B.E.F. Ships Before, At And After Dunkirk: British Expeditionary Force

Another Dunkirk shipping book? Yes, and much more beside. With the depth of research its contents incorporate and the extensive information it reveals, this book could well become the first point of reference on the whole British Expeditionary Force shipping story from September 1939 to June 1940. It starts with the massive task of moving the British Army to France and names the 300 ships involved in transporting troops, stores and over 120,000 military vehicles. Using 16 different routes, ships kept the army fed, equipped, fuelled and reinforced for ten months, then came to its rescue in its time of need. The story moves on to cover the remarkable destroyer actions at Boulogne; naval operations at Calais and then narrates the shipping story of the Dunkirk evacuation, in which over 300,000 men of the B.E.F. and allies were rescued from the grasp of the enemy – more than a quarter by Royal Navy destroyers. Like others, it names the ships involved, large and small: this book, however, lists every known troop-carrying sailing of each Dunkirk vessel, giving the time and port of arrival and the number of soldiers aboard — information obtained from sources seemingly untapped even by immediate post-war historians. But the British army’s departure from France did not end with Dunkirk and this book goes on to include details of the subsequent evacuations – from St Valery westwards to Brest and from northern Bay of Biscay ports southwards to the Spanish border. Surprisingly little has previously been published about the armada of vessels, from Jersey yachts to passenger liners of Cunard and P&O, all of which played their part in rescuing a further 200,000 from France and the Channel Islands, over distances massively greater than from Dunkirk. Consequently, despite their undoubted success being marred by the set-back of St Valery and by one of the worst shipping disasters of all time, these evacuations must surely be ranked as no less remarkable than those from Dunkirk. This 160 page book has 124 illustrations.

Authors: John de S. Winser
ISBN: 0-905617-91-6
Publication Date: December 1999
Member’s price: £4+p&p (£3.20 UK, £9.50 EU & Rest of the World)
Non-member’s price: £6+p&p (£3.20 UK, £9.50 EU & Rest of the World)

Back to Index