Their Greatest Hour
Imprint: Helion and Company
224 Pages, 6.1 x 9.2 in, 21 b/w photos, 22 maps
- December 2023
The phrase ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ has been used to define the British character. Cartoons of the day re-defined the abbreviation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to mean Bravery, Endurance, and Fortitude! This has been the prevailing national narrative of May 1940. A story of small boats that came to the rescue of a stranded Army on the beaches of Dunkirk: brave soldiers who would have died, or been captured had it not been for the flotilla that came to their rescue. This is supported by strong images of stoic British soldiers waiting patiently on the beaches for deliverance.
Historians have subsequently identified other factors which contributed to the success of Operation DYNAMO. These include the mild weather and calm sea, as well as the use of the East Mole for the large ships. The smoke which hung in the air as a result of the German shelling and bombardments helped mask the BEF’s activities, and Hitler’s earlier somewhat unexpected Halt Befehl gave the BEF time to consolidate its bridgehead at Dunkirk. However, if Gort’s statement as quoted by Shand is true, that ‘without the Twelfth Lancers only a small part of the Army would have reached Dunkirk,’ then it would appear there is another element of the story which is still to be told. It was to account for the five Battle Honors the Regiment would win in just 21 days.