History, Politics & Society

From a Hard Place to a Rock

First-Hand Accounts of Soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force on the Run in World War Two

by Timandra Slade
Released: 28th June, 2022
From a Hard Place to a Rock is a compelling tale of wartime escape from Occupied France in 1940. Part memoir, part social and military history, it has been meticulously reconstructed from original journals, photographs, sketches and letters which were discovered by the author in a briefcase hidden for decades

Full synopsis

Cousins, Captain Chris Waters of the Royal Engineers and Captain Jimmy Johnson of the Royal Welch Fusiliers were with the British Expeditionary Force in the defence of Dunkirk. In late May 1940, Jimmy (son-in-law of Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Keyes) was shot and captured near the Belgium border. Chris was captured after his regiment, which was attached to the 51st Highland Division, was forced to surrender at St-Valéry.
Both men managed to escape their German captors and, accompanied by fellow officers, began separately to work their way through France into Spain. Having crossed the Pyrenees they were both re-captured but by an extraordinary coincidence met up in Barcelona.
Chris and Jimmy recorded their escape in journals with Jimmy also writing many letters home from internment in France. Eventually the escapees, now in a large group, were released and arrived in Gibraltar. It was not the safe haven they had hoped for. One last cruel twist of fate would deny some of them a return home.

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