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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Operation Gold is go - The Dunkirk Spirit

Operation Gold has begun as Britain's longest running war comic series celebrates it's fiftieth birthday. And the title published by D C Thompson has been generating quite a few press inches - even cropping up recently on the BBC news.

In their heyday British war comics like Battle, Warlord and Victor sold by the lorryload but today D C Thomson's Commando series is all that remains. There are four new issues on sale now - two of them are all new material while two are reprints of classic issues from the comics golden past.

The Desperate Days numbered issue 4357 was originally published way back in 1961 as issue number 12 and The Secret War issue 4358 was originally issue 1344 from 1979. The two new issues are Operation Hammer and First to Fight. And as well as looking back 2011 will see the Commando books being launched digitally for a monthly subscription of £4.99 a month - this is a pretty good offer when you take it that each of the eight issues published each month retail for £1.45.

Over this year Commando will reissue the first twelve issues, though why they started with issue 12 is beyond me. It would have been much better and make more sense to reissue issue 1 and 2 alongside the two new titles and then work upwards, but ah well, ours is not to reason why and so forth.

I will review all of the classic titles reissued this coming year on the Archive and so I kick off with issue 12 or 4357 as it is now numbered.

The Desperate Days is a story set during the Dunkirk evacuation and current series editor Calum Laird tells us that when this story was originally published the second world war was still a recent memory and the writers were placed to write about these real life events for the first time in comic book form.

Written by Elliot with art by Gordon Livingstone and a cover painting by Ken Barr the story sees the British Expeditionary Force exposed to the full fury of the Nazi Blitzkrieg after the collapse of the Belgian Army. However by fighting for every inch of ground the British managed to keep an escape route open through the French fishing town of Dunkirk.

"The Battle of Dunkirk was a part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and allied forces in Europe from 24 May-4 June 1940.
After the Phoney War, the Battle of France began in earnest on 10 May 1940. To the east, the German Army Group B invaded and subdued the Netherlands and advanced westwards through Belgium. In response, the Supreme Allied Commander French General Maurice Gamelin initiated "Plan D" which relied heavily on the Maginot Line fortifications. Gamelin committed the forces under his command, three mechanised armies, the French First and Seventh and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to the River Dyle. On 14 May, German Army Group A burst through the Ardennes and advanced rapidly to the west toward Sedan, then turned northwards to the English Channel, in what Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein called the "sickle cut" (known as "Plan Yellow" or the Manstein Plan), effectively flanking the Allied forces.
A series of Allied counter-attacks, including the Battle of Arras, failed to sever the German spearhead, which reached the coast on 20 May, separating the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) near Armentières, the French First Army, and the Belgian Army further to the north from the majority of French troops south of the German penetration. After reaching the Channel, the Germans swung north along the coast, threatening to capture the ports and trap the British and French forces before they could evacuate to Britain.
In one of the most widely-debated decisions of the war, Army Group A's Gerd von Rundstedt agreed with G√ľnther von Kluge's, commander of the German 4th Army, suggestion that the German forces around the Dunkirk pocket should cease their advance on the port and consolidate, to avoid an Allied break out. Adolf Hitler sanctioned the order on 24 May. The army were to halt for three days, giving the Allies time to organise an evacuation and build a defensive line. Despite the Allies' gloomy estimates of the situation, with Britain discussing a conditional surrender to Germany, in the end over 330,000 Allied troops were rescued."

The story here concentrates on a motley bunch of soldiers led by the tough as nails Sergeant Victor Gall and as they make their breathtaking journey there is much conflict with Corporal Joseph Conroy who feels that the sarge is too harsh, particularly on the shell shocked Private Alf Moran.

The usual comic book gung ho action follows as Conroy learns much about himself and realises that Gall's abrasive style is necessary if they are to reach the beaches and escape from the unstoppable German army.

The Commando books are always a joy to read and this issue shows how little the style has changed over the years. Not for nothing is the series still going strong after half a century.

The Desperate Days is on sale now priced £1.45

1 comment:

Gerald said...

War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.