Author: John Grehan, Alexander Nicoll
Published: April 2020
An introductory chapter explains how the British, French and Belgian soldiers had been forced to make a rapid retreat – leaving barely a week for their rescue to be planned in the face of the most appalling odds.
With the aid of more than 200 black and white photographs, the book then shows some of the varied vessels that played such a crucial role in the Dunkirk evacuations, as well as dramatically underlining the dangers that they faced. A notable contribution to these images was made by Sub-Lt John Rutherford-Crosby, who was serving on the converted Clyde paddle steamer HMS Oriole. Of the 23 paddle steamers that took part in the evacuations, six were sunk, while ferries such as the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s King Orry came under fierce aerial attack, and the Mona’s Queen sank within a couple of minutes of hitting a mine. Nine chapters cover each of the nine days of the evacuation, with informative captions accompanying the pictures and some well-chosen first-person accounts adding an extra dimension to the book.
Described by Churchill as a ‘miracle of deliverance’, the evacuations were to prove crucial in the longer term. This book provides a very vivid ilustration of the scale of the operation and the immense contribution made by vessels such as the Dutch schuits (inland waterway barges) as well as the amazing array of small private boats that helped to snatch a sort of victory from the face of defeat.