Posts Tagged ‘Disaster’

Dunkirk: from Disaster to Deliverance, Testimonies of the Last Survivors by Sinclair McKay, review: 'a new angle'

December 2nd, 2014

McKay’s narrative suggests that it took a cocktail of events to overcome such conflicting views to bring the nation together. He viagra canadian pharmacy cites Churchill’s passionate speeches as one of the crucial ingredients, but he also includes in his list the man in the street’s realisation that the Army had been saved thanks to a remarkable victory masterminded by the Navy.

Arguably the knowledge that ordinary citizens in their little ships had participated played its part, as did the fact that most British families had a friend or relation in the Army whose life had been in jeopardy. Whatever the true causes, McKay describes the spontaneous exhibition of public spiritedness, as more or less the whole country turned out to treat men who had left the French beaches in the depths of despair as though they were conquering heroes.

McKay’s novel way of analysing the crisis makes for interesting reading. However, such an approach has its dangers. When writing my own book on Dunkirk, I quickly realised that octogenarian survivors often had unreliable memories and did not necessarily have interesting stories to tell. Readers thirsting for vivid accounts of events on the beaches may be disappointed by the rather undramatic testimony of most of McKay’s survivors.

Neither does he always contextualise what they tell him. No one would begrudge his quotation of accounts containing incorrect statements about the Dunkirk weather if they were juxtaposed with more reliable data. McKay’s failure here might lead some to wonder whether he has been misled by the very myth he sets out to explore.

However, such minor quibbles do nothing to diminish the value of his central thesis. This is a worthy addition to the Dunkirk literature. Indeed, McKay’s approach may well play an influential role in how more conventional history books are written in future.

The 75th anniversary edition of Hugh Sebag-Montefiore’s Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man is published next year by Penguin

352pp, Aurum, Telegraph offer price: £15 (PLUS £1.95 p&p) (RRP £20, ebook £10.44). Call 0844 871 1515 or see

World War Two