While praising the film Dunkirk’s depiction of the heroic British retreat from the French coast during the first year of World War II, Michael Coren argues that it should have included an important but oft-forgotten episode:
The general view is that while Nazism was, of course, inherently evil, it took time for its repugnance to become obviously manifest. It’s assumed that it wasn’t until the [systematic slaughter of the Jews began in the summer of 1941] that the authentic nature of National Socialism was revealed, and that on the battlefield it was the eastern front and the war against the Soviets that exposed the genocidal nature of Adolf Hitler’s creed. Not so. . . .
On May 28, 1940, in Wormhoudt, France, a brigade of the 48th South Midland Infantry Division successfully delayed a German advance until they had run out of ammunition. Many of them [were captured and] moved at gunpoint toward a barn. They were immediately shocked at the casual violence of their captors: unarmed soldiers were beaten and wounded men were simply shot dead. . . .
Around 100 exhausted, hungry and defenseless men were marched into a barn, thinking that perhaps they were there to rest and be fed. . . . The Germans then threw in a number of grenades.
Two sergeants, Stanley Moore and Augustus Jennings, gave their lives by throwing themselves on the grenades so as to save some of their men. At this point, the SS marched the rest of the prisoners out of the barn in fives and shot them. Concerned that the massacre was taking too long and providing the British with time to try to escape, the Germans then simply machine-gunned everybody in the barn. . . .
Do see Dunkirk. . . . But remember why that heroism and sacrifice were necessary and what those men were fighting for. The tragedy is that struggle never completely disappears.