Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind
Sean Longden

Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind

Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind is a new and controversial study of one of the most enduring tales in modern British history – the evacuation of the British army from Dunkirk in 1940. However, whilst previous books have focussed on the miraculous escape of over 300,000 men across the English channel, this book switches the attention to the 40,000 British soldiers who did not escape.

For these men the story of the Dunkirk evacuation was not about ‘victory’ but about defeat. The book follows the fortunes of these men through their training, the phoney war and their experiences in the battles leading up to the evacuation from France. It then focuses on the fate of three groups of men left behind.

The first group are the evaders who make their way through the French countryside, attempting to steal boats to row across the channel or to reach home via neutral countries. The second are the wounded men. The book follows their experiences of the varying standards of treatment given by the Germans. It also reveals the fate of the doctors and medics who remained behind to look after them. The third, and most numerous group, are the prisoners of war.

For the first time ever the complete details of the horrors of the march by POWs into Germany is revealed. The book reveals the beatings, starvation and murder endured by the marching prisoners. After their arrival in the POW camps of Germany, the book follows their experiences through five years of imprisonment. It also details the repatriation of wounded ‘Dunkirk’ POWs who were returned to the UK in 1943. The book creates a vivid picture of how the myth of the ‘victory’ at Dunkirk means so little to those soldiers who did not escape – men who continue to feel embittered that their sacrifices went unnoticed and unrewarded.

Book Details:

  • Author: Sean Longden
  • Published Year: 2007
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Constable

Sean Longden

Born in Bedford in 1965, Sean Longden first became interested in history as a child listening to his grandfather’s tales of Gallipoli. He went on to study history at the School of Slavonic and East European studies, University of London. After graduation he worked in a number of photographic archives and press agencies. During this period he worked as a picture editor, indexer and caption writer.It was working with archives of World War Two photographs that sparked his interest in the period and inspired him to write books that look beyond basic military history and into the lives of ...
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Book Reviews

  • "...a long overdue account of the 40,000 soldiers unable to join the rescue armada who were taken prisoner...Longden’s beautiful research – which centres also on those who reached home to fight again – is a tribute to the “forgotten men” of Dunkirk."
    Oxford Times
  • "Longden uncovers some remarkable and poignant individual stories in what is a moving and fascinating antidote to the Dunkirk legend. First class history."
    Military History
  • "The story of those unsung heroes, the 40,000 British soldiers the Dunkirk armada left behind. They fought and died like lionhearts, many being taken into captivity - so that the British war effort might live on. We owe them all a debt of freedom, and this book is a fitting tribute to their sacrifice. At times shockingly frank - this was no gentleman's war - this is a story that needed to be told. Sean Longden tells is admirably well."
    Damien Lewis, author of Cobra Gold
  • "Sean Longden's fascinating history fills a gap that ought to have been plugged long ago and reminds us that the Dunkirk miracle didn't work for everyone."
    James Delingpole, author of Coward on the Beach
  • "A meticulously-researched, very well written and deeply moving account of the experiences of the forty thousand British soldiers who fell into German hands during the Dunkirk campaign, men who spent the next five years being pushed to the very limits of human endurance, and sometimes beyond."
    Andrew Roberts
  • "Sean Longden is a rising name in military history, and is able to uncover the missing stories of the Second World War."
    Guardian Unlimited.
  • "...as interesting as Saving Private Ryan."
    Irish Independent
  • "...essential reading."
    Family History Monthly
  • "...few readers will be unmoved by Sean Longden’s account."
    Evening Standard.
  • "A moving and fascinating antidote to the Dunkirk legend."
    Time Out
  • "His book cannot fail to elicit sympathy for their suffering and admiration for their sacrifice."
    The Scotsman
  • "...gritty emotional and shocking … It has changed my understanding of life for British POWs in the Second World War."
    The Soldier