be asked about this story: why has it taken
sixty-three years for the real truth about Dunkirk, and the memories of
the misery suffered by many British troops and their families back home,
to be revealed?