Skip to content

What happened after Dunkirk?

June 14, 2022

When I tell people my new book on the post-Dunkirk evacuations from France in June 1940 is now out they often look slightly bemused, as if to say: What evacuations?

When Dunkirk fell on 4 June, tens of thousands of troops and British civilians were still in France. By the end of June, a further 250,000 people had been brought back to the United Kingdom.

This is a story of incredible resourcefulness, simple courage and remarkable heroism – spiced up with controversies and cover-ups – that has never been fully told and that is what Operation Aerial: Churchill’s Second Miracle of Deliverance is all about.

I don’t blame anyone for knowing little about it.

My late father, a driver with the British Expeditionary Force, went to France in the autumn of 1939 and returned to England through Dunkirk a little more than six months later. Like many Brits, that gave me a fascination with Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo. It also led me to fall into that trap of thinking it marked the end of large-scale British involvement in France until the D-Day landings four years later.

It is a misconception widely held and reinforced every time an episode of Dad’s Army is shown, with its opening graphic that ignores the huge numbers of troops still in France when that little Union Jack arrow defiantly retreats across the English Channel. There should still be another Union Jack firmly planted in France, south of those lines showing the German advance.

This book is about that Union Jack and how the people – troops and civilians – it should have represented, escaped from France.

It is about the thousands of ordinary soldiers and civilians who struggled through the chaos, confusion and disintegration of France to get back home so they could continue the battle against Hitler. It is about the nurses on board hospital ships, the demolition teams that stayed and those who never made it, such as the thousands who died when the Lancastria was sunk at St Nazaire, or those who surrendered with the Highland Division at St Valery. It records the role of the Polish and Czech troops still fighting in France in June 1940 and the spiriting out of the world’s supply of heavy water from under the noses of the Nazis by an eccentric British aristocrat.

It is a complicated story but a very human story and it is the voices of the people involved that bring it alive.

It is my attempt to fill a gap in the history of the Second World War. I hope people will find it as rewarding to read as I did to research and write.

Operation Aerial: Churchill’s Second Miracle of Deliverance, published by Sabrestorm.

Hardback, 270pp

ISBN 978 1781220221

RRP: £20.00

• I am available for talks – in person on online – on any aspect of the story of Operation Aerial. Please get in touch if you are interested.

From → History

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: