Silence Over Dunkerque, by John R. Tunis
Four out of five stars
Tunis is often considered the inventor of the modern sports story, most of which are juvenile fiction. The subject matter of this book is quite different, it is a short novel about Sergeant George Williams of the British Expeditionary Force in World War II. Stationed in France when the massive German invasion takes place, Williams fires a few shots, killing two German staff officers and capturing detailed German battle plans.
While that act may provide some assistance to the Allied Forces, the battle is of course a rout and the Allied forces rapidly retreat to the Atlantic coast, specifically the port of Dunkerque. Military discipline largely breaks down as the men are loaded on a massive flotilla of ships from Britain. Everything from yachts to fishing boats to ships of the Royal Navy crossed the channel and rescued over 300,000 men, leaving nearly all of their equipment behind.
Sergeant Williams and his buddy are on a British destroyer that is blown out of the water and they end up back in occupied France. The Germans have already established their policy of shooting any French citizens that harbor Allied military men, so it takes a brave person to hide and help them. Their benefactor is a French schoolgirl names Gisele, she hides them, feeds them, and arranges for their passage back to Britain where Sergeant Williams is reunited with his family and will soon be back in the war.
This adventure is based on actual events, although not necessarily precisely. Many members of the Allied military were hidden and protected by the French and many French died when the Germans learned of their aid. It is a story that is well told in the distinctive Tunis style. The most interesting aspect of the story is that the hero is the French girl that stands up to her abusive mother, the two men are depicted as soldiers loyal to the British Empire but are not depicted as staunch heroes.