In early June 1940, Britain simultaneously suffered a catastrophic military defeat and a miraculous salvation. The German Army had driven the British Expeditionary Force and the French Army back to the Channel ports but, against all the odds, over 300,000 troops had been rescued by a hastily improvised armada, including scores of 'little ships', in an operation code-named DYNAMO. The whole crushing campaign had taken just twenty-five days.
Even at this bleakest of moments something began to crystallize in the British mindset and John Masefield, as Poet Laureate, saw it as his duty to record the saga for the nation in a work entitled The Twenty-Five Days. Despite this being completed, apparently cleared by government censors, set and produced in book proof form by October 1940, it was never published. In 1972 an edition appeared based on a 1940 proof but it transpired that another version, dating from 1941, was also in existence. This latter was the one that Masefield had always intended for publication.
But there were questions still to be answered. The publisher's note to the 1972 edition hinted that production of the original had been stopped and publication 'banned.' But who exactly banned it and why?
Historian Jon Cooksey set out to solve the mystery. As his Introduction reveals he discovered a story of official paranoia, based on false assumptions and fears for national morale and security, emanating from Churchill downwards which thwarted publication - until now. Here, for the first time, is the suppressed manuscript as Masefield intended it and, despite the passage of time, the message of service, sacrifice and salvation is as strong as ever.