Dunkirk and France 1940 Campaign Books

Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. Craig51

    Craig51 Member


    The last time I was stuck at home for months it was because I was researching for my documentary Dunkirk: The Forgotten Heroes. I figured since we're all stuck at home it might be helpful for me to put together a reading list of some of the published work that is useful if you are researching into this period. You can still see the documentary here (https://www.channel4.com/programmes/dunkirk-the-forgotten-heroes)

    I’ve always had an interest in the area as my Grandfather Bill Smith (8th A&SH Despatch Rider, captured at St Valery and ended up in Stalag IXC Bleicherode salt mine) and my Great Uncle Eoghan –Hugh- McAlpine (7th A&SH C Coy, received a head wound likely at Franleu and later died of his injuries, buried at St Pol) were both in the 51st. I’ve also posted this on the 51st facebook page here.

    All the best and stay safe!

    B.E.F Ships Before at and after Dunkirk
    John de S.Winser
    (Helpful reference book on the ships involved in the evacuation)

    Dunkirk Fight To The Last Man
    Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
    (only really has a very small section on the 51st but an interesting read about the wider picture of events)

    Panzer Commander
    Hans Von Luck
    (Again a small section on the 51st but fascinating to hear about the attack from the other side, he claims the east side of the town survived because they wanted the booze from the monks! Although James Holland did warn me that Hans Von Luck tales are to be taken with a pinch of salt!)

    Churchill’s Sacrifice Of The Highland Division
    Saul David
    (Great book, I believe Saul David’s first published work, one of the most detailed even if the title is somewhat controversial and something that invites heated debate! When the Dunkirk film was released it was relaunched as 'After Dunkirk')

    Under the Shadow of the Swastika
    Donald John MacDonald – Translation by Bill Innes
    (First hand account from one of the lads that ended up in Stalag IXC)

    St Valery The Impossible Odds
    Bill Innes
    (A fascinating book by Bill, it’s not in the picture as I’ve loaned it out to someone and it’s yet to return! Royalties from the book go to help the Erskine Care homes for veterans, Black Watch veteran Harry Bayne who featured in the documentary was in one of these in Glasgow.)

    Un Ecossais Dans Le Maquis
    – David Phillip -presented by Maggy Savoye
    (One for the French readers gifted to me by Raphael Distante, Maggy is a legend in her hometown of St Valery and along with Raphael has done a lot to keep the story alive)

    Blitzed – Drugs in Nazi Germany
    Norman Ohler
    (Not specifically related to the Highland Division but interesting to learn that going through the Ardennes without sleep is helped somewhat by being off your face on Pervitin aka crystal meth!)

    St Valery And It’s Aftermath – The Gordon Highlanders Captured in France 1940
    Stewart Mitchell
    (A great book by Stewart with extensive research, also has gone to great lengths in the back of the book to account for all the Gordon’s. He’s a volunteer researcher at the Gordon’s Museum)

    The Maginot Line History and Guide
    J.E Kaufman, H.W Kaufmann, A. Jankovic-Potocnik, P. Lang.
    (The Maginot Line fortifications are fascinating, and this was the most detailed book I could find on all the fortifications and it comes with details on all the gun emplacements etc)

    The Blitzkrieg Legend – The 1940 Campaign In The West
    Karl-Heinz Frieser
    (Probably one of the most fascinating reads in my collection, I met Karl a couple of years ago and it’s an incredible bit of work that helps to gain such a great understanding of the tactics used. In fact it’s such a useful guide to tank warfare that the US Military had it translated and published)

    Erwin Rommel Photographer Volume 1
    Erwin Rommel, Zita Steele
    (Rommel was a big photography enthusiast so his photographic collection is huge, there’s a fair bit online but this edition has some fascination pictures from 1940 with captions and information, including St Valery)

    ‘No Cheese After Dinner’ With the 51stHighland Division from Normandy to Poland and back via Hell 1940-1945
    Fred Kennington
    (This book has stories from the 7th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, including Jimmy Charters who featured in the Documentary and is still with us I believe at 101!)

    Dunkirk – The Men They Left Behind
    Sean Longden
    (A quality book by Sean that includes many interviews with the veterans, it’s great for really getting into the post St Valery story, the marches PoW camps etc, and Jimmy Charters is in there too!)

    Hitlers’s British Slaves – Allied POW’s in Germany 1939-45
    Sean Longden
    (Another from Sean that while not specific to 51st it gives a greater understanding of what was happening in some of the PoW camps)

    War Diaries 1939-1945
    Field Marshall Alan Brooke
    – Edited by Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman
    (A very interesting day by day diary account by Brooke, he was shockingly sent back to France to form a second BEF, which included the 52nd Division. He managed to convince Churchill the Brits needed to get out ASAP, and saved the division and a couple of hundred thousand men!)

    German Infantrymen vs British Infantrymen
    David Greentree
    (I think this is designed as a school reference book has some useful stats, accounts and information on the equipment)

    Escape from Saint-Valery-En-Caux – The adventures of Captain B.C Bradford
    Andrew Bradford
    (Written by his son this is the account of a Black Watch Captain who after the fall of St Valery managed to escape 8 times! It also is very telling of just how hard it was to actually escape with all sorts of political issues to overcome)

    Panzer IV vs Char B1 BIS
    Steven J Zaloga
    (The tank battles of this period are fascinating and there often seems to be a misconception that the Germans had better tanks in 1940. It’s very much not the case and tactics had a whole lot more to do with it, the French Char B1 was a real monster, it includes the account of a Char taking 140 hits while taking out 13 German tanks!)

    A Hand Uplifted, A fragment of Autobiography
    Richard Seddon
    (Seddon was sent to France in 1940 as an official war artist, He ended up with the 51st and managed to escape near Veuletts on HMS Boadicea, subsequently the ship was knocked out by German bombing but managed to be towed back to Portsmouth by HMS Ambuscade, includes some of his wartime drawings.)

    The St Valery Story
    Ernest Reoch
    (Reoch served in Gerneral Fortune’s HQ and so his account of what went on is one of the best and also contradicts a few things I have read elsewhere so it’s a unique account and a rare one to get hold of)

    The Highland Division
    Eric Linklater
    (The go-to book that a lot of historians have quoted and based work on, it does however need to be considered that it was written in 1942 so it does have some assumptions and things I believe to be incorrect. This was my Grandfather Bill Smith’s copy, he was 8th Argylls Despatch Rider, while many of his mates got away with Ark Force he I believe volunteered to stay behind to try and get more of the men and was eventually captured)

    Soldier On
    Colonel Sir Mike Ansell
    (Ansell commanded the 1stLothians and was in a friendly fire incident near St Valery after going into a barn and being mistaken for a group of Germans, the bits on 1940 are fairly concise but interesting nonetheless)

    Their Finest Hour – The Second World War Volume 2
    Winston Churchill
    (not a great deal of detail on the 51st, but it is dealt with in the Chapter on the fall of France, it should be noted that from other sources it seems that this is very much Churchill’s version of events perhaps rather than actuality…)

    The Road To Dunkirk – The British Expeditionary Force and the Battle of the Ypres-Comines Canal 1940
    Charles More
    (Many seem to think that the 51st were the rear-guard for Dunkirk, when in reality it was the 5th that were doing this as the real 51st Battle began after Dunkirk evacuation was finished, this book tells the story of the 5th)

    Monty’s Highlanders
    Patrick Delaforce
    (A very small section on 1940 with some information but really this is of course that covers more of the 51stactivities post 1940)

    Saint-Valery-En Caux – 1940, la seconde guerre mondiale: la 51st Highland Division, de Gaulle et Rommel
    Raphael Distante
    (Raphael is known by pretty much anyone that has been to St Valery and was an invaluable help when I was making the documentary, this book has plenty of information and images to tell the story)

    The Rommel Papers
    Edited by B.H Liddell Hart with assistance of Lucie-Maria Rommel, Manfred Rommel and General Fritz Bayerlein
    (Rommel’s diary and letters, which were saved by his family and hidden from the Germans to prevent their destruction. Includes his letters and some images from 1940 and also there is an interesting chapter written by his son Manfred about Rommel’s last days)

    The Sky was Always Blue
    Admiral Sir W.M James
    (James was in charge of operation Ariel, the plan to evacuate the BEF plus allies from France – He assembled a flotilla to evacuate the 51st and when he received no message to evacuate them he went to Havre in a motor torpedo boat with his son to find out the situation…)

    The Portsmouth Letters
    Admiral Sir W.M James
    (A collection of letter written by James to ‘an old Naval friend’ there’s not a great deal on the 51st in there but he has some interesting opinions on who was to blame)

    Churchill By his Contemporaries
    Edited by Charles Eade
    (Several prominent figures including WM James giving their opinion on Churchill)

    Destination Dunkirk
    Gregory Blaxland
    (Gives the wider story of the lead up to Dunkirk and also has a useful chapter on the 51st)

    Eye of The Wind
    Peter Scott
    (Scott managed to get into St Valery in the early hours on the 11th June and evacuate some of the wounded, this book has an account of this, although it only makes up one chapter of 35 Chapter book)

    The Black Watch and The King’s Enemies
    Bernard Fergusson
    (Fergusson, an Officer in the Black Watch was asked by Field-Marshall Earl Wavell, Colonel of The Black Watch to write a history of the division. One chapter deals with 1940 but the rest of the book has more interesting information on the 51st and the BW during the war)

    The Great Wall of France – The Triumph of The Maginot Line
    Vivian Rowe
    (This one gives an interesting breakdown of how the fortifications were designed and built but also goes into the politics of what was happening in 1940 and the battles that took place)

    Nor Iron Bars A Cage – The adventures of 3 British prisoners of war 1940-1942
    W.H Anson
    (Much like Escape From St Valery this is an interesting account of escapes and captivity in wartime Europe)

    Sojourn in Silesia 1940-1945
    Arthur Evans
    (Gifted to me by veteran Don Smith, who turns 100 this year… this is possibly the best account of life in Lamsdorf AKA Stalag VIIB and has it’s own website Lamsdorf reunited)

    The Long Way Round
    William Moore
    (This follows the exploits of Richard Broad of the Seaforth Highlanders, who famously escaped from St Valery and got back through Spain)

    Personal Diary of Major JM Grant, 2nd Bn Seaforth Highlanders. -
    (Extracts of this are available on the 51st Highland Online Museum, I went to visit the Seaforth Highlanders archive and have a full scan of the document, which went to Charles Grant at the 51st website too where he helpfully transcribed and uploaded some of the sections)
    Browno, vac, chester and 5 others like this.
  2. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Out now.
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Just found a review (behind a pay wall, so cited in part) of 'Building the Gort Line' by David Thurlow, which has been mentioned here a few times awaiting publication:
    Orwell1984 likes this.
  5. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

  6. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    The air power book sounds interesting but the £85 price tag has put me right off!
    Orwell1984 likes this.
  7. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Agreed. Recently the publisher has been releasing soft cover versions quite soon after the hardcover release. Still not cheap but cheaper.

    One can only hope!
    Markyboy likes this.
  8. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Ideally they’ll put an extra ‘0’ on the print run amount by mistake and be forced to go to N&MP with the surplus!
    Wobbler likes this.
  9. Browno

    Browno Fake news challenger

    A fantasist when it comes to the events of June in Fecamp. His story about the warships in the harbour is completely made up. And surely no-one can believe their chivalric treatment of the Benadictine distillery. This was the division which had recently shot African troops out of hand. I doubt they would care what a few French monks thought about them.

    If you haven't read "Case Red" by Robert Forczyk you should. He devotes some of his of chapters to the loss of IX Corps and covers it as part of the wider 10th Army defence which gives some useful context. He used British, French and German archives (the German ones being ones taken in 1945 and now held in US archives).

    Kind regards

    TTH likes this.
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    He's the historian at the RAF Museum. I asked him a air power related question on the campaign and turned out I had more info than him on the subject so not sure how good the book will be. I'd invest your money in ATB's Battle of France for a good book on the campaign.
  11. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    Cheers Drew, yes the ATB title is my bible undoubtedly. Picked it up on release and got it signed by some veterans so it's one of my more treasured books! I also found the Greg Baughen book on the air campaign fascinating (I mentioned it on another thread a while back). Twelve Days in May by Brian Cull is next on my reading list, having finally acquired a copy last week. Plenty to keep me going without an £85 hit for now!
    Drew5233 likes this.
  12. ypres5

    ypres5 Junior Member

    I need to update my 1940 campaign on books. I do like the Battleground Europe books, where is the best place and cheapest to buy the ATB book. Regards Mick
  13. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  14. ypres5

    ypres5 Junior Member

    Owen, thanks for that. I will have a look.
  15. ypres5

    ypres5 Junior Member

    I have just purchased one.Thanks again for your help.
  16. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

  17. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Mentioned up thread but just released:

    Pages : 578 | Images : 82 b/w photos, 14 colour maps, 7 diagrams, 79 tables

    Book blurb from Helion:
    Rich Payne and Browno like this.
  18. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    I'm about to order....I do wish though that they hadn't put that photo of 'Mickey Mouse' painted Foden DG6/12s on a book about BEF transport !
  19. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    Jesus, there are loads of good IWM photos of actual serving BEF trucks,and they use something post 1944.
    They should have talked to Keith. A Bedford OY and/or impressed civvy truck would have been much better.
    Hope the book reads better than the press release-
    'the long standing lacuna in the historiography of the BEF logistics'
    had me reaching for the dictionary !

    An interesting topic though so lets hope the book is a good 'un.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2021
    Nido and morrisc8 like this.
  20. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    [ I'm about to order....I do wish though that they hadn't put that photo of 'Mickey Mouse' painted Foden DG6/12s on a book about BEF transport ! ]
    A few Bedford trucks left behind.
    Photo from my collection.
    bedfords bef.jpg upload_2021-6-6_8-7-24.jpeg
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2021
    Nido and Waddell like this.

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