The Canal Line, France & Flanders Campaign 1940...
...a Battleground Dunkirk title, from Pen and Sword
Title: The Canal Line
Author: Jerry Murland
Publisher: Pen and Sword
A new addition to Pen and Swords fine series of Battleground guides, this time within their Dunkirk sub-series. I always enjoy these books, as they offer an excellent battlefield guide in a handy format to keep with you in a car or backpack. I also like that it confines itself to one particular part of the story of the BEF in 1940, allowing for some specific detail to study. In this case it is the Canal Line, which stretched from Gravelines, between Dunkirk and Calais, going south towards St Omer and on to Bethune , and a little east towards Hazebrouk and Armentieres.
The first half of the book provides the context and the history of how various elements of assorted units were assembled into ad hoc groups and tasked with trying to stop the German advance. This led to equally unusual names for these units, such as Usherforce and Polforce. We are provided with detailed accounts of what these small units did, where and with accounts from some of those who took part. They include a massacre of 99 British troops who were marched into a field at the farm of Louis Creton. All these are accompanied by a mix of archive photos along with some modern day comparisons
This is followed by the second half of the book, which details 4 Car Tours along with 3 Walks. All of these are well detailed with start and finish points, and relate what you can see to the history featured in the first half of the book. Each tells you what you will find, including the various Cemeteries you will find along the route and whose graves you can see. The first Car Tour also includes stopping at the huge V-2 bunker at Eperleques as an 'optional extra' while you are there, though it is a part of a later story from 1943/4. Within the Walks, one includes a 'Bader Walk', which lets you follow his route after he was shot down and tried to evade capture, although taken prisoner in the end.
Another fine addition to the series, and one which takes you to an area so easy to visit if you want to pop over through the Channel Tunnel, and an area so full of interesting places to visit for the Battlefield visitor. It's certainly one I will take with me next time we take a trip over to France.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.