East of the Dyle

Discussion in '1940' started by Paul Hanks, Jun 16, 2019.

  1. Paul Hanks

    Paul Hanks Member

    new to this group, so first Hello and thanks for having me.

    My main interest is the early days of the 1940 campaign in Belgium, particularly the reconnaissance role of 12 Lancers and the divisional cavalry up to the withdrawal from the Dyle line

    I categorise this in the following phases

    Phase 1 12 Lancers to Dyle
    Phase2 Divisional Cavalry to Dyle Lancers to Gette River line
    Phase 4 Divisional Cavalry over the Dyle and contact with Germans
    Phase 5 withdrawal and back across the Dyle
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Welcome to the forum

  3. cesjak

    cesjak Junior Member

    I have this regarding the 12th Lancers covering 10th to 20th May when they were placed under Frankforce for the Amien offensive.

    10th May the 12th Lancers lead the advance into Belgium at the agreed time of 1300 hrs. After the first squadron set off the others followed in 10 to 15 minutes gaps. They arrived at Louvain some five hours later covering 80 miles. On arrival Louvain was subjected to an air raid and the squadrons deployed along the east bank from Louvain to Wavre securing the bridges over the Dyle.

    11th May the 12th Lancers were relieved by divisional cavalry units allowing the Lancers to push further forward to the line of the Diest to Tirlemont road to link up with the French Cavalry Corps in the Tirlemont area and to recce the Belgian front on the River Ghette. One squadron moved north and linked up with Belgian troops in position on the Albert Canal south of Gheel. A recce of the River Ghette revealed a gap of some four miles on the left flank of 3rd DLM and the cavalry of the Belgian 1st Cavalry Division. The French and the Belgians had no troops spare to fill this gap so A Squadron, 12th Lancers deployed along the gap to observe the area of St. Trond which was abandoned earlier that day by the Belgians.

    12th May Recce's by the 12th Lancers forward of the River Ghette observed enemy armour advancing from St. Trond and the regiment had its first exchange of fire with the enemy at Dormael on the road to Tirlemont during the morning.

    13th May The 12th Lancers sent from the Tirlemont area to try and establish the enemies intentions. They reported that most of the German armour was moving south west across Belgium and the French 3rd DLM were engaged in heavy fighting in the area of Dormael. The 12th Lancers made its first positive identification of a German unit on this day when they encountered and engaged a motorcycle patrol killing two German soldiers. These were ID'd as being part of the 17th Infantry Regiment. More motorcycle patrols were engaged and driven back as the day went on. The squadron covering Haelen to the north had its first engagement when a German cavalry unit swam its horses across the river and was destroyed by machine gun fire from their armoured cars and Belgian machine guns. At the end of this fire fight the 12th Lancers took their first prisoner - A horse. The 12th Lancer patrols west of the River Ghette withdrew over the bridges before the Belgians blew them, the Belgians also told them they were withdrawing from the area that night.

    14th May In the early hours of the morning the 12th Lancers withdrew from Tirlemont area to a line from Diest to Opvelp and made contact with some of the British divisional cavalry units that were covering the Dyle. The 12th Lancers then moved north of Louvain to cover the Belgian portion of the front. As the day wore on the British cavalry units were put under more and more pressure and by the afternoon the 12th Lancers along with 13/18th and 15/19th Hussars were withdrawn over the Dyle. The 12th Lancers moved to Ophen half way between Louvain and Brussels were they rested and carried out maintenance on their vehicles. They had lost three vehicles and CWGC lists one man killed over this period.

    15th May The 12th Lancers were ordered to move into GHQ reserve and protect the advanced HQ at Lennick St. Martin. Members of the Regiment who cut short their leave when hostilities started rejoined the regiment here. The town itself wasn't pleased to see the British arrive and many were obviously very sympathetic towards Germany displaying pictures of Hitler. The Regiment placed itself around the town to defend it against a possible airborne attack but had a very quiet day.

    16th May The 12th Lancers carried on protecting the forward HQ until they were ordered to secure the flank of 48th Division while it withdrew to get in positions on the line Clabecq, Braine L'Alleud to the Foret de Soignes covering the approaches to the east. This line also had continuous De Cointet anti-tank obstacle running south from the forest. During the night contact was made with German patrols and all retreated to the obstacle line along the railway and one armoured car was lost after going over a anti-tank mine. The Germans made a few attempts to aproach the obstacle but were repulsed by fire from the armoured cars and the 5th Glosters who had forced marched some 50 miles that day to get into position. At the end of day the 12th Lancers positions were bombed by some 80 German bombers but suffered no casualties.

    17th May The Germans performed small probing attacks along the front held by the 12th Lancers but none were a real threat to the regiments positions. The regiment observed lots of enemy movements during the morning and it was obvious they were preparing for a large attack. The 12th Lancers were ordered to withdraw before a German attack was launched. They retreated over the River Dendre covering the withdrawal of the 48th Division. After resting for the rest of the day the 12th Lancers were informed they were to continue in the role of divisional cavalry covering another withdrawal to the River Escaut.

    18th May The 12th Lancers moved to Herinnes with all three squadrons deployed to observe the roads leading westwards from Hal and delay any enemy advance until 1200 hrs. During th eearly morning the squadrons started to be approached by German recce units in motorcycles which they dealt with quite easily but by 1200 hrs they were forced to withdraw due to the increasing numbers of German medium tanks and took up positions north and south of Enghein. Due to excellent communications between the troops, squadrons and HQ the 12th Lancers knew what each troop was doing and where the enemy was throughout the day in the regiments area. During the afternoon the regiment was ordered to hold their positions until at least 2000 hrs which was a difficult task with the Germans using medium tanks in their advance guards. The 12th Lancers were however in radio communication with artillery behind the River Dendre and fire missions were conducted where ever the German tanks appeared. This appeared to cause the German advance to slow which allowed for a steady withdrawal until 1900 hrs when the 12th Lancers were ordered to break contact and withdraw to the west of the Dendre. This was achieved without any significant incident and the regiment harboured for the night in Buissenal.

    19th May The regiment was ordered to screen the withdrawal of the 2nd Division that was moving that night. A squadron of 13/18th Hussars, 6th Argyls and a field regiment were placed under command for the operation. The 12th Lancers moved during the night and was in position along the line of the River Dendre between Les Deux Acren and Ath by 0500 hrs. They were tasked with holding this line for some seven hours while the rearguard infantry got clear. Despite small amounts of enemy infantry crossing the river at various places the operation was successful and by mid morning the infantry carrier platoons, machine gun battalion and artillery were released to withdraw to the River Escaut while the 12th Lancers armoured cars along with the units from the two Hussar units conducted a slow withdrawal back from the river. Shortly after midday they were ordered to break contact with the enemy and cross the Escaut which they did at Tournai. After crossing the Escaut the regiment was returned to GHQ control and was stood down at Orchies for the rest of the day.

    20th May The regiment was sent to recce the areas of Arras, Bapaume, Perrone, Ameins and Doullens. The position was unclear regarding the German penetration of the French lines and with numerous and various rumours of what was happening the 12th Lancers were tasked with a job they were trained to do - Go and find the enemy and determine what they intended to do then transmit the information back to GHQ. When the regiment arrived at Arras, A Squadron was deployed to the left to head for Ameins, B Squadron were to head south towards Bapaume and Peronne and C Squadron headed out to the right for Cambrai. None of the squadrons got very far before they encountered numerous enemy tanks to the south and east of Arras. A Squadron made the furthest progress and got to Avesnes before they found the enemy and one of the sqaudrons patrols tracked a German armoured unit heading towards St. Pol. As the evening appraoched the regiment regrouped north of Festubert and spent the night there
  4. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hello Paul, have you also looked at the Hopkinson Mission ? They visited Belgian HQs at St. Truiden and Hasselt before advancing with a Guy Wheeled Tank almost as far as Tongeren with the intention of assessing the situation on the Maas bridges before withdrawing.
  5. Paul Hanks

    Paul Hanks Member

    No I had not got that information thanks
  6. Paul Hanks

    Paul Hanks Member

    That pretty much aligns with my understanding of what was happening,

    The Engineer unit attached to 12 Lancers were non too complimentary about the blown bridges being left uncovered by fire by the Belgian units in the area
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    The Engineers were the 101 Monmouthshire Field Company. The Operation they worked together on was called Operation Blackcock I think, certainly Black something.
    CL1 likes this.
  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Paul, what's you particular interest in the actions here ? I live in this part of Belgium so for me, it's all especially resonant. I rode my ex-BEF Norton along a stretch of the steenweg / chaussée from St Truiden to Tongeren today...There are ghosts in the hedgerows. :)

    The Hopkinson Mission used principally crews from 12th Lancers and motorcyclists from QVR. There is a lot of documentation in the King's College Collection and I've been privileged to view much of it, but they are fanatically strict about copyright etc. Definitely worth researching though if you're interested in everything which occurred to the east of the Dijl.
  9. Paul Hanks

    Paul Hanks Member

    Drew5233 likes this.
  10. Paul Hanks

    Paul Hanks Member

    I am really interested in the whole reconnaissance and screening process, not just mechanised units but cavalry units too from earlier periods of war.

    It is demanding of the men leadership and equipment as well as s challenging doctrine.

    I think the advance to and screening of the Dyle line was a highly professional piece of work by the British Light Mechanised Cavalry which is often glossed over in the historiography of the 1940 campaign.

    It would make a great staff ride for light recon/ scout units now to highlight the challenges they may find on a modern battlefield
    Drew5233 likes this.
  11. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The movements beyond the Dyle are indeed barely mentioned in most accounts. I assume that you're aware of the Pathé film showing 15th /19th Hussars re-crossing the railway bridge at Tienen ? They had obviously been expecting to stay as they were camouflaged with foliage which still marks them out later in Asse. There is a photograph on the net which apparently shows one of 12th Lancers Morris cars knocked out presumably somewhere in the direction of Diest.

    12th Lancers destroyed Dyle Line.jpg
  12. Paul Hanks

    Paul Hanks Member

    I have seen a film, on YouTube it I think mentions Louvain in the title, I would suspect that it is from 14 May early afternoon when they withdraw into Louvain. B and C squadrons Using the railway bridge near Tirlemont Road, A and RHQ the railway bridge near Diest road.

    I had not seen that photo, up near Diest would probably be B squadron operating on the left flank A Squadron lost 3 armoured cars to bombing on the. Southern flank at Tirlemont
  13. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Another damaged abandoned Morris-Commercial armoured car, forward of the Dyle...From what seems to be a quite accurately captioned series which gives the date as 14th May and the location as Molenbeek-Wersbeek which is now part of Bekkevoort, south of Diest.

    May 14 40 a Molenbeek-Wersbeek.jpg
    Waddell, MongoUK and Chris C like this.
  14. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    I appreciate posting this 2 years later may not reach you let alone elicit a response, nevertheless, I shall plod on.

    Given your interest in the role and doctrine of divisional cavalry circa May 1940, I wonder how you factor into your thoughts the reality that this role was in at that time being taken away from the cavalry.

    From one side there was the process of taking the (armoured) Divisional Cavalry away from infantry division command and grouping them together under an Armoured Reconnaissance Brigade HQ: planned prior to the outbreak of hostilities and then effected during the withdrawal.

    Then, after evecuation to the UK, Divisional Cavalry concept was abandoned completely, and Infantry Division reconnaissance became an infantry role then capbadged as RAC!

    I guess, the interesting point worthy of some serious study and analysis is how the Divisional Cavalry was used in Belgium given its role had already been terminated on paper and implemented during the three week toing-and-froing.
  15. MongoUK

    MongoUK Junior Member

    To add to this, albeit late, in Phantom Was There by RJT Hills, he writes, "While other cavalry regiments were still inclined to job at the stench of petrol, and were hardlyequipped at this stage anyway, the Twelth (Lancers) and their sister regiment, the 11th Hussars had got over their conversion pangs years before.

    They were in fact a regiment of fighting mechanics retaining all of the traditional dash of the Light Cavalry. In Herbert Lumsden, the Twelfth had one of the finest regimental commanders in the army".

    So, well drilled, knew what they were doing, with the bravado to go out and beyond.

    The Hopkinson mission got to Maastricht, some 100km east of Wavre, on the Dyle line.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2021

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