Private Diary: CALAIS, May 1940, 1st Battalion QUEEN VICTORIA'S RIFLES, Major TL Timpson

Discussion in '1940' started by dbf, Dec 10, 2011.

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    Lieutenant-Colonel J.A.M. ELLISON-MacCARTNEY - Commanding Officer - WOUNDED
    Major T.L. TIMPSON - Second-in-Command
    Captain P.J. MONICO - Adjutant
    :poppy: Lieutenant F. TRENDALL - Quartermaster - KILLED
    2/Lieutenant S.J. SAUNDERS - Intelligence Officer
    :poppy: 2/Lieutenant R.A. RAIKES - Signal Officer - MISSING
    2/Lieutenant R. HIGGINS - Attached
    Lieutenant E. GARTSIDE, R.A.M.C. - Medical Officer
    Reverend R.G. HEARD - Chaplain

    Captain J.R.G. PALMER - O.C. Company
    Captain A.N.L. MUNBY - Scout Platoon
    2/Lieutenant G. BARR - Scout Platoon
    2/Lieutenant T. FIELD-FISHER - Transport Officer

    Captain G.P. BOWRING - O.C. Company - WOUNDED
    2/Lieutenant J.M. COURTENAY - Company H.Q. Platoon
    2/Lieutenant J.M. DIZER - No. 5 Platoon
    2/Lieutenant G.F. NELSON - No. 6 Platoon
    P.S.M. A.P. LANGLEY - No. 7 Platoon - WOUNDED

    Major J.A. BROWN - O.C. Compay
    2/Lieutenant D.P. HAMILTON - Company H.Q. Platoon
    2/Lieutenant T. LUCAS - No. 8 Platoon - ESCAPED TO ENGLAND
    2/Lieutenant R. ALLEN - No. 9 Platoon - WOUNDED
    2/Lieutenant F.B. BANBURY - No. 10 Platoon

    Lieutenant H.V.E. JESSOP - O.C. Company
    2/Lieutenant A.R. JABEZ-SMITH - Company H.Q. Platoon
    2/Lieutenant R.W. SNOWDEN - No. 11 Platoon - WOUNDED
    2/Lieutenant E.B. BREWESTER - No. 12 Platoon
    2/Lieutenant M.H. GLAZIER - No. 13 Platoon
    :poppy:C.Q.M.S. PUTLAND - KILLED?
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    CWGC results using Geoff's Search engine - criteria 21/05/1940-01/06/1940 / 1ST BN QUEEN VICTORIA'S RIFLES







    007 Link DENCHFIELD RB 6897602 1ST BN QUEEN VICTORIA'S RIFLES 25/05/1940 - - 26/05/1940 KING'S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS COLUMN 118.

















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    The Germans invaded HOLLAND and BELGIUM on Friday, 10th May 1940. On the same day the Battalion, then in billets at Paddock Wood, KENT, was warned to moved into East KENT with the 1st LONDON DIVISION at an early date. On the following morning the move was ordered to be carried out at once, and it was completed that afternoon.

    The Battalion had been mobilized in March, for service in an unknown theatre of war - presumably in FINLAND, for service dress was issued in lieu of the battledress then being issued to units before proceeding to the B.E.F. in FRANCE. Afterwards, khaki drill was issued to all Other Ranks, Officers being warned by War Office telegram not to buy their khaki drill pending further orders; so speculation centred round the MIDDLE EAST. Finally, the Battalion was included in the newly-formed 30th INFANTRY BRIGADE, for service in NORWAY, and battledress was issued. Brigade Headquarters formed at TIDWORTH. The other battalions in the Brigade were the 2nd Battalion The KING'S ROYAL RIFLE CORPS, and the 1st Battalion THE RIFLE BRIGADE, the two Motor Battalions in the Support Group of the 1st ARMOURED DIVISION, which were in billets in DORSET. Although it was intended to concentrate the Brigade for training, this was never done. The Battalion received several visits from the Brigade Commander, Brigadier C. NICHOLSON, as well as from his Staff, but it remained administratively under Headquarters, 1st LONDON DIVISION.

    Simultaneously with the move of 1st LONDON DIVISION into East KENT on May 11th, in anticipation of a German invasion by sea or air, or both, the 30th INFANTRY BRIGADE (less 1st Battalion QUEEN VICTORIA'S RIFLES) moved into EAST ANGLIA. The Battalion was billeted in and around KENNINGTON, just North-West of ASHFORD. In its role of Divisional Reserve it was allotted a number of tasks which included:
    Reconnaissances of routes to possible landing places, the the North of the ISLE OF SHEPPEY and to the South about RYE;
    Dawn patrols, with reconnaissance reports, on the ROMNEY MARSHES;
    Guarding Divisional Headquarters; and
    Manning a road block at KENNINGTON Triangle.

    The 22 Scout Cars with which the two Scout Platoons were equipped were ordered to be handed over to the 1st ARMOURED DIVISION on May 18th; leaving by road in the evening and travelling all night, they were taken over by various Tank Regiments in WILTSHIRE at dawn the next day.

    Major H. MORGAN, O.C. 'D' Company, and his Second-in-Command, 2/Lieutenant R. CLAYTON, were injured in a collision while on a reconnaissance on motorcycles; and Lieutenant H.V.E. JESSOP was transferred from 'B' Company to command 'D' Company.
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    On the evening of Tuesday, May 21st, Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MacCARTNEY paid a routine visit to Divisional Headquarters, when he was informed that the Battalion had been placed at the direct disposal of the War Office. He visited each company in turn and warned Company Commanders personally. As leave was closed and All Ranks were confined to an area within two miles of their billets (including the town of ASHFORD) there was no difficulty in getting everyone quickly back to billets.

    Orders arrived by telephone at about 2230 hours on May 21st, while an air raid warning was in progress. The Battalion was to proceed overseas forthwith, leaving ASHFORD Station on May 22nd in two trains, at 0446 hours and 0515 hours respectively. All War Equipment shown on Army Form G.1098 was to accompany the Battalion, but no transport. The latter was self-contradictory, so several hasty decisions had to be made. For example, all signalling equipment was left behind in the signals trucks in which it was fitted; also all 3-inch and 2-inch mortars, for which there was no ammunition. In each of the three Motor-Cycle Companies, a fourth platoon was formed from personnel rendered surplus by the absence of transport.

    2/Lieutenant Lord CULLEN of ASHMORE was left behind with the 1st Battalion QUEEN VICTORIA'S RIFLES Section, ROYAL CORPS OF SIGNALS; also the Battalion O.M.E., Lieutenant I. PRIEST, ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS, with the Battalion Light Aid Detachment. 2/Lieutenant R.A. HUMPHREY was left behind with the First Reinforcements, numbering some 20 Other Ranks, with the tasks of continuing to man the post at KENNINGTON Triangle until relieved; recovering the Battalion transport from ASHFORD Station after baggage and troops had been entrained; collecting, safeguarding and handing in accommodation stores and all War Equipment which had not accompanied the Battalion; handing over and paying for billets; and handing over the petrol pumps in KENNINGTON for which the Battalion was responsible to the ROYAL ARMY SERVICE CORPS.

    The following also did not accompany the Battalion:
    2/Lieutenant P. REDWAY (sick leave);
    Major H. MORGAN (in ASHFORD hospital, recovering from a traffic accident)
    2/Lieutenant R. CLAYTON (in ASHFORD hospital, recovering from a traffic accident)
    Major R.H. SAMPSON (sick); and
    Colour Sergeant E. BYRNE, Orderly Room Sergeant, (2nd Echelon).

    At about 2300 hours the R.T.O., SHORNCLIFFE, telephoned (and he proved most helpful up to the time of departure of the trains from ASHFORD). He stated that the port of embarkation would be DOVER; that he had traced the Battalion's troop trains (which had been sent in error to Paddock Wood!) and was arranging for deflecting them to ASHFORD; and that he would be at ASHFORD Station to supervise loading, entrainment and departure.

    2/Lieutenant A.R. JABEZ-SMITH was detailed as Battalion Entraining Training Officer and to liaise with the R.T.O. A co-ordination Conference was held at Battalion Headquarters at midnight. The men were to be given a meal, and if possible, a haversack ration in addition; heavy baggage was to be delivered at the Railway Station by 0300 hours and cooking equipment by 0415 hours; all personnel were to be ready to entrain 30 minutes before the times of departure of their respective trains; and all transport was to be left in the Station yard, to be collected by the First Reinforcements.

    The P.R.I. handed over his accounts, correspondence and petty cash to Colour-Sergeant BYRNE, for despatch to Major Leslie COWTAN, arrangements having previously been made for the latter to operate the Bank Accounts of the P.R.I., Sergeants' Mess, Corporals' Club and Regimental Subscriptions Accounts. Major SAMPSON assumed responsibility for settling the accounts of the Officers' Mess.
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    As the orders had been received direct from the War Office, the Second-in-Command telephoned the Duty Officer, Headquarters, 1st LONDON DIVISION, and reported that the Battalion was proceeding overseas. The troop trains were very late in drawing into ASHFORD on May 22nd; and the troops, few of whom had had any rest, lay down and slept in the Station yard. The trains eventually pulled out at 0530 hours (Battalion Headquarters, H.Q. Company and 'C' Company) and at 0600 hours ('B' and 'D' Companies), reaching Dover at 0700 hours and 0730 hours respectively. As the trains halted by the sea-shore before pulling in to DOVER Harbour on a still, misty morning, the steady boom of gunfire could be heard coming over the water from FRANCE. Rain was falling at DOVER in a light drizzle. A patrol of three British fighters circled at frequent intervals over the harbour and disappeared into the low cloud.

    The Embarkation Staff appeared hardly able to cope with the units which were arriving for embarkation at short notice. (The 3rd ROYAL TANK REGIMENT was embarking on the s.s. "MAID OF ORLEANS" and preceded the Battalion to CALAIS). The Railway Station was empty. On the quay were a number of very smartly dressed staff officers, strolling up and down in pairs, but nobody was prepared to issue any orders. The Military Police on duty knew only that they were posted to prevent passage across the railway tracks, thus making movement between the station and quay most difficult.

    After a very long delay the baggage was manhandled by the troops from the trains to the quay and, in driving rain, loaded by them on the s.s. "CANTERBURY", partly with the help of one crane, but mostly by carrying up the gangways. Somebody discovered that a meal was available; the troops were collected into a large shed at the sea-end of the quay and issued with a very welcome breakfast of sausage-roll, tea and chocolate biscuits. Water sterilisation outfits were received and distributed to companies by the M.O. A Corporal on the R.T.O.'s staff handed to the Second-in-Command an envelope marked "Secret" and addressed to the Officer Commanding. This contained written orders from the War Office; they stated that a few German Tanks had broken through towards the Channel Ports and that the 30th INFANTRY BRIGADE (less one battalion) would disembark the next day, either at CALAIS or at DUNKIRK, according to the situation; the Battalion was ordered to proceed to CALAIS and the Commanding Officer to get in touch with the local commander or, if unable to do so, to take necessary steps to secure the town. It was surmised from these orders that the Battalion once more formed part of the 30th INFANTRY BRIGADE, though this could not be confirmed until after that BRIGADE had landed at CALAIS the next day.

    s.s. "CANTERBURY" sailed at 1100 hours with air and destroyer escorts, All Ranks wearing life-belts. 'D' Company manned the A.A.L.M.G's on deck. At a Company Commanders' Conference held in the Commanding Officer's cabin a large number of maps were issued, covering the country around CALAIS and BOULOGNE.

    Calais-A Fight to the Finish May 1940

    The following provisional orders for immediate action on arrival were issued:
    'C' Company to disembark first and secure the vicinity of the quay;
    'B' Company to cover the landing from on board ship if there were opposition;
    'D' Company to continue to provided Anti-Aircraft defence and to unload the baggage.

    On berthing at CALAIS at about 1300 hours, the ship was met by the E.S.O. and the P.N.T.O. The latter accompanied Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISION-MacCARTNEY to report to the local commander in the town. The E.S.O. told Major TIMPSON to get the ship and quay emptied of men and baggage at once, as he wanted the ship to clear harbour as quickly as possible in view of the risk of a repetition of the bombing which had taken place the previous day. The E.S.O. seemed somewhat bewildered and ineffective; he offered no help or useful advice. One French train (and, later, three for four) blocked the whole length of the railway siding, so that all baggage in transit from the quay to the road alongside the dunes East of the Station had to be manhandled over them. Only the ship's derricks and one hand-operated crane on the quay could be used, the power-driven cranes being out of action, so that much of the off-loading had to be done by carrying baggage down the gangways.

    The wall of a house close to the South end of the Station yard, previously occupied by the R.T.O., had collapsed, exposing the upstairs and downstairs rooms; two large fires could be seen burning in the town; a small ship had been sunk in the harbour (1. Tug Boat Calaisen sunk on 10th May); and there was a lot of broken glass lying about the station platforms - evidence of the bombing to which the port area had already been subjected. Wounded British soldiers, both walking and stretcher-cases, were already being taken on board before the Battalion's baggage was clear; and there were many pathetic civilian refugees - old men, women and children - who were with difficulty prevented from crowding on to the gangways. Disembarkation was covered by some British fighters and also by Anti-Aircraft fire from No. 6 (Heavy) A.A. Battery, ROYAL ARTILLERY (3.7-inch guns), which had been moved to CALAIS from the ARRAS area three days previously. The Town's Air Raid sirens were sounded frequently on this afternoon and evening. One German plane was seen to crash in the sea, and depth charges were dropped between the harbour and the incoming s.s. "CITY OF CHRISTCHURCH", conveying the vehicles of the 3rd ROYAL TANK REGIMENT.

    'C' Company quickly formed a protective screen round the harbour. 'B' Company disembarked and scattered groups on the dunes to the East, followed by H.Q. Company. 'D' Company unloaded the ship and carried baggage for three hours, being then relieved by H.Q. Company. Battalion H.Q. was established on the dunes, beside a disused railway truck.

    Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MacCARTNEY found the local commander, Colonel R.T. HOLLAND, D.S.O, M.C. at his Headquarters at the Clinique, on the South side of the Boulevard Leon Gambetta. [see Holland's account here] He was told by Colonel HOLLAND that German Light A.F.V.'s were reported to be at ST. OMER and about the FORET DE GUINES; he was ordered to block the six principal roads leading into CALAIS (relieving a platoon of the ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS on the FORT VERT road, to the East); to guard the submarine cable terminal at SANGATTE, on the coast road West of CALAIS; to reconnoitre the beaches East and West of CALAIS, in view of the possibility of enemy aircraft landing at low tide; and to establish his battalion headquarters in the neighbourhood of LES FONTINETTES, in the South-West outskirts of CALAIS. Before leaving Colonel HOLLAND's headquarters, Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISION-MacCARTNEY liaised with Lieutenant-Colonel R.G. KELLER, commanding the 3rd ROYAL TANK REGIMENT, and it was agreed between them that the latter, who was harbouring his Battalion round COQUELLES, a village on the BOULOGNE road, would be responsible for guarding that road.

    After returning to the GARE MARITIME, Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISION-MacCARTNEY saw General BROWNRIGG, who had come ashore in a Destroyer. General BROWNRIGG told him that he was supervising and co-ordinating the defence of all Channel Ports. It was afterwards learnt, from orders issued the next day at DOVER to the 30th INFANTRY BRIGADE, that 1st Battalion QUEEN VICTORIA'S RIFLES was intended to secure CALAIS while the remainder of the 30th INFANTRY BRIGADE, accompanied by the 3rd ROYAL TANK REGIMENT, was to pass through and deal with the German tanks which were reported to have broken through towards the Channel Ports. This may have been one of the reasons why the Battalion had been order to proceed overseas without transport.

    In any case, the absence of all unit transport, and especially of signals trucks and motor-cycles, was to prove a serious handicap. Troop movements were limited to the distance which tired men carrying all their weapons, ammunition and tools could march in a given period; while delays incurred in the finding and seizing of suitable transport severely restricted the scope of commanders reconnaissances, with the result that these had largely to be dispensed with in the hurried siting of road-blocks, when more detailed and wider reconnaissance would probably have disclosed better localities for anti-tank defence. Consequently, most positions were taken up on , or slightly in advance of, the Town's ramparts; and, readjustments being found necessary the next day after more thorough examination, less time was available for putting the selected road-blocks and defended localities into a proper state of defence. A Motor-Cycle Battalion was equipped with no tools for this purpose, having indeed little else by the pick and shovel forming part of the vehicle equipment of each truck and, in the absence of unit transport, these had to be left behind. For the same reason, neither W/T nor cable was available for intercommunication, which depended on the impressment of motor cars and motor-cycles found abandoned in the town. From the outset of the battle the Battalion was severely handicapped by lack of adequate means of intercommunication and liaison, although the problem of transport solved itself in succeeding days, as British and Allied vehicles steadily poured into the town.

    The fire-power available in a Motor-Cycle Battalion was very much less than at the disposal of Motor Battalions. In the latter, each of the four Motor Companies possessed 21 Bren guns and 22 Anti-Tank rifles, and every N.C.O. and man was armed with a rifle; each Motor Company had in addition one 3-inch Mortar; issued for use in NORWAY, transport for the Mortar and its ammunition being improvised by utilising two carriers from each Scout Platoon. In the Motor-Cycle Battalion, each of the three Motor-Cycle Companies disposed of only 10 Bren guns and armed with pistols instead of rifles (pistols had not been issued to the Officers).

    Companies reached their allotted sectors in the late evening - 'B' Company astride the road running Eastwards from CALAIS along the coast through FORT RISBAN and SANGATTE; 'C' Company facing East, astride the roads to DUNKIRK, MARCK, GRAVELINES and FORT VERT; and 'D' Company facing South, astride the roads to GUINES and ST. OMER. 'B' Company had a march of about 6 1/2 km. to OYEZ Farm, which was reached at 2300 hours. Here company halted, with posts on the road, on the sandhills to the Right, and on the shore to the extreme Right; No. 5 Platoon (2/Lieutenant J.M. DIZER) was posted at SANGATTE, 1 1/2 km. further West.

    'C' Company moved out to cover the Eastern approaches to the town, on the approximate line of a North-and-South road running about 1 km. to the East of, and parallel to, the Eastern ramparts;
    No. 8 Platoon (2/Lieutenant T. LUCAS) to block the DUNKIRK road;
    No. 10 Platoon (2/Lieutenant F.B. BANBURY) to relieve the platoon of the ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS on a road-block on the FORT VERT road; and
    No. 9 Platoon (2/Lieutenant R.W. ALLEN) on the Left, with orders to patrol along the beach for a distance of 3 miles.
    Company H.Q. Platoon (2/Lieutenant D.P. HAMILTON) was posted on the MARCK road, with Company Headquarters in a farm nearby.

    'D' Company had a march of about 5 km. and was disposed with
    No. 11 Platoon (2/Lieutenant R.W. SNOWDEN) on the Right,
    No. 12 Platoon (2/Lieuenant E.B. BREWESTER) in the Centre, and
    No. 13 Platoon (2/Lieutenant M.H. GLAZIER) on the Left.

    No. 11 Platoon's task was to block the road to FRETUN. At dusk, 2/Lieutenant SNOWDEN had reached a hump-backed bridge over a canal, about 1 km. South of the outskirts of LES FONTINETTES, where the road ran parallel with the main railway line; and here he decided to take post of the night.

    No. 12 Platoon took up position on the GUINES road, on a cross-roads at the Southern edge of LES FONINETTES, ABOUT 2 km. short of the village of PONT COULONDRE. Here an abandoned 10-ton lorry was used to make a partial road-block. A patrol sent out at 2230 hours reconnoitred as far as PONT COULONDRE and returned at 0300 hours without having encountered any enemy.

    As No. 13 Platoon was marching through CALAIS, a British major warned 2/Lieutenant GLAZIER to hurry, saying that German tanks were reported to be advancing from the direction of ST. OMER and to be only some 4 or 5 km. away. He therefore stopped a passing truck and proceeded in it along the ST. OMER road, taking one section with him and leaving the remainder to follow on foot. At a point where the road forks to the Right, to BOULOGNE, he found the road-junction held by a French detachment under an officer, with an Anti-Tank gun and two mitrailleuses. On the arrival of the remainder of his Platoon at dusk, he took up position to the Left of the French, covering a side road which led to a railway siding.

    Earlier in the evening 2/Lieutenant G. BARR had been sent out from Battalion H.Q. with a detachment of a Scout Platoon to form a road-block in the Southern outskirts of LES FONTINETTES. Here he was afterwards relieved by the Company H.Q. Platoon of 'D' Company (2/Lieutenant A.R. JABEZ-SMITH). 'D' Company H.Q. spent the night here and was moved early next morning to a coachyard 200 yards behind No. 12 Platoon.

    LES FONTINETTES proved, after reconnaissance, to be an unsuitable locality in which to establish Battalion Headquarters being a maze of bifurcating railway lines among a labyrinth of mean streets of small houses. After coming back and trying the centre of the town - already crammed with transport which was pouring into CALAIS in an unceasing stream and threatened to choke the streets - Major TIMSON eventually established Battalion Headquarters, with part of H.Q. Company, on the Eastern ramparts at the DUNKIRK Gate, and sent the Signal Officer back to report on the dunes outside the GARE MARITIME, where the remainder of Battalion Headquarters and of H.Q. Company spent the night, moving to the DUNKIRK Gate early the following morning.

    For lack of means of intercommunication, and especially of motor-cycles, it was not possible to locate or establish communication with headquarters of Companies until next day.
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    CALAIS, with a population in 1939 of 60,000 to 70,000 inhabitants, fell into two distinct parts. The Old Town, with its narrow, irregular streets, was bounded on the North-East by the Harbour and on the West by the Citadel with its 17th Century Fort and Moat, the work of VAUBAN. The New Town, built on more regular, modern lines, lay to the South and South-East; the whole being surrounded by a rampart and moat enclosing a rough square some 3,000 yards across. The Old Town was enclosed by the BASSIN CARNOT (an extension of the Harbour) on the east and by the BASSIN DE BATTELLERIE on the South. From the latter, the CANAL de CALAIS ran approximately due South, dividing the New Town into two. At its Northern end the CANAL de CALAIS was spanned by the PONT MOLLIEN, some 300 yards South of which it was joined by the CANAL de MARCK, which ran due East. Between the Harbour and the BASSIN CARNOT, two swing bridges gave access to the Old Town from the GARE MARITIME. The Ramparts provided, for the most part, a formidable obstacle to movement except at the South-West corner, where building and railway development had caused the ramparts to be levelled. The canals and "Bassins" also provided excellent anti-tank obstacles but, in the absence of ROYAL ENGINEERS personnel and of any demolition material, it was impossible at any stage of the battle to blow the substantial bridges.

    The principal North-and-South thoroughfare was the BOULEVARD JACQUART which, starting at the PONT RICHELIEU (the centre of three bridges which spanned the BASSIN DE BATELLERIE) ran South across the PLACE ALBERT to LES FONTINETTES, where roads forked to Fretun and to GUINES. The Hotel de Ville occupied a commanding position to the East of the Northern end of the BOULEVARD JACQUART and completely overlooked the Old Town. From the PLACE ALBERT, the BOULEVARD LEON GAMBETTA ran due West to the main road to BOULOGNE. Eastwards from the PLACE ALBERT, the BOULEVARD LAFAYETTE crossed the CANAL de CALAIS at the PONT ST. PIERRE, after which the streets forked to the ST. OMER Gate and the DUNKIRK Gate. The ramparts were strengthened at intervals by Bastions, and at some distance outside were a number of Forts.

    The surrounding country was flat and intersected by many ditches and canals which, except to the West and South, restricted the movement of vehicles for the most part to the roads. To the North a line of sand dunes, several hundred yards deep, shut out all view of the sea to a man at ground level. Westwards, the main road dipped gently to the village of COQUELLES, the trees of which screened its further course towards BOULOGNE. The only eminence in that flat countryside was a long spur which, rising up from the plain near the BOULOGNE road beyond COQUELLES, extended to the sea West of SANGATTE, where it ended in white cliffs; bare for the most part, but wooded at its Southern end.

    The French Garrison of CALAIS - all Territorials - consisted of 1 1/2 companies of infantry and one company of mitrailleuse, disposed in the Forts surrounding the town as well as in the Citadel. In addition, certain French naval personnel were manning the obsolete coast defence guns, which were capable of bringing fire to bear inland as well as seawards. The French Garrison was being supplemented by a large and daily-increasing number of stragglers but, except for a few artillery teams, these took no part in the fighting that followed. They and their officers went underground throughout the battle. The Germans subsequently claimed to have captured 10,000 French troops in CALAIS; even after allowing for the very considerable numbers that were evacuated by sea, this is probably no exaggeration.

    Besides the 6th (Heavy) A.A. Battery, ROYAL ARTILLERY already referred to, which had four guns in action in rear of OYEZ Farm and three near FORT VERT, there had also recently been withdrawn to CALAIS, the 1st Searchlight Regiment, ROYAL ARTILLERY, and the 172 Light A.A. Battery, ROYAL ARTILLERY. The two Batteries of the 1st Searchlight Regiment, disposed respectively for illumination and for dazzle effect, had their groups of lights distributed at 3,000 yards intervals in a wide semi-circle round CALAIS. Thus they were necessarily the first to contact the advancing Germans and, fighting as small detachments of infantry, their resistance effectively slowed down the advance of the leading German troops before the majority successfully withdrew within the CALAIS defences. The Light A.A. Battery was sited for A.A. defence in the Harbour area.

    Calais A Fight to the Finish-May 1940

    Attached Files:

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    Throughout the night of May 22nd/23rd and the whole of the following day all approaches from the South and West were congested with British and Allied soldiers and with refugees pouring into CALAIS, some in vehicles and some on foot, some in formed bodies but most of them drifting in a continuous stream, up to six abreast. Their control at the road-blocks proved very tiring to our troops, who could get little rest. Orders were issued on May 23rd to refuse admittance to unarmed Allied troops and to refugees.

    At 0100 hours on May 23rd a French officer informed 2/Lieutenant DIZET that SANGATTE was about to be shelled by the French. On this being reported to 'B' Company headquarters, No. 5 Platoon was withdrawn to OYEZ Farm. But, as nothing materialised, No. 5 Platoon was again sent forward to the submarine cable terminal at 0800 hours, and 2/Lieutenant DIZER was ordered to destroy the terminal if again forced to withdraw. 'B' Company was not well sited at OYEZ Farm, being in open country which afforded no anti-tank obstacle; but this was unavoidable, because a withdrawal to the line of the ramparts would have exposed the troop of No. 6 (Heavy) A.A. Battery ROYAL ARTILLERY, which was deployed in rear of the Farm.

    On 'D' Company's front, dawn found No. 11 Platoon making a roadblock from baulks of timber and spare sleepers in the dip on the near side of the hump-backed bridge which it was guarding. The local Stationmaster, on being approached, proved most helpful, and soon railway trucks had been shunted to form a block on the level crossing over the road which ran on the far side of and parallel to the canal, as well as other on the railway bridge over the canal and also on the permanent way in rear of the canal, to the Right of the road. Further back, railway carriages served as shelter for men not on duty. The position was strengthened by two Belgian mitrailleuses, and also by a gun of No. 229 A/T Battery, ROYAL ARTILLERY, which arrived later in the day. Towards the evening the Platoon was ordered to withdraw about 1/2 km., to a level crossing. Here a road-block was made with a double row of railway trucks.

    No. 12 Platoon moved forward, at the request of a major in the ROYAL ARMY SERVICE CORPS to take over a road-block which the latter had established in the village of COULONDRE. The site was found to be unsuitable, being at the far end of a half-mile of dead-straight road; so, with the concurrence of Lieutenant JESSOP, 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER withdrew to his original position, bringing with him the 10-ton lorry which had been used to form the R.A.S.C. road-block. The position was improved during the day with the arrival of some 60 A.A. Searchlight personnel with three large lorries of a six-gun battery of French 75's. The former, under one of their own officers, were made responsible for a side road approaching from the Left front; and the French gunners, assisted by a party of French marines, assumed responsibility for the main road, which enabled No. 12 Platoon to get some rest. Two attempts by German tanks to approach the road-block on the main road were repulsed by the 75's.

    No. 13 Platoon could serve no useful purpose at its road-junction, which was already adequately covered by the French detachment, so at about 1100 hours Lieutenant JESSOP ordered its withdrawal to a railway station and level-crossing some 400 yards in rear, where the waiting-room provided good shelter for those not on duty.

    At about 1500 hours two Platoons of 2/K.R.R.C. and 1/R.B. took up positions on the ramparts in rear, astride the ST. OMER Gate, under 2/Lieutenant F.W. WILLIAMS and 2/Lieutenant F. REED respectively. 2/Lieutenant GLAZIER went back to liaise with 2/Lieutenant WILLIAMS and arranged for the withdrawal his Platoon to the ramparts if the necessity arose. Soon afterwards, enemy shelling opened on the level-crossing and back along the road to the ramparts behind them. No. 13 Platoon then withdrew without loss to the ramparts, where it came under the orders of Captain L.C. BOWER, Second-in-Command of 'D' Company, 2/K.R.R.C., who placed it on the Right of 2/Lieutenant REED's platoon.

    On 'C' Company's front there was some spasmodic shelling and machine-gun fire towards evening.

    Meanwhile, the 3rd ROYAL TANK REGIMENT, operating from its harbour at COQUELLES, had been in action from soon after 0700 hours. A Light Tank Troop, attempting to contact G.H.Q. at ST. OMER, met German medium and light tanks, supported by motorised infantry and A/T guns, South of ARDRES; only one British Tank returned to CALAIS. Shortly after noon the whole Tank Battalion, operating towards HAZEBROUCK, was in action North of GUINES against German tanks supported by A/T guns and field-guns, and withdrew after losing some seven Cruiser and Light tanks. Towards evening a mixed Tank patrol, reconnoitring towards GRAVELINES, successfully engaged a body of German motor-cyclist troops, but was stopped by a road-block covered by A/T guns and a field-gun and withdrew to CALAIS. Later that night, a Tank Squadron, ordered to open the road to DUNKIRK and to keep it open, lost touch after reporting "I have an important message for you" and was heard of no more till the end of the battle. (It was afterwards learnt that, after passing GRAVELINES, this squadron came under the orders of the commander at DUNKIRK, when the personnel were subsequently evacuated).

    The move of the 3rd ROYAL TANK REGIMENT from COQUELLES had uncovered the road to BOULOGNE. So, at 1115 hours, Captain MUNBY was ordered to proceed at once with a Scout Platoon to block it. At the same time arrangements were made for his relief at 1500 hours by a Platoon of 'B' Company from OYEZ Farm. Captain MUNBY was in position by 12 noon, having improvised a road-block with a lorry and farm implements. No. 6 Platoon, 'B' Company, (2/Lieutenant G.F. NELSON) marched across to relieve him at 1500 hours but, no transport being available for Captain MUNBY's return, both platoons remained on the road-block.

    Headquarters, 30th INFANTRY BRIGADE, with 2/K.R.R.C. and 1/R.B., disembarked during the afternoon and the unloading of their transport continued until far into the night. By nightfall the Brigade was holding the general line of the town's ramparts, with 2/K.R.R.C. on the Right and 1/R.B. on the Left. The inter-battalion boundary (inclusive to 1/R.B.) was the CANAL de CALAIS as far as the PONT ST. PIERRE, and thence the ST. OMER road. All detachments, 1/Q.V.R., wherever situated, came directly under the orders of either O.C. 2/K.R.R.C, or O.C. 1/R.B., according to whichever sector they were in. This distribution, inevitably in the circumstances, coupled withe the impossibility of withdrawing a battalion to form a Brigade reserve owing to the great length of perimeter to be defended (some 13 - 14 km.), unfortunately resulted in the 1/Q.V.R. losing its identity for the remainder of the battle.

    On the extreme Right, 'C' Company, 2/K.R.R.C. occupied the line of the ramparts in rear of 'B' Company 1/Q.V.R.; Captain BOWRING gained contact with Captain M.A. JOHNSON at the latter's company headquarters, where the road crossed the ramparts, at 2000 hours. Further Left, the line was held by 'B' Company 2/K.R.R.C, from which 2/Lieutenant FINLAYSON, whose platoon was astride the BOULOGNE road, went forward and contacted Captain MUNBY at 1600 hours. In rear of the road-blocks held by 'D' Company 1/Q.V.R., the Southern face of the perimeter was held by 'D' Company 2/K.R.R.C., with its Left astride the ST. OMER road. In the Eastern sector 1/R.B.which had been ordered to keep two companies in Brigade reserve, established a platoon post near the ST. OMER Gate in rear of No. 13 Platoon 1/Q.V.R.; another at the DUNKIRK Gate, on the Right of H.Q. Company 1/Q.V.R.; and two platoons towards FORT VERT, on the Left of 'C' Company 1/Q.V.R.

    Previously one Platoon (P.S.M. SKIDMORE) of 'A' Company 2/K.R.R.C. (in reserve) had reported and been posted at the DUNKIRK Gate, where it was retained, as the "platoon" 1/R.B., which reached there turned out to be only a platoon headquarters with one section.

    No. 229 A/T Battery ROYAL ARTILLERY, also disembarked on this afternoon, but with only eight guns, four having been left at DOVER for lack of space on board ship. The battery commander was ordered by Brigadier NICHOLSON to post one gun on each of the eight roads leading out of CALAIS. At the road-block on the BOULOGNE road, Captain MUNBY's Scout Platoon and No. 6 Platoon had been turning back all refugees and unarmed Allied troops who were seeking to enter CALAIS. Captain MUNBY writes:-

    "The Germans were reported to be only some ten miles away and it was heart-rending business to have to turn back carloads of refugees, mostly old men, women and children, virtually into the arms of the enemy. Several French motor battalions fell back though us in pretty good order, but for the most part our Allies presented a pretty sorry spectacle. Many Belgian battalions had been on the road for a long time, as the German breakthrough had occurred before they were mobilised; ordered to rally in succession at BOULOGNE and GRAVELINES, it was not surprising that they were losing heart, many of them having marched 150 miles".

    A battery of French 75's deployed in a field on the Left but withdrew into CALAIS the same afternoon. A gun of No. 229 A/T Battery ROYAL ARTILLERY was covering the road some 500 yards behind. At about 1615 hours, following a visit by Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MacCARTNEY, Captain MUNBY went up to FORT NEUILLY to see its French commander, with a view to moving his troops into the Fort. The French Captain in command was not enthusiastic, but Captain MUNBY was insistent, point out that his position on the road would become untenable in the event of an attack from COQUELLES, the ground being completely flat and open and intersected with ditches, and he had no tools for digging-in. After telephoning his headquarters, the French captain agreed to admit Captain MUNBY's troops, on condition that the British troops acted under French orders and that they should not retire from the Fort after having once entered it. To this Captain MUNBY agreed and he moved his troops in at about 2100 hours.

    The town's sirens sounded Air Raid warnings on this day for the last time. Combats took place all day between individual British and German fighters, with casualties on both sides. Early in the afternoon Battalion Headquarters had been moved back from the ramparts to the next side-street in rear. Subsequently the Regimental Aid Post and 'B' Echelon were again moved further back to positions just West of the CANAL de CALAIS. Lieutenant-Colonel E.A.B. MILLER, M.C., O.C. 2/K.R.R.C. visited Battalion Headquarters at about 1700 hours. At about 1900 hours German mortars registered on the area round Battalion Headquarters and H.Q. Company, firing from positions to the South of the DUNKIRK road. Slow mortar fire was maintained for about an hour and, though no casualties were incurred, it had the effect of drawing a lot of unnecessary small arms fire from our men. Intermittent firing broke out from houses in our rear and continued until after dark. Some of these houses were searched under the supervision of 2/Lieutenant R.A. RAIKES. A German motor-cyclist, captured on the DUNKIRK road, was brought in to Battalion Headquarters and sent on to Brigade Headquarters.

    At about 1930 hours the Port area was shelled to the South-East of the town, South of the DUNKIRK road, and continued at intervals until after 2200 hours. That night a ring of fires was seen to the East and South-East; these appeared to have been lit by the Germans to mark the limits of the advance of their leading troops.
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    At about midnight, May 23/24, 2/Lieutenant S.J. SAUNDERS, who had reported at the Clinique as Liaison Officer, visited Battalion Headquarters with the information that Brigadier NICHOLSON intended to try and open up the road to DUNKIRK next morning for the passage of a convoy of rations for the B.E.F., and that for this purpose some Tanks would be proceeding past the DUNKIRK Gate before dawn. One Tank Squadron passed through at 0400 hours, supported by one composite Motor Company 1/R.B. Some three miles out of CALAIS our Tanks encountered strong A/T gun opposition, which the composite company 1/R.B. was unable to dislodge; so the attempt was abandoned at 1030 hours, on the order of Brigadier NICHOLSON, and the escort withdrawn into CALAIS, which was now virtually surrounded. Early in the morning a French '75' arrived at the DUNKIRK Gate, where a gun-detachment of No. 229 A/T Battery ROYAL ARTILLERY had reported the evening before. Both guns were posted to cover the DUNKIRK road, the bridge being blocked with a tram and two lorries. Three French A.A. guns came into action on the lateral road in read of the ramparts, to the Left of H.Q. Company.

    At about 0500 hours Lieutenant-Colonel HOSKYNS, 1/R.B. visited Battalion Headquarters; he told Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MacCARTNEY, in confidence, that it was intended to evacuate CALAIS on Saturday night, but that no indication of this intended evacuation must be allowed to leak out.

    On 'D' Company's front, No. 11 Platoon was in action at first light. About half a platoon of German infantry was sighted and, when fired upon, at once went to ground. After about half an hour the enemy opened mortar fire, killing two riflemen and wounding two others. The mortar fire ceased after about ten minutes. Sniping continued, but the Germans made no further movement. On No. 13 Platoon's front on the ST. OMER road, a dawn patrol led by Captain BOWER captured two German motor-cyclists. Soon afterwards, two German light Tanks approached the road-block but were knocked out and burnt. Written orders then reached O.C. 'D' Company to withdraw to the line of the ramparts. This order was not sent from Battalion Headquarters; it is presumed to have come from Headquarters 1/R.B. On the Left, No. 13 Platoon was already back on the ramparts.

    On the Right, No. 11 Platoon withdrew at 0700 hours and took up a position on the Left of a platoon of 'D' Company, 2/K.R.R.C. on a very extended front, where it was again in action at 0900 hours, coming under mortar and small arms fire. Here it was reinforced in turn by No. 3 Platoon 'A' Company 2/K.R.R.C. (Lieutenant N.L. PHILLIPS) and also by a platoon of 1/R.B., these three platoons being thereafter much intermingled. 2/Lieutenant SNOWDEN was wounded during the morning and Sergeant ROBERTS took command of the No. 22 Platoon [sic].

    In the centre, No. 12 Platoon, upon withdrawal, took up position at 0830 hours on the Right of the Scout Platoon, 'D' Company 2/K.R.R.C. (2/Lieutenant R. WARRE), which was holding the iron railway bridge over the CANAL de CALAIS. Another platoon of 2/K.R.R.C. shortly afterwards occupied the line of the railway embankment on its right.

    No. 12 Platoon's position was actually a little in advance of the railway embankment, being on the ramparts. Here it was soon in action against advanced German troops, who were engaged with light automatic fire, to which the enemy quickly replied with mortars. One section observed German troop-carrying vehicles through a gap in the hedge bordering a road to the Right front, at a range of 450 yards, and put two of the vehicles out of action with A/T rifle fire.

    'D' Company Headquarters had meanwhile withdrawn to the garden of a house in rear of the railway embankment. At about 12 non the Company H.Q. Platoon was sent forward to assist No. 12 Platoon, which was in difficulties, being subjected to considerable mortar and small arms fire and pinned to the ground, with the railway embankment in its rear swept by heavy enfilade machine-gun fire from the right. 'D' Company Headquarters was later moved East of the CANAL de CALAIS, to a street corner some 200 yards in rear of No. 13 Platoon where a hospitable cafe proprietor provided beer, bread and fried eggs for all comers, refusing payment. During the afternoon 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER was able gradually to change the position of each of his section in turn and to keep the greater part of each under cover, leaving only the Brens in action. These repeatedly drew fire from a German mortar concealed in a factory, where it could not be accurately located. Corporal BURLTON, controlling the fire of his section from behind a piece of embattlement just in rear, was killed in a gallant attempt to recover the Bren gun which his men could not reach on account of the accuracy and volume of the enemy fire. 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER engaged with light automatic fire a stationary German tank which was opposite the platoon on his Right, and, firing at the engine louvres, he set it on fire. A bombardment by artillery and mortars was renewed towards evening, but fortunately it came down on the localities from which the sections had previously been moved.

    German infantry made no progress on the front of No. 12 Platoon up to about 1800 hours, when No. 12 Platoon withdrew, after the platoon of 2/K.R.R.C. on its Right had been forced back, the enemy having worked round that Platoon's right flank.

    On 'B' Company's front, FORT NEUILLY was shelled intermittently from 0500 hours onwards, as was also the troops of A.A. guns in rear of OYEZ Farm; and shells began to fall on OYEZ Farm itself at 1000 hours, just after 'B' Company Headquarters had moved out of the buildings to cover the road in rear of the road-block. At 1100 hours No. 5 Platoon was ordered to withdraw from SANGATTE and to construct an additional road-block in rear of OYEZ Farm. 2/Lieutenant DIZER first unsuccessfully attempted with two Miles grenades to destroy the submarine cable terminal, an operation which would have required ROYAL ENGINEERS assistance with explosives.

    At 1630 hours the German flag was seen flying over FORT NEUILLY. A quarter of an hour later German tanks were seen moving cautiously towards SANGATTE from COQUELLES; and shortly afterwards others were seen half a mile in rear of 'B' Company, moving from FORT NEUILLY towards the CALAIS - SANGATTE road. Two of the four A.A. guns in rear of OYEZ Farm had meanwhile been knocked out by direct hits and the gunners, after putting the other two out of action, withdrew into CALAIS. Three Bristol Blenheims, which had been observed bombing German artillery positions on the rising ground beyond COQUELLES, turned for home at about 1700 hours and passed over 'B' Company, which they bombed also, two riflemen being wounded.

    At 1800 hours 'B' Company withdrew to the dunes around FORT LAPIN, which was still occupied by some French Officers, though its guns and machine-guns had already been rendered useless.

    At 2000 hours the withdrawal was continued on to 'C' Company 2/K.R.R.C, and was completed at 2200 hours, Captain BOWRING placing himself under the orders of Captain JOHNSON. No. 7 Platoon (P.S.M. A.P. LANGLEY) was posted at the Bastion on the extreme Right of the position. No. 5 Platoon and Company H.Q. were posted in the centre, just to the Left of the road, on the Left of Captain JOHNSON's company headquarters. 'B' Company dug in at once, after which the men were able to get some rest. There was a plentiful supply of food from abandoned French lorries near OYEZ Farm and from other transport left near the ramparts. A water-supply in rear of the Bastion was destroyed by shell-fire next day, but a well nearby provided water suitable for drinking after chlorination.

    The troops in FORT NEUILLY had stood to at about 0330 hours. This Fort was a large ruin of considerable age. It cored about 5 acres, and the walls wee 30 to 40 feet high. In the centre was a ruined keep; shelters were provided by old tunnels and cellars at the foot of the walls. The gate was a flimsy affair of modern iron palings; and so on the East side was an old building renovated to come extent to provided kitchens and Officers' quarters. There was no water-supply, nor any sanitary arrangements. At three corners were large Bastions. The French occupied the South-West corner; No. 6 Platoon and No. 2 Scout Section were deposed at the North-West corner, where Captain MUNBY established his headquarters No. 1 Section was placed at the North-West corner and No. 3 Scout Section was by the Main Gate, on the French side of the Fort, with its A/T frizzle covering the road to COQUELLES. The Garrison of FORT NEUILLY on this day consisted of the following:-

    1 Captain,
    1 Lieutenant and
    about 40 soldiers,
    1 Lieutenant de Marines and
    about 6 marines,
    1 25-mm A/T gun,
    2 heavy M.G.s, 40 rifles

    Captain MUNBY,
    2/Lieutenant NELSON, and
    52 Other Ranks, (including one motor-cyclist and one driver),

    1st Searchlight Battery ROYAL ARTILLERY
    1 N.C.O
    2 men

    6 Brens
    1 A/T rifle, and
    25 rifles.

    At about 0445 hours three scout carriers out of CALAIS passed the Fort and entered COQUELLES. They returned almost at once, carrying some 20 British soldiers. It was afterwards learnt that these soldiers were A.A. Searchlight personnel who had got left behind in their withdrawal into CALAIS and were taken off only a few hundred yards from the advancing Germans. The carriers again came out at bout 0500 hours and re-entered COQUELLES, whence firing was heard and one carrier only returned. At the same time German infantry were observed coming out of a wood to the Right of COQUELLES and moving diagonally across the front over open ground towards the sea. Unfortunately the two French M.G.s at the South-West Bastion opened fired at too great a range (about 1,600 yards), apparently inflicting no casualties, but disclosing prematurely that the Fort was held. About half an hour later the German infantry, who had gone to ground, were seen withdrawing singly to the wood, from the corner of which a German machine-gun opened on the Fort, at too great a range to do any damage, although the flight of his tracer bullets indicated that the French machine-gun emplacement had been located. A German sniper opened fire from a farm about 400 yards to the front, but was silenced by a few bursts from a Bren.

    At about 0630 hours 2/Lieutenant R. SCOTT 2/K.R.R.C. appeared at the main gate with his driver. The former was slightly wounded in the leg, and both were exhausted after having crawled some hundreds of yards along a ditch full of water. 2/Lieutenant SCOTT was taken to the French Captain's office, where he reported by telephone the loss of his carriers. He and his driver then went back to CALAIS. Firing continued intermittently on the Fort, on which mortar and artillery fire were now brought to bear. Casualties, which began to mount after 0900 hours, were placed in a cellar below the North-West Bastion, where they were attended by Lance-Corporal BUTLER throughout the day. Rifleman FLETCHER was sent off on his motor-cycle with a message to battalion headquarters, reporting casualties and asking urgently for food, ammunition and blankets. He returned about half an hour later, reporting that these would be sent as soon as possible. A truck came up with food for the French marines manning the A/T gun and was used to evacuate wounded on its return journey.

    At about 1100 hours the German artillery were observed in position on the rising ground beyond COQUELLES. Captain MUNBY tried to telephone their position to Headquarters in CALAIS, but the line had been broken by shell-fire and, although the French attempted to repair it under fire, there was no further telephone communication with CALAIS. Soon afterwards the lorry blocking the main gate was put out of action by a piece of shrapnel through the radiator.

    At about midday there was a lull in the bombardment and the battle could be heard developing on the South side of the town. A ROYAL AIR FORCE lorry appeared from the direction of COQUELLES, in which Colour-Sergeant THOMAS, Corporal WALDRON and Rifleman BRANSGROVE brought food, ammunition and packs from 'B' Company for No. 6 Platoon. They were seen to come under fire on their return journey, but they succeeded in rejoining 'B' Company. As supplies had not arrived for the Scout Platoon, Rifleman FLETCHER was again sent back with a message to Battalion Headquarters. He was later guiding a truck forward to FORT NEUILLY, escorted by carriers of 'C' Company 2/K.R.R.C. when the party turned back on finding that the Fort had fallen.

    At 1400 hours the bombardment of FORT NEUILLY was renewed with increased activity. To the Right rear the CALAIS - SANGATTE road was also being shelled, and oil reservoirs in rear were on fire, sending vast pillars of black smoke into the sky. A civilian van appeared at the gate; the driver reported a badly wounded British soldier down the road to COQUELLES and very gallantly offered to try and get him into CALAIS if men could be provided to lift him into the van; two riflemen accompanied the van, which came back some twenty minutes later; another casualty was lifted in before it proceeded on into CALAIS. By this time the French 25-mm gun at the gate had been knocked out without having been fired, and a direct hit on one of the two French heavy machine guns killed and wounded several of the detachment. Heavier artillery was now bombarding the Fort and shells were dropping over the walls, which had hitherto afforded some degree of protection. During this final phase Sergeant OSBORNE remained at this Bren in a hollow at the top of a mound on the North-West Bastion, inflicting numerous casualties on the enemy.

    A little before 1630 hours Captain MUNBY went to visit the French Captain in his underground office. The Frenchman said that the Fort was surrounded, that heavy Tanks were on the road outside, that his casualties were heavy and that he was about to surrender. A minute later a white flag was hoisted and the gate thrown open, and the Germans poured into the Fort. As the French Captain emerged from his dug-out, a suitcase in each hand belied the suggestion that his surrender was an entirely unpremeditated affair. The remnants of the garrison were marched out of the Fort on to the road, to find German tanks, infantry and artillery moving up towards CALAIS.

    The full pressure of this day's German attacks had fallen on the Western sector, held by 2/K.R.R.C. Lieutenant-Colonel MILLAR having decided and reported that it would be impossible to hold the outer perimeter for another day, because there ere not enough troops for the task, orders were issued for a withdrawal to the line of an inner perimeter, which had been selected that morning. On the West, this line enclosed the CANAL DE MARCK. At Battalion Headquarters, where the fate of FORT NEUILLY and the situation of 'B' Company were unknown, written orders for withdrawal were received at about 1800 hours from Headquarters 1/R.B. and were supplemented by a personal visit by the Signal Officer 1/R.B. Lieutenant DUNCANSON. The withdrawal in the Eastern sector was to take place through 1/R.B., who would be holding the inner perimeter. After passing through, the Battalion was to come into reserve to 1/R.B., in a locality to the South-East of the GARE MARITIME.

    On the Southern face of the town, 'D' Company had been subjected to considerable shillings and to mortar and machine-gun fire, but had maintained its positions. On the Eastern side, 'C' Company had not been in contact with the enemy. Orders were issued verbally at Battalion Headquarters to Officers Commanding 'C', 'D' and H.Q. Companies. 'C' Company moved first, withdrawing from its advanced positions back on to the Eastern ramparts; next, 'D' Company withdrew Northwards to the line of the Boulevard de L'Egalite (the continuation of the DUNKIR road) together with all other troops on its front, which included A.A. Searchlight personnel ROYAL ARTILLERY, British and French A/T guns, two platoons 1/R.B., and that portion of 'D' Company 2/K.R.R.C. under Captain BOWER which was East of the CANAL de CALAIS; finally H.Q. Company brought up the rear. Withdrawal was by two routes, along the road running just inside the ramparts and also Northwards through the centre of the town, with check points at the DUNKIRK Gate and the PONT ST. PIERRE. The Battalion's withdrawal was not interfered with by the enemy, but it was complicated by a considerable amount of indiscriminate firing down the streets from behind, apparently by civilians hidden in houses. After passing through 1/R.B. the Battalion bivouacked in a hollow square at the North-West corner of the large open space just South of the Northern ramparts, with Battalion Headquarters at the Northern end of the wood-piles on the track leading to Headquarters 1/R.B., which was at the gap in the ramparts opposite the Southern end of the GARE MARITIME. But it was not until 0230 hours that 'C' Company was able to lie down and sleep after having been sent, on orders issued verbally to Major TIMPSON by Lieutenant-Colonel HOSKYNS, to report to 2/K.R.R.C. in the Old Town where, however, it was not then required. Major TIMPSON then reported to Brigadier NICHOLSON at his Headquaters in a cellar underneath the GARE MARITIME. Brigadier NICHOLSON told him that, although 1 Q.V.R. remained in reserve to 1/R.B., the former was to earmark one company to be at the disposal of O.C. 2/K.R.R.C. who was consolidating his positions in the Old Town, and to be sent to him whenever called for. He added that there was now no question of re-embarkation from CALAIS, but that the 48th DIVISION was coming to our assistance and part of it was now arriving.
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    'B' Company 1/Q.V.R. and 'C' Company 2/K.R.R.C. stood to at 0315 hours on May 25th. Some empty railway trucks were pushed up to form a block across the road on the Left flank. All was quiet until 0900 hours, when shells began to come over. The bombardment continued all day, systematically searching the whole area - the railway trucks and the Citadel on the Left, the Bastion on the Right, FORT RISBAN in rear - and casualties mounted steadily.

    On the Right, No. 7 Platoon had been holding the Bastion since 2300 hours on the previous evening, when it was found to have been abandoned by its French garrison. At noon, when French troops reappeared and again took over the Bastion, No. 7 Platoon was moved back to the Right rear, to give A/T protection towards the rear and to the Right flank; here is suffered considerably from the shelling, now augmented by very accurate mortar fire, the loose, sandy soil making adequate shelter impossible. Germans were observed infiltrating from FORT NEUILLY towards LES BARRAQUES, at a distance of some 2,000 yards. They afterwards cleverly worked a light mortar up to the bend in the road on 'B' Company's Right front, but the detachment had to cover the last 20 yards across open sand to reach shelter and it is improbable that this mortar got into action. Their heavy mortar fire continued from the neighbourhood of LES BARRAQUES.

    At about 1700 hours a very heavy bombardment opened and continued for an hour, except when interrupted for a dive-bombing attack; it was directed mainly on the Citadel, where a magazine was set on fire and continued burning, with ammunition exploding, all night.

    At 1800 hours a plane dropped leaflets, one of which was brought to 'B' Company Headquarters. It was printed in French. It stated that BOULOGNE had fallen and it called upon the garrison of CALAIS to surrender; they were to lay down their arms and march out on the COQUELLES road; otherwise the bombardment, which would cease for one hour, would be renewed and intensified. The company took advantage of the lull to improve its positions to give better all-round protection. Water was becoming scarce.

    Heavy bombing at 2100 hours was followed by a renewal of the bombardment for half an hour. The remainder of the Battalion had spend the night in bivouac, in reserve to 1/R.B. There was some shelling at about midnight, but the shells passed overhead and burst beyond the ramparts and there were no casualties.

    At 0330 hours on May 25th fresh positions were sited and digging commenced. In the absence of sufficient tools, steel helmets made a fair substitute.

    At about 0800 hours Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MACARTNEY was summoned to Headquarters 1/R.B. and ordered by Lieutenant-Colonel HOSKYNS to relieve a company 1/R.B. which was holding the Northern end of the Eastern rampart. Since 'C' Company remained earmarked for giving assistance to 2/K.R.R.C., if and when required, as already specified by Brigadier NICHOLSON, this relief was carried out by 'D' Company. There remained only H.Q. Company to man the Northern rampart, running parallel to the sea shore. Battalion Headquarters was established about midway along this rampart.

    At about 0900 hours some sniping developed from a large cellulose factory situated South-East of the GARE MARITIME. This led to a lot of indiscriminate firing from the troops who, with the exception of 'D' Company already posted on the Eastern ramparts on the Left flank, were gradually withdrawn to take up positions on the line of the rampart on each side of Battalion Headquarters. Interspersed with 'C' and H.Q. Companies were about 100 ROYAL ARTILLERY Searchlight personnel. 2/Lieutenant ALLEN was sent with No. 9 Platoon to search the factory, but without result. The Quartermaster, Lieutenant F. TRENDALL, was killed about about this time while driving a car, accompanied by R.Q.M.S. HARBUTT, to collect rations.

    German artillery registered at about 1000 hours and began shelling our positions at about 1130 hours, although little damage was done; the majority of the shells went over into the moat in rear, or on the causeway beyond it, and the troops were by this time reasonably well dug in. On the Eastern rampart 'D' Company Headquarters was joined in its shell-hole by a dog which curled itself up and went to sleep.

    At about 1300 hours orders were received for two platoons to report to Major J.A. TAYLOR, 1/R.B., at the PONT MOLLIEN, on the inter-battalion boundary between 2/K.R.R.C. and 1/R.B. These were detailed from 'C' Company and proceeded under 2/Lieutenant HAMILTON (Company H.Q. Platoon) and 2/Lieutenant BANBURY (No. 10 Platoon). Unable to find the 1/R.B. post on the PONT MOLLIEN (it had apparently meanwhile withdrawn into the Old Town) these two platoons eventually arrived at the bridge between the BASSIN CARNOT and the BASSIN DE BATELLERIE, opposite the Place de Norvege in the Old Town. Here they reported to Major J.S. POOLE, D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C., commanding 'B' Company 2/K.R.R.C. with whose company they remained throughout the rest of the battle.

    Original Sketch Map of B Coy, 2 KRRC positions around Bastion 9 by Major Jack Poole. Calais A Fight to the Finish-May 1940

    'A', 'B' and 'D' Companies 1/R.B. had all been thrown into the fight along the CANAL DE MARCK, and early in the afternoon their positions were overrun. Although no subsequent enemy attack developed over the open ground on the front of 1/Q.V.R. yet, as the afternoon wore on, German infantry began to infiltrate along the eastern ramparts and also through the woods outside.

    At about 1600 hours Major A.G.L. HAMILTON-RUSSELL 1/R.B. came to Battalion Headquarters and gave orders for a line to be established diagonally across the open ground in front, facing half-left, where some cover was provided by slits dug early that morning. This was carried out by personnel of H.Q. Company, under the command of 2/Lieutenant RAIKES and Sergeant HOWTHAKKER. Major HAMILTON-RUSSELL also ordered the withdrawal of 'D' Company from its rather exposed position on the Eastern ramparts in advance of the Left flank. At about this time German planes, sweeping in from the sea across the BASSIN DES CHASSES, machine-gunned our positions on the Northern and Eastern ramparts and on the open ground in front.

    Throughout the remainder of the evening the greater part of 'D' Company was gradually ferried across the moat at the North-East Bastion and assembled near a large tower to the North-East on the edge of the dunes. Here it joined up next day with 'C' Company 1/R.B. (Major V.C. KNOLLYS), which was in position facing East to protect that flank.

    At about 1700 hours Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MACARTNEY returned from a visit to Headquarters 1/R.B. and said that the Battalion would probably withdraw that night to the beach and be re-embarked. Following a discussion as to how this withdrawal could best be carried out, in view of the obstacle presented by the moat which ran immediately outside the ramparts both in rear and on the Left flank (the moat in rear being separated from the BASSIN DES CHASSES by a track on a causeway), it was decided that Battalion Headquarters would withdraw, with as much of the Battalion as possible, Westwards along the ramparts past Headquarters 1/R.B. while Major TIMPSON evacuated the remainder by a boat moored beside the Bastion in the North-East corner and worked round the Eastern end of the BASSIN DES CHASSES to the beach. Orders to this effect were confirmed to Major TIMPSON by Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MACARTNEY at about 1930 hours.

    Meanwhile the North-East Bastion became thronged with several hundreds of unarmed French troops and their vehicles, which streamed in along the road from the Left front, and whose presence made the defence of that locality very complicated. With the exception of some 20 armed French soldiers, who stated their willingness to fight, these were eventually ejected by Corporal STACEY (regimental provost corporal) at the revolver point, and they streamed back in the direction from which they had come. As the evening wore on, enemy infantry infiltration proceeded along the ramparts to the Left front and through the woods outside them, but an attack was not pressed home.

    At about 1800 hours warships, invisible behind the sand dunes, bombarded the German positions. Then, and then only on that day, all enemy fire ceased. It was thought at the time that the cessation of enemy artillery fire was due to our naval gunfire, but it was afterwards learnt that it had stop in order to allow the German tanks to move forward against the three bridges held by 2/K.R.R.C. guarding the approaches to the Old Town. After the naval shelling had ceased, a verbal message was passed down the line, from the Right, that some ROYAL MARINES had been landed and were going to relieve the Battalion.

    Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MACARTNEY had left Battalion Headquarters to visit the Left flank. In his absence Major HAMILTON-RUSSELL 1/R.B. came to Battalion Headquarters a little after 1900 hours and said that the Battalion was to withdraw forthwith to a position near the Western end of the canal to its rear; and that it would ultimately withdraw to the beach, where it would probably be taken off by the ROYAL NAVY in the morning; that the Battalion was to withdraw as quickly and quietly as possible, under cover of a rearguards to be provided by 1/R.B., and was then to form a road-block on the Left of 1/R.B. across the gap between the station wall of the GARE MARITIME and the ramparts. Major HAMILTON RUSSELL repeated these orders to Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MACARTNEY on the latter's return. The withdrawal was covered by a platoon detailed from H.Q. Company as rearguard, with a section - also found from H.Q. Company - on the causeway between the ramparts and the BASSIN DES CHASSES. Battalion Headquarters was established close to Headquarters 1/R.B. and the battalion's position would extend thence to the White Tower East of the GARE MARITIME.

    Meanwhile the Battalion had filed past along the ramparts:
    first 'C' Company (less two platoons detached under 2/Lieutenant HAMILTON and 2/Lieutenant BANBURY);
    then H.Q. Company (less Captain MUNBY'S Scout Platoon), accompanied by many French soldiers;
    then the remnants of 'D' Company (the greater part having crossed from the North-East Bastion under Lieutenant JESSOP), accompanied by miscellaneous A.A. Searchlight personnel.

    While Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISON-MACARTNEY went to liaise at Headquarters 1/R.B., the Adjutant with Major BROWN and Captain PALMER reorganised and posted the troops who, besides being very tired, were much intermixed. A big fire was blazing near the White Tower and railway trucks were on fire in the goods yard. These Officer spent the night touring the line, trying to keep some of the troops awake and on the alert. The position was shelled at about midnight but the shells fell in the canal and there were no casualties. The rear party which withdrew after dark from the North-East Bastion under Major TIMPSON, and also the half-company which preceded it under Lieutenant JESSOP and withdrew round the Eastern end of the BASSIN DES CHASSES, were captured on the sands next day.
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    At dawn on Sunday, May 26th German artillery ranged on the position, but the shells fell in the canal and beyond it and again there were no casualties.

    At about 0600 hours the Adjutant was summoned to Headquarters 1/R.B. and was told to move the Battalion into the GARE MARITME as quickly as possible and to form a screen across the Southern end of the Station and also to collect all vehicles available in the vicinity. The Adjutant ordered 2/Lieutenant FIELD-FISHER and 2/Lieutenant BARR to turn all available vehicles round to face North. After drivers had been left behind, together with a rear party on the ramparts, Major BROWN was told to lead the remainder of the Battalion to the Station. When he had moved off the Adjutant received fresh orders that the Battalion was to occupy three positions, as follows:-
    1. On the level-crossing, covering the South end of the Station;
    2. On the ramparts East of the White Tower, facing the BASSIN DES CHASSES;
    3. Blocking the two swing bridges into the Old Town, and to occupy the building between them.

    On this, the Adjutant sent a motor-cyclist to tell Major BROWN to bring his men back to meet him in the Station yard, South of the Station. R.S.M. CHAPMAN was put in command of a party on the rampart, facing the BASSIN DES CHASSES; a party with a Bren gun was dropped at the level crossing; and 2/Lieutenant ALLEN was sent with the remainder of the men to the two swing bridges. Battalion Headquarters was established on the Eastern platform of the railway station. The swing bridges were found to be already held by troops of 1/R.B. and one of them was subsequently take over by a party of ROYAL MARINES; so 2/Lieutenant ALLEN recrossed the Station yard and took command of a position of the men lining the ramparts facing the BASSIN DES CHASSES.

    Meanwhile, at about 0930 hours a dive-bombing and machine-gunning attack was carried out against the area of the GARE MARITIME, during which the Adjutant saw a naval launch come alongside the jetty at the North end of the harbour and take off some wounded. On Major BROWN's return his men were split up to reinforce the three parties on the ramparts, on the level crossing and on the swing bridges, retaining a small reserve at Battalion Headquarters. 2/Lieutenant LUCAS relieved R.S.M. CHAPMAN, who had been wounded, in command of part of the troops on the ramparts. A hundred or more stragglers from various units were found sitting about in the station; with the help of Major BROWN and 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER, the Adjutant organised these men into three platoons, dividing the available Brens and A/T rifles among them and sent them off to reinforce the three bodies of troops on the swing bridges, on the level crossing and on the ramparts.

    Between 1030 hours and 1100 hours there was a heavy dive-bombing attack, directed mainly against the Old Town and the locality round FORT RISBAN. All available A.A.L.M.G.s were in action manned principally by the battalion reserve under 2/Lieutenant FIELD-FISHER, 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER and 2/Lieutenant BARR. The men behaved splendidly and, although tired and dazed, did not seem to be the least perturbed. Ammunition was no beginning to run short; the Adjutant found the Battalion S.A.A. truck, still under load, in the Station yard; 2/Lieutenant FIELD-FISHER and a party proceeded to unload this and to distribute ammunition during the dive-bombing attack. After this attack was over, sniping continued on the Station area, principally from the direction of the upper stories of the cellulose factory, but was very difficult to locate the firers.

    From 1400 hours, mortar fire was opened on the Station area from the dunes Westwards beyond FORT RISBAN and Eastwards beyond the BASSIN DES CHASSES. A warship outside the harbour had meanwhile been firing on the town. The Adjutant went along the quay to the North end of the harbour to try and attract attention, in order to bring the ship's fire to bear on located targets; but the ship was out of sight and he could not get in touch, so he returned to the Station under machine-gun fire. Mortar fire now increased and the situation looked serious. The South end of the Station appeared to be in flames. The Adjutant reported in the Brigade Rear Headquarters cellar underneath the Station; and on re-ascending to the platform he found the Station deserted except for 2/Lieutenant RAIKES with some 20 men; 2/Lieutenant RAIKES reported that everyone had withdrawn Northwards towards the Tunnel. The Adjutant decided to withdraw the remainder, after he had first ascertained that all wounded had been removed from the R.A.P. cellar except for some eight mortally wounded. The party rain across to the Tunnel, incurring a good many casualties on the way. Arrived at the Tunnel, the Adjutant found Major BROWN and 2/Lieutenant FIELD-FISHER, 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER and 2/Lieutenant BARR. Captain PALMER was in command of the men who were fighting up on top. (The Staff Captain, Major COXWELL-ROGERS, I.A., was killed at his side).

    The Tunnel contained many wounded, who were being moved into the side-chambers. It was crammed with men of various units, disorganised and upset by the sudden retirement. The Adjutant called for all Q.V.R.s to come outside, which they all did at once. They were sent up, under 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER, to reinforce the firing-line on top. The Adjutant assembled the sergeants of other units and got them to collect small parties of their own men who were still in possession of firearms and in a fit state to fight, and to take them up also into the firing-line. Bullets were now coming into the rear of the Tunnel from the Western side of the harbour. An unsuccessful attempt was made by 2/Lieutenant BREWESTER with two signallers to contact a warship in order to bring fire to bear on enemy mortars which were firing from the dunes. The enemy mortar fire continued. The situation was out of hand and the end could not be long delayed.

    Astride the road to SANGATTE 'B' Company 1/Q.V.R. and 'C' Company 2/K.R.R.C stood to at 0315 hours. German tanks and motor-cycles could be heard on the move to the left front, but no enemy were visible. After breakfast and hot tea had been issued, the remnants of No. 7 Platoon, which had suffered considerably in the previous day's shelling (including its commander, P.S.M. LANGLEY, severely wounded), was relieved by a composite platoon, drawn from No. 5 Platoon 1/Q.V.R., one scout section 'C' Company 2/K.R.R.C., and some A.A. Searchlight personnel, under the command of 2/Lieutenant J.M. COURTENAY.

    Fresh positions were selected, but digging had not been completed when shelling began again at about 0700 hours. The first enemy dive-bombing and machine-gun attack of the day, already described in the narrative of events at the GARE MARITIME, opened at 0930 hours and continued for half an hour, being then followed by heavier shelling and by very accurate mortar fire.

    After a second air attack at 1030 hours, shelling recommenced at 1100 hours, accompanied by machine-gun fire from the front and from the Left flank which, by 1130 hours, was taking both companies in enfilade. A quarter of an hour later Captain JOHNSON, who had had previous authority from O.C. 2/K.R.R.C. to withdraw at discretion, decided that the position had become untenable. The withdrawal was carried out along there parallel routes - along the railway on the Left, down the road in the centre and along the shore or the Right - and was covered by two platoons 2/K.R.R.C. which remained in position under Captain E. RADCLIFFE. The withdrawal began at 1200 noon and immediately drew heavy mortar and machine-gun fire.

    At 1245 hours 2/Lieutenant COURNETAY was sent back to the GARE MARITIME and reported to Major A.W. ALLAN 1/R.B. and also to 2/Lieutenant RAIKES at Battalion Headquarters. He was told by Major ALLAN that there was to be no withdrawal into the Station, which was already overcrowded.

    By 1330 hours the situation was that 2/K.R.R.C. was holding the arc of a small circle in the Old Town, with 'B' Company 1/Q.V.R. on the North, facing FORT RISBAN and the bridge leading to the SANGATTE road. An hour later Captain BOWRING was wounded in an attempt to recross this bridge accompanied by two volunteers, Rifleman BRANSGROVE and Rifleman G. STEVENS, to recover two Brens and some ammunition from a truck on the far side of the bridge, which was blocked with debris.

    At about 1600 hours O.C. 2/K.R.R.C. decided that further resistance was useless and issued orders that every man was to try to save himself. 'B' Company 1/Q.V.R. now only 20 to 30 strong, withdrew to the Place de L'Europe, which was being swept by machine-gun fire, so they took cover in a school. An exploration of the cellars disclosed an underground passage which led up to a street where a German tank was standing. In front of the school, three German tanks and numerous infantry were now in possession of the square.

    There was no alternative but to surrender, which was done at 1700 hours.

    In the meantime 2/Lieutenant R. WOOD 1/R.B. crossed to the Tunnel from the Bastion in rear, carrying a white flag and calling for the senior officer, meanwhile telling the men to throw down their arms. He explained in turn to Major BROWN and then to Lieutenant-Colonel ELLISION-MACARTNEY that the Bastion had been surrendered and that the troops on the Tunnel must cease firing and surrender too. It was seen that the gates of the Bastion were open, with a German sentry standing outside. The remnants of the Battalion therefore laid down their arms.

    Many gallant attempts were made to avoid capture or to escape after capture, but nearly all survivors ultimately became Prisoners of War.

    2/Lieutenant R.A. RAIKES disappeared and was never seen again.

    2/Lieutenant T. LUCAS and Lance-Corporal R. ILLINGWORTH eventually made good their separate escapes to ENGLAND.

    [Roll of Officers and NCOs appended see post 3]
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    Captured 2nd June 1940

    Was taken prisoner in harbour of CALAIS and told to march along road to a church with Rifleman HUBBY. Passed group after group and put into church in CALAIS which filled up with French soldiers. They remained there for two hours and then told to go outside; while in the church, prisoners arrived and estimated at about 300 Other Ranks and 20 / 25 Officers, and a great number of French, about 1,000. When first captured, was searched and 303 amm. taken (had no revolver). French and British Officers in column marched out of the town when practically dark in South Easterly direction on road to GUINES.

    At GUINES there was a larger guards and Prisoners of War were kept in Square for a time. Then on across a railway at LICQUES and shortly after that to a for, in the road (2.30 a.m.). Was walking more quickly than average speed in order to catch some friends who were forward in the column and noticed that no guards was passed for some time. As this was the case, took the right fork, while the column went left.

    Went down about 100 yards and got into some bushes off the road and went to sleep. On Monday, 3rd, at about 4.30 / 5.30 a.m., when it got light, left greatcoat and found a bit of sacking which put over shoulders and went across country in a Westerly direction by the sun. Avoided all villages and collections of houses; no people in fields and only met one or two peasants who did not take any notice.

    A number of German vehicles were noticed on the road.

    Then reached some hills overlooking MARQUISE and crossed the MARQUISE road going on to the far side when eventually made for the coast, reaching the shore at LE CHATELET at 4 p.m. where rested there. From there, walked along the sand dunes to WISSANT. From there, could see the people in the village and lay in the sand dunes till it was fairly dark and then went back to the beach itself and walked almost into the village. On the beach, found some beach huts and behind these at the mouth of the river was a dinghy with oars. In one of the beach huts, obtained some rope.

    Met an old French fisherman who got him beer and bread and helped him launch the dingy. There were very few Germans in the village. Started at 10 p.m. when it was quite dark and rowed up near a searchlight off CAP GRIS NEZ. Rowed till it was light with the tide going out and at 7 a.m. reckoned he was half way across the cliffs of DOVER could be seen. Made for these. Saw a number of craft but they were going North and took no notice of him. About half a mile off DOVER, a mine sweeper came out and picked him up and landed him.

    Officers taken prisoner - Information passed on to R. Cas. by C.M.R. 29.6.1940

    Captain G.P. BOWRING, Q.V.R., slightly wounded, started marching but taken off on lorry.
    2/Lieutenant D.P. HAMILTON
    2/Lieutenant B. BANBURY
    2/Lieutenant J. COURTNEY
    St. DAVID HAWLEY - 60th
    Major ALLAM, Command of Rear Brigade H.Q. in harbour at CALAIS

    Staff Officers not known
    About 300 Other Ranks

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details
    Name Lucas, Timothy Stoyin
    Rank: Second Lieutenant
    Regiment: King's Royal Rifle Corps, Territorial Army
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Escape and Evasion and Special Operations
    Award: Military Cross
    Date of Announcement in London Gazette: 29 November 1940
    Date 1940-1941
    Catalogue reference WO 373/60

    Attached Files:

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    Aerial photos from 1949

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    Now completed - there may be some typos so let me know if something looks wrong. :)

    Amongst the personnel of the Searchlight unit mentioned in the account was Airey Neave
    Airey Neave - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Neave joined the Territorial Army and became an officer of the Royal Artillery in the regular British Army at the beginning of World War II. He was sent to France in February 1940 as part of a searchlight regiment. He was wounded and captured by the Germans at Calais on 23 May 1940. He was imprisoned at Oflag IX-A/H near Spangenberg and in February 1941 moved to Stalag XX-A near Thorn in German-occupied western Poland. In April 1941 he escaped from Thorn with Norman Forbes. They were captured near Itow while trying to enter Soviet-controlled Poland and were briefly in the hands of the Gestapo. In May, they were both sent to Oflag IV-C (often referred to as Colditz Castle because of its location).[citation needed]

    Neave made his first attempt to escape from Colditz on 28 August 1941 disguised as a German N.C.O. He did not get out of the castle as his hastily contrived German uniform (made from a Polish army tunic and cap painted with scenery paint) was rendered bright green under the prison searchlights He tried again on 5 January 1942, again in disguise, together with Dutch officer Anthony Luteyn. Better uniforms and escape route (they made a quick exit from a theatrical production using the trap door beneath the stage) got them out of the prison and by train and on foot they travelled via Leipzig, Ulm, and then into Switzerland via Hans Larive's Singen route by 9 January 1942. Neave returned to Britain through France, Spain, and Gibraltar and was the first British officer to make a "home run" from Colditz.

    He was later recruited as an intelligence agent for MI9. While at MI9, he was the immediate superior of Michael Bentine. He also served with the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, investigating Krupp. As a well-known war hero - as well as a qualified lawyer who spoke fluent German - he was honoured with the role of reading the indictments to the Nazi leaders on trial. He wrote several books about his war experiences including an account of the Nuremberg Trial.
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Thats tonights reading sorted -Many thanks Diane, this one is a bit of an epic so I know it took a fair amount of your own time for you to do this.

    On behalf of the lurkers and posters of the 1940 section we salute you :salut:
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    Welcome. All I'll say is - If ever an account needed a sketch map or two it was this one ;)

    Andy - how many BEF E&Es have you heard of who rowed across the Channel?

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