In May 2021, IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim, bringing the total number of novels in the series to ten. Each has been brought back into print to enable a new generation of readers to hear stories of those who experienced conflict first hand.
First published in 1942, Sword of Bone is a lightly fictionalised memoir based on Anthony Rhodes’ own experiences during the Second World War – firstly during the so-called ‘Phoney War’ from 1939 – 40, followed by the terror of the evacuation of Dunkirk. Shortly after war was declared, he was sent to France serving with the British Army where his days were filled with billeting, friendships and administration – the minutiae of Army life. Apart from a visit to the Maginot Line, the conflict seems a distant prospect. It is only in the Spring of 1940 that the true situation becomes clear – the Belgian, British armies and some French divisions are ‘now crowded into a small pocket in the North of France’. The men are ordered to retreat to the coast and the beaches of Dunkirk where they face a desperate and frightening wait for evacuation.
The ‘miracle’ of Dunkirk was a brilliantly improvised naval operation that extracted more than 338,000 men from the Dunkirk beaches and brought them safely back to England. Some 850 vessels, including channel steamers and fishing boats, took part in this, Operation ‘Dynamo’. The final pages of the novel outline Rhodes’ experiences of the chaos of the evacuation where the scenes are depicted in vivid and terrifying detail.
IWM Senior Curator, Alan Jeffreys, has written an introduction to each book that provides context and the wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.
Sword of Bone is the story of the uneasy calm before the storm of WW2 and Dunkirk. The soldiers in France are living the high life at first believing this war would be like WW1, a battle fought in the trenches.
However, things changed rapidly and they were trapped near the sea, with nowhere to go. The largest rescue mission is then put underway with just about anything that floated being sent to pick these despairing men up.
This is a slow burn of a read with all events building up to the historic rescue at Dunkirk. There is some dark humour and will appeal to anyone with a love of war fiction.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of Sword of Bone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony Rhodes (1916 – 2004) served with the British Army in France during the so-called ‘Phoney War’ and was evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940. In the latter part of the war he was sent to Canada as a camouflage officer and was invalided out of the Army in 1947 having served for 12 years. After the conflict he enjoyed a long academic and literary career and wrote on various subjects, including the 1956 Hungarian Revolution for the Daily Telegraph and well-regarded histories of the Vatican.