by Charles More
London: Pen & Sword Frontline / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2014. Pp. xx, 252.
Illus., maps, gloss., appends., notes, biblio., index. . $39.95. ISBN: 1848327331
The British 5th Division and the Battle for Belgium
The dramatic German blitz across France and the high drama of the Dunkirk evacuation tend to so dominate accounts of operations in 1940 in northwestern Europe that many important events are lost, such as the first great tank battle of the war at Gembloux or the desperate rear guard action of the French First Army. The desperate fight by the British 5th Division on the Ypres-Comines line to cover the retirement of the BEF from May 26th through the 28th is one of these overlooked actions.
Historian More, author of Britain in the Twentieth Century and other works, opens with a quick, concise overview of the campaign. Then he sets the stage for with a brief account of the situation of the BEF on May 25th, which includes a discussion of Lord Gort’s decision to commit the 5th Division to the defense of the canal line.
More then follows the division as it took up its positions and prepared for action on the 25th and 26th. This is followed by five chapters detailing the events of 27th and 28th, at times almost literally a series of minute-by-minute accounts of desperate actions by small units against great odds. These are followed by the consequences of the action, the division’s retreat to Dunkirk, and the evacuation. More supports his text with appropriate illustrations, several very good maps, and a number of important documents.
Although More’s account is told primarily from the British side, The Road to Dunkirk is an very fine treatment of a little known but important action.