Lieutenant Basil Reginald Wood
Unit : The Princess Louise Kensington (Middlesex) Regiment.
Served : France (captured).
Army No. : 85465
POW No. : 1283
Camps : Stalags XXID and VIIA, Oflags VB, VIB and VIIB
A Wartime Log For British Prisoners
This book belongs to 85465 Lieut B. R. Wood
17 Belgrave Court, W4, London, England
I dedicate this book to Major-General Sir Richard Howard-Vyse K.C.M.G and Miss Christine Knowles DESPITE whose efforts we still managed to survive as prisoners of war.
Sept 1st1939. T.A. embodied. Arrive Battn HQs at 15.45hrs. Returned home to pack kit and equipment etc, then back to H.Qs at 18.00hrs. Troops medically inspected and paid grant of £5 and 10/- for small kit. Dinner at Clarendon with Eardley. First total black-out ordered by Government. Battalion in aid of civil power. Our Coy attached to F Division, Metropolitan Police H.Qs, Kensington Station. Billets at 51 Gloucester Walk. 1 officer from Coy and D.R. as liaison: Mike first. Hammond took troops to billet. Eardley, David and myself bed down on floor of billet, very dirty.
Sept 2nd. Advance Battn H.Qs at Hammersmith Police Station. Breakfast arrived supplied by Messrs Chance of Acton until we went onto R.A.S.C. rations. Food poor. Sgt Froblich made A/CSM. Relieved Mike at police station, met Inspector Fraser, D/Supt May, Det Sgts Cade, Green and Burns. "Officers Mess" in room in basement. Detectives search foreigners and take down their particulars. In case of looting or rioting during air raids L.O's job at police station was to send back to Coy HQs for troops. Lunch at Crown Hotel opposite; Mrs Neil proprietor. Hammond relieved me at 15.00hrs. P.S.I. Sgt Parnell (Middlesex Regt) arrived attached to Coy. Big thunderstorm in evening. Scheme evolved of 1 P.C. on duty, 1 in reserve, 1 free- latter to go out in near area but to return at once on air raid warning.
Sept 3rd. Arms drill taken by Sgt Parnell in garden behind house. Announcement of Declaration of War on wireless at 11o/c. Air raid warning at 12.00hrs, six men of Coy without respirators. Mustard gas detectors fixed to sentries bayonets. Lunch at Crown. Tom off to town to get black-out paint for windows. Went home in afternoon, put steel helmet, carried on shoulder, through bus window. Returned at 20.00hrs to sleep at police station. Lot to drink. Air raid warning 03.00hrs, went into street.
Sept 4th. Relieved by Ham at 07.00hrs. David managed to obtain Cam House, Camden Hill Road (late millionaire's house) as a billet. Large lawn, Italian garden, garage, paved court yard. Moved in 11.00hrs. Large ballroom on first floor as our bedroom, camp beds etc set up. In future 1 P.C. and officer concerned to be off duty from 17.00hrs to 22.00hrs . Arms drill in morning, and PT. In afternoon. M.G. instruction in garden. At 18.00hrs guard mounted. 2 trucks per Coy, 1 to collect rations from Chances at Acton and for any other purposes, the other for driving instruction. David's car also taken over. Canteen opened, Truman's beer obtained by Mike, chocolates and cigarettes by Q.M.S. Minski from Harrods. Eardley left Coy to become O/C B Coy and Harley sent to M.G.T.C. Alderley.
Sept 5th. Early morning PT started at 06.15hrs. Cooker obtained from Gas, Light & Coke Co. Stones and Pyne sent to Depot. Sammy Lohan (T.A.R.O.) I.O.
Sept 6th. Air raid alarm 06.00hrs. David in bath - Coy, except sentries, go to basements. All clear 2 hrs later.
Sept 7th. Hammond to Netheravon with Wasey, Walker and Kent. J. Evans replaces him in our Coy. Ray Milton (transport Sgt) commissioned. Chimay on S.O. course. Beginning staff course Camberley. NCOs courses at L.D.S.I. Moor Park and Richmond. Parnell appointed C.S.M. A Coy. Few NCOs sent as instructors to depot and 2nd Middlesex at Gosport. ORs as batmen to GHQ France.
Sept 9th. David breaks ankle playing rugger- stays at Cam House. Duties at police station revised, only D.R. at police station during day but officer at night. M.G. training in full swing - route marches round Kensington. Lectures by Howard 2I/C "Unexpected Always Happens in War" and "The Regiment" etc.
Sept 11th. Windmill theatre with Eardley and Cabaret Club.
Sept 13th. Major McGregor appointed Bde chaplain. Rev. E.A. Timothy joins Battn as padre.
Sept 14th. E.N.S.A. concert at B Coy's billets at Chiswick. Return to find Pte Burgess' cartridges missing - later found in blanket roll.
Sept 16th. Went with 12 ORs to Olympia to escort internees to camp at Clacton - coach to Liverpool Street station. Locked in train, protested, then given key. Internees gave us money to buy tea, chocolates, cigarettes etc for them. Met at Clacton by 2/6th Essex Regt. Given meal at camp (ex Butlin holiday camp).
Sept 18th. El Monaco night club with Eardley and Sammy Lohan.
Sept 20th. PT course at Chelsea barracks- very tiring. Lunch at officer's mess (2nd Scots Guards), games in afternoon. Home for tea, return to Cam House at 19.00hrs.
Sept 23/25th. 48 hrs leave.
Oct 1st. R.A.S.C. rations. The whole time we were at Cam House we lived on rations except when we were at the police station when we had lunch and dinner at the Crown or in the police canteen.
Oct 4th. PT course ended. Photo taken.
Oct 6th. 30 yards range firing with M.Gs at Wormwood Scrubs. Also revolver practice with Ham and Neville Hoare.
Oct 10th. Windmill theatre with Mike.
Oct 15th. Chosen to lay up Colours the next day at St Mary Abbots church with Paul Beevor. Practiced at HQs in morning.
Oct 16th. Laid up Colours, received by Col Hancocks and handed over to Vicar of St Mary Abbots for the duration. Sgts Clarke, Rees and Hibbert were the escort. Lunch at Battn HQs afterwards. Col Campbell and Col Sir Donald Banks present. 48 hrs leave.
Oct 17th. Saw George Black's show "The Little Dog Laughed" at the Palladium.
Oct 18th. Returned from leave. Ham returned from Netheravon course, Evans went. Mike to L.D.S.I .course at Moor Park.
Oct 20th. Our tour of duties in aid of civil power ending. Gave dinner party to Det. Supt. May, D Sgt Cade and Insp. Fraser at Cam House. Returned for drinks at police station and had finger prints taken.
Oct 21st. Leaving Kensington for V.P. (Vulnerable Point) duties at Stanmore aerodrome. Acting 2I/C took estate agent round Cam House- Damages £185. Gas, Light & Coke Co claimed we had bought cooker for £115, we said we hired it. Left in first coach for Stanmore to take over from E Coy 2nd Kensingtons. Arrived Stanmore 11.00hrs took over from Capt Belol. No sentry duties etc laid down, all very inefficient, Troops billets good - officers mess excellent, also bedrooms, central heating, H & C, telephone. O.I/C Station Wing Commander Bold (late Indian Army) referred to all youngsters in balloon barrage as useless -----, wingless wonders, amongst them C. Gadney, rugger referee. Large numbers of W.A.A.Fs. Coy arrived at 14.00 hrs. Took David round. Troops duties fairly severe 48 hrs on, 12 hrs off, guarding Camp and Manor House (Air Ministry), Cipher station, also roving sentries at night. Officers duties practically nil but orderly officer had to go round posts at night, David, Ham and I shared this duty which meant that we were on duty all day and night one in three, otherwise we were free after lunch on the other two days. I used to go home some days which meant four changes of train or go up west with the other off duty. When O.O. I used to stay in mess drinking, playing cards, darts etc or listen to wireless to 00.15hrs then go round posts taking about half an hour, back to bed, then round again at 06.00hrs. After breakfast in the morning we attended Coy office, then did M.G. tactics by ourselves, then PT. No opportunity to give troops M.G. training as they were on guard always, and all kit given to D Coy who were running NCOs courses at Chiswick under Capt Garston, Middx. Very inefficient but Howard though wonderful. On Tuesdays and Fridays dances were held which were very well attended by the W.A.A.Fs. I generally took -----------------------------. On Wednesday night an E.N.S.A. show. Troops food excellent, three hot meals a day. Our mess also excellent.
Oct 23rd. Orderly Officer. E.N.S.A. show. Renee Hunter came over to Sgts mess afterwards. Squadron Leader in plain clothes tried to get into Manor House. Nearly shot by guard. Told him not to try to be clever with us.
Oct 26th. Went to dinner at Berkeley with David, Eardley and Muriel and then on to Cabaret club.
Oct 30th. E.N.S.A. show. Jack Buchanan with very glamorous blondes.
Oct 31st. Refereed boxing contests at R.A.F. vs ourselves. Howard, Laurie and Bryar came over to watch.
Nov 3rd. Mike returned from L.D.S.I. course and Ham went in his place.
Nov 5th. Went over to Depot at Mill Hill and met Howard's and my old Pl Sgt who is now instructor there and Jimmy Nevin, England rugger international, also Howard Pyne and Dennis Stones.
Nov 6th. Went with Mike to first night of George Black's show "Black Velvet" at Hippodrome. Danced with Rosa Beaumont. Had dinner at Regents Palace afterwards and picked up two girls.
Nov 7th. Told on telephone that Security police wished to know what information I had given girl the previous evening- None. Turned out later to be Sammy Lohan who knew girl well. Took Pat Braithwaite to Leicester Square theatre to see
Nov 9th. Went to Windmill theatre with David. Dinner at Piccadilly.
Nov 11th. David & I went to St Mary Abbots church for Armistice Day service and had lunch at Battn HQ.
Nov 13/15th. 48 hrs leave. Went to Trocadero.
Nov 16th. Heard from Chimay who came to watch another boxing display that Hancocks was relinquishing command and Howard taking over with Neville Hoare as 2 I/C and Laurie as Adjutant.
Nov 17th. Hanco came over to say goodbye. Howard arrived in afternoon to say we were leaving on Nov 19th for Somerset to join 44 Div under Major Gen Osborne and ORs under 20 and those earmarked for O.C.T.Us were to go to 2nd Battn. He stopped a rocket from Group Captain Bold for not paying him courtesy call.
Nov 18th. Gave party in evening out of Coy funds to all those leaving . Most upset was L/Cpl Holmes, assistant curator at British Museum, who wrote amusing lyrics. Afterwards attended farewell dance given in our honour. Said goodbye to Carolie.
Nov 19th. Parade 06.15hrs. Group Captain Bold said how sorry they all were we were going etc etc. March to Stanmore station . Arrived at Mill Hill station and joined up with B and C Coys. Scots Guards dug out Captain smoking cigar in turban and teddy bear coat, R.T.O. Got on train next stop Addison Road to be joined by D Coy, HQ Coy, and Battn HQs. Large crowd on platform. Col Campbell, Lt Col and Mrs Hancocks, Col Sir D. Banks, Mayor of Kensington etc. Hands shaken all round. Train drew out at 10.00hrs for Ilminster. David, Mike, Charles, Eardley, John Smith and myself in one carriage. Good luncheon baskets. Played Vingt et un. Arrived Taunton at 15.00hrs,tea. Ilminster 16.00hrs. Troops marched from station to large shirt factory in main square, taken over as billet, and given hot meal. D Coy officers and Sgts had arrived week earlier to do the billeting. C and D Coys with Battn HQs and HQ Coy to be billeted in Ilminster in old factories, schools, etc. Officers in George hotel, Howard, Hoare and Chimay in Shrubbery Hotel. Cookhouse in old blacksmiths forge in main square. Sgts mess in old hall. R.A.P. in disused house, hospital in old chapel staffed by V.A.D. nurses. Battn HQ in empty house in . Street. After meal A and B Coy officers and men left in coaches for South Petherton, village about 8 miles away just off Ilminster-Yeovil road. Troops then billeted in village halls, skittle alleys etc. A Coy had 4 Pl in hall of Crown hotel, 5 Pl in hall and skittle alley of Wheatsheaf and 6 Pl in old school. Troops had to sleep on palliases only. Mike and I billeted in Cram hotel in main square of village, Proprietors Mr & Mrs Wood. Fairly comfortable and improved as we stayed on. Cookhouse and messing hall in large empty garage. Coy offices in second floor of empty house. QM and MG stores with guard room on ground floor. David, Eardley and David Tregonning returned from Camberley to become 2 I/C B Coy were billeted on local squire Col Poole. Peter Smythe, Wasey and Hammond billeted on Major and Mrs
Nov 20th et seq. Efforts were made to make men more comfortable by hiring gas heaters and putting in electric light etc. Lectures were arranged to take place in dance hall of George hotel, Ilminster every evening except Friday at 17.15hrs given by Tregonning and Chimay on what they had learnt, obviously very little. Officers from South Petherton went over in a truck and we were generally late, incurring Howard's displeasure. Chimay had had colossal row with Proprietors of George hotel over the taking over of the hall and Howard had ordered all the officers to leave there and go to the Shrubbery or find other billets. The bar was also put out of bounds to all ranks. During the week drafts arrived of conscripts, reservists and regulars from K.R.R. depot, Y & L, E Yorks, Beds & Herts etc. All the reservists were ex machine gunners. Whilst our trained Sgts took the men on gun drill, classes in fire orders etc were arranged for the NCOs. Mike, Ham, Laurie and myself took these classes at South Petherton in requisitioned rooms of Coy HQ billets etc, and although we had all been on courses it meant a good deal of swotting so we had little time in the evenings for ourselves. In afternoon, route marches, respirators drill, PT, guard mounting with regimental band on alternate days at Ilminster and South Petherton took place in the respective squares. Rather a farce at South Petherton with buses and sheep always getting in the way. This was later stopped by the Major Gen. The Toc H in the village opened a canteen and the locals all invited our troops and also gave them baths as no public baths were available. Dances were held every Saturday night in local hall and at Ilminster Sgts mess held a dance in George hotel dance room for full Corporals and above but of course bar could not be used. Every Wednesday night an ancient film was shown in the local hall at South Petherton but Ilminster had one flea-pit of a cinema.
Dec 2nd. Local garage man, Giles, had plenty of petrol and managed to hire car from him every week-end. Drove to Yeovil with David and Eardley, went to pictures and had dinner at Mermaid, then stopped at Montacute Arms on way back and met the three girls there.
Dec 3rd. Went in car with Mike down to Blyst Hydon in Devonshire. Orderley officer at South Petherton had to stay in village unless taken out on duty. By various wanglings I managed never to be O.O. at week-ends.
Dec 4th. Heard with deep regret that Princess Louise had died the previous night. Howard and Bryar went to funeral and all officers wore black arm bands for a week. Sammy Lohan relieved of Coy of C Coy by Howard. Applied for and went on gas course.
Dec 8th. About this time all of us were getting very fed up with Howard, his rudeness, lack of tact, inefficiency and total lack of M.G. tactics. We used to foregather in dining room of the Crown and contemplate writing to Div Cdr about him.
Dec 9th. All Coy Cdrs went off with C.O. to Batcombe Down to carry out recce for Divisional digging exercise the next week. Our Coy was to be in position on Monday morning , dig M.G. emplacements etc, stay in position the whole night and be relieved the following night at 20.00hrs by B Coy and so on. Meanwhile Mike, Peter and myself went into Yeovil to the cinema, had dinner at the Mermaid and then went on to Montacute.
Dec 10th. Although a Sunday, David wanted to do recce with Pl Cdrs for scheme on Monday - rather annoyed as wanted to go to Montacute. Mike was O.O. and acting 2 I/C of Coy so I took David and Ham in car. No 5 Pl was in reserve and would not be digging. On arrival at Batcombe Down decided on platoon positions. One of my sections was to be in hedge just off main road, the other about 100 yards away in hedge in field, Pl HQs between the two at a track. Went down steep hill, brakes none too good, hair pin bend to place selected for Coy HQs. On way back puncture outside Crewkerne. David and Ham changed wheel. On return arranged details with Pl Sgt.
Dec 11th. At this time each Coy had only 8 trucks (2 per Pl, 2 Coy HQs) so coaches necessary to drive troops in. Civilian drivers very bolshy. Left at 08.30hrs for Batcombe Down, arrived one hour later. Platoon dig in and camouflage. Full network of emplacements likely to take 4 days to dig. Reservists excellent at this. Visit from Brig Steele in bren gun carrier emphasises not to make tracks walking between sections as visible from air. I look at tracks his carrier is making. Stew sent up from Pl HQs at 13.00hrs and water cart. Bitter wind, snow in early evening. After tea arranged sentries during night, patrols of our own supposed to be in front with bren guns, call for D.F. red over green and red. Settled down to cold night, stew brought up at 20.00hrs bad, sent D.R. back to Coy HQs who produced sausages. Cooked them by burning sign posts etc. Pte Rayner taken ill, gave him my greatcoat. No sleep all night, too cold and snow. Drank lot of whisky. General Osborne "Snow White" came round positions at 09.00hrs said troops should do PT, silly fussy old dodderer. Howard arrived 10.00hrs, no criticism. Cold and windy all day, waited longingly for relief. At 19.00hrs first reliefs for infantry Battns came through. One Battn marched past my Pl HQs three times having lost their way !! Relief by B Coy supposed to have been completed by 20.00hrs eventually completed at 02.00hrs. Slept in coach all way back. Arrived South Petherton 03.30hrs. Troops given hot tea etc. Mike and I prepared some breakfast in hotel at 06.00hrs then went to bed.
Dec 12th. Woke up at 13.00hrs with headache and cold. Parade 15.00hrs gun cleaning etc.
Dec 13/14th. In bed with cold.
Dec16/17th. Obtained local week-end leave to stay Yeovil at Manor hotel. Went to cinema in evening. In morning drove to Dorchester, spent afternoon in hotel.
Dec 18th. Conference of all officers at Battn HQs. Howard had been well brassed off by Div General. A Coy escaped censure as we had dug well and done a lot. B and D Coys got full benefit of Howards tongue. Arthur Cower had apparently tried to argue with the Div Cdr. Eardley relieved of command of B Coy, to go as 2 I/C C Coy. Arthur Cower to go to Depot after Xmas leave and then hand over to Charles Mountford temporarily. Williamson of D Coy to come to us as 2 I/C. B, C and D Coys were to repeat exercise during day only. A Coy excused but officers would have map reading and questions by Howard and Hoare on Batcombe Down.
Dec 19th. Major Prismall, last war Kensington, arrived to take over B Coy from Depot. Decent fellow but knew nothing about M.Gs. Earnest Shanks, barrister, pleasant fellow, arrived also to go to B Coy and Torens Spence posted to C Coy. Prismall billeted at Col Poole's vice Eardsley who had gone to Ilminster.
Dec 20th. Went in Howards car for map reading at Batcombe Down with David and J. Evans, I.O. Howard knew little about map reading. Saw B, C and D Coys digging. Garston walking about in British warm, no steel helmet, respirator equipment etc. Stopped rocket from Howard for not being correctly dressed. Whole Company vaccinated in evening. Classes of instruction stopped owing to Xmas leave starting. Small Coy schemes to take their place in preparation for big schemes after return of final leave party.
Dec 21st. First leave party left. David and Mike went so I had command of A Coy with Ham as only officer and Sgt Frohlich as A/CSM. Prepared two small schemes for taking up position and withdrawal in near neighbourhood to do on Dec 22nd.
Dec 23rd. Saturday morning used for interior economy. In afternoon took Jean Wilson (nurse at isolation hospital at Martock) in car to Yeovil, cinema, dinner at Mermaid.
Dec 24th. Orders arrived from Bn for joint A and B Coys scheme on Dec 27th. As next two days holidays Ronnie Wasey, acting Coy Cdr of B Coy and myself decided to do recce that afternoon. Very foggy. Went over to Kings Arms at Montacute in evening.
Dec 25th. Church service, well attended by both Coys,. Afterwards took men of Coy not dining out with locals to Ilminster in trucks for bath and Xmas dinner. I went up to Howard`s birthday cocktail party at Shrubbery, lot of locals there. Afterwards attended mens dinner and than invited to lunch in Sgts mess with John Smith. Returned to South Petherton in afternoon to have tea with Jean and her friend Elsie and Peter Smythe. Returned to Shrubbery hotel for dinner with Howard and Battn officers. Very good meal, sat between Arthur Carver and John Smith. Went on to dance at Sgts mess. Arrived back at 03.30hrs Boxing Day morning.
Dec 26th. After lunch Peter and I took the two girls to the film they were showing in the local hall and then out to tea at Ilchester. As they were on duty at 18.00hrs we arranged to go up to the hospital at 20.00hrs, climb over the wall and into their rooms. The matron was out and only the porter had to be avoided. Operation successfully concluded until we were about to leave, when found. I was leaning against the alarm bell.
Dec 27th. Informed from Battn HQs at 08.00hrs that all new transport was arriving that afternoon. Sent Ham off on Coy scheme and with Ronnie went and saw Col Poole to obtain permission to have them parked under leafy cover by the church where there was a stream. New park meant extra sentries shared by Coy - 22 x 15cwts, 2 x 30cwts (Bedfords) and 8 cwt Humber Snipe for our Coy, with 6 motorbikes.
Dec 28th. Mike, David and Willy returned from Xmas leave with rest of Coy in evening. Told David he was to go on two weeks Coy Cdrs course at Netheravon.
Dec 29th. Left with Eardley, Peter, John Smith and Earnest Shanks for Xmas leave. Went by local train to Taunton. Drank most of the way up. Arrived home 15.45hrs and went to the cinema in the evening.
Dec 30th. Went to London Casino in the evening.
Dec 31st. Went over to see Olive.
Jan 1st.1940. Went to the cinema in the afternoon and in the evening saw Jessie Matthews and Sonnie Hale in "Come out to play" at Kings.
Jan 2nd. Called in at Kensington police station to see old friends. In evening saw "Husbands and Lovers" at Carlton.
Jan 3rd. Saw Arthur Rowe, Leslie Hanson, Sidney Howard in "Shepherds Pie" at Prince Edward theatre in afternoon and visited the Bishops in the evening.
Jan 4th. Saw Max Miller, Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels in "Haw Haw" at the Holborn Empire.
Jan 5th. Returned by 16.30hrs train from Paddington. Went back with Eardley, and Rocky Knight. Avoided Howard who was with John Evans in separate compartment until dinner- time.
Jan 6th. Arthur Carver posted to Depot. Attended lecture in afternoon on B.E.F. administration by officer recently returned. In evening cinema and dinner at Mermaid, Yeovil and drinks at Montacute.
Jan 8th. Howard produced in collaboration with Garston his amazing lay out of M.G. emplacements and ordered Coys at South Petherton and Ilminster to dig these. Work spasmodically started.
Jan 9th. Gaston's other scheme of taking up position at night by flashing various coloured lights carried out. Whole show visible for miles. ORs and officers very bolshie about this and useless digging of absurd M.G. pits. Howard at this time was taking various officers out on brains trust on main Ilminster-Honiton road. Absurd questions and he always got absurd answers.
Jan 10th. Et seq Digging of pits , maintenance of trucks and training of drivers continued. Ray Milton very fussy, produced thousands of forms which M.T. Sgts and Pl Cdrs were supposed to keep up to date.
Jan 12th. Heard that A, B, C and D Coys were to go to Tidworth for a week of field and range firing, Bn HQs and Howard were to remain at Ilminster and HQ Coy were to look after our billets at South Petherton. Neville Hoare to be C.O. at Tidworth and I was to be Adjutant.
Jan 13th. Third leave party returned, also David from Netheravon.
Jan 14th. Left for Tidworth. A and B Coys drawn up on Ilminster-Yeovil road. Long wait for C and D Coys who were, as usual, late. Finally moved off at 09.00hrs. I travelled in Neville's car - only took sufficient kit to last a week, rest left behind in my bedroom at the Crown. Arrived at ? barracks at 13.00hrs . Sammy Lohan recently returned from gas course was acting as messing officer, and had arrived there two days ago. Had good meal ready for the troops as well as excellent lunch for the officers. Troops very pleased to be billeted in proper quarters for the first time since the war began. Large Orderly room, Adjutants room and C.Os office. Barracks in peacetime occupied by 10th Lancers. We took over their mess and crockery etc, officers bedrooms, large with coal fires, comfortable beds, tables etc, H & C water. Saw troops settled in and then arranged next days shooting. Good mess dinner that night. First time that nearly all officers of Battn had dined together since outbreak of war. Plenty of drinking and ragging.
Jan 15th et seq. Coys out all day. I stayed in office. D.R. arrived each night at 18.00hrs from Ilminster with Battn Orders etc. Very cold, snow on ground, wild nights in mess in evening, much crockery smashed, eggs and soda syphons used as weapons. Stags head dressed to look like Garston with monocle and squashed cap.
Jan 17th. Johnny Dodge arrived to take over D Coy from depot. Good sort, Lt Col in last war.
Jan 19th. Visit of Div Cdr. Took him in thick snow to see Coys firing at Netheravon. Sammy Lohan left for the depot. Very sorry as I liked him.
Jan 21st. Left Tidworth to return, at 09.30hrs. Snow on roads frozen hard, trucks break down, speed 8 mph. Travelled in Neville`s car in rear of column in case of accidents. B Coy truck skids into house at Mere. Stopped at Wincanton for sandwiches and beer. Journey very slow, car breaks down, towed by Tregonning's truck. Outside Ilchester truck skids, slews round into ditch and overturns, we follow and do likewise. Much shaken, sheep killed. Tregoning breaks ribs. Phone for ambulance and L.A.D. from farmhouse. Neville goes on in another truck as has to attend C.Os conference. On arrival of ambulance and L.A.D. leave in Donald Roe's car for South Petherton and arrive there at 18.30hrs. After dinner had T.A.B. inoculation as did entire Coy.
Jan 22nd. Despite fact supposed to have 48 hours off duty after T.A.B. inoculation, summoned to Ilminster as witness of accident at Court of Enquiry, presided over by de Chimay with Mike and Ernest Shanks. Spent rest of day taking it easy.
Jan24th/26th. Laurie Bryar on 48 hours leave so went to Battn HQs as Adjutant and stayed at Shrubbery hotel. Pleased as missed big Coy scheme, very cold and snow thick on ground. Had long talks with Johnny Dodge about Howard in evening and played table tennis with de Chimay. On 26th. Mike, David and R. Wasey (promoted Capt and 2 I/C B Coy in place of Tregonning) came to stay at Shrubbery for night as leaving at 05.00hrs next day for artillery demonstration at Salisbury. Rumour advance party leaving for France on Feb 12th. Crates of maps of France arrived.
Jan 28th/30th. Digging of pits continued. Mike went to Ilminster to take over C Coy for a couple of days as Garston and Holding ill. All those unfit for service overseas left Battn, including C.S.M. Parnell.
Jan 31st. Big Coy scheme in thick snow at Buckfast St Mary. Target obscured by mist. P.S.M. Darling made C.S.M. of A Coy.
Feb 3rd/4th. 48 hours leave. Did final shopping for France. Went to Piccadilly hotel for dinner, cabaret and dance. Met Arthur Carver there with his wife whom he had married that day, said he was joining 1/7th Middx Regt.
Feb 5th. Advance party consisting of Paul Beevor, 1 Sgt, his driver and batman left in Humber Snipe for France.
Feb 7th. King's inspection of Division outside Crewkerne. Battn formed up with officers facing inwards. King walked between. Neville Hoare acting C.O. as Howard was ill with jaundice. John Smith continuously questioned if it would take over three weeks, as Howard would then lose command. Rumour in evening that move to France off and Battn probably forming part of X force to assist Finland. Confirmed later in evening from Division that we would not be going to France on Feb 12th.
Feb 10th. Sherry party given at Shrubbery hotel to all local residents. All officers attended. Phyl Bryar there. Was to have been our farewell party for France. Party went with a swing as Howard was not there. In evening had dinner at George with Capt and Mrs Meikle who were down for the weekend.
Feb 12th. Neville Hoare confirmed as acting C.O. for Division. Training to restart and Major Walden (who had been on leave from 1st Middx at Hong-Kong when war broke out) was coming as instructor, with a Lt Salmon from reserve of officers, who was in M.G. Corps in last war. Walden good type of regular soldier but Salmon dreadful. Howard`s useless pits abandoned after Div Cdr had seen them.
Feb 14th. Move over of Coys at Ilminster and South Petherton. David went to Shrubbery hotel, Mike and I joined Donald Rae at Mrs Clarke's, Ham joined John Doyle and John Smith at Crown hotel, Ilminster.
Feb 16th/23rd. Adjutant at Ilminster. Coys on schemes in neighbourhood.
Feb 24th. To great joy of everyone Howard struck off strength. John Doyle taken ill with appendicitis.
Feb 25th et seq. Coy schemes in neighbourhood. Peasley came from depot to be signal officer in place of J. Doyle.
Mar1st/2nd. Went on 48 hours leave, not feeling very well. Saw Marlene Dietrich in "Destry rides again" at Leicester Square theatre. On my return John Smith had a look at me and said I was just finishing German measles.
Mar 3rd. All Coys went to Swyre near for field firing.
Mar 4th/5th. Laurie Bryar ill , so became Adjutant. I heard Neville Hoare was leaving us to our great regret. Officers subscribed for silver ashtray.
Mar 6th/7th. Big Divisional scheme, all Battalion out. Chimay in command, myself Adjutant. Northumberland Fusilier officers attached to each Coy as observers.
Mar 7th. Retired from Div scheme and met Lt Col Parker (also on leave from Middx when war broke out), the new C.O.
Mar 8th. George hotel taken over by new owners. Arranged with new manageress, Mrs Mettorn, to take David, Mike, Peter Smythe and myself. Excellent lounges, bedrooms, bars and food. Had as much butter always as we wanted. Sgts mess held dance there that evening. Met two girls, friends of RQMS Edgecombe's wife. Took them out with Peter Smythe next day.
Mar 10th. As a result of Neville Hoare's report, Garston left Battn for depot, also Peasley who was unfit for overseas. Coy schemes continued in neighbourhood and Salmon took all subalterns in advanced fire orders on hill overlooking town. All of us who had been on courses at once protested as we knew more than he did. Eventually we won.
Mar 14th. Fanny Walden posted to Battn and appointed 2 I/C of Battn. Salmon also posted, promoted Capt and 2 I/C D Coy, Charles promoted Capt 2 I/C A Coy. Williamson on course to Netheravon. Eardley made O.C. B Coy. Major Padfield arrived from depot to be O.C. C Coy and Jim Battye as signal officer.
Mar 15th et seq. Coy schemes nearly every day now, but more time to oneself in evening. Drinking in George, local dances, Yeovil etc. Hammond transferred to D Coy.
Mar 17th. Johnny Dodge gave party at Shrubbery. I went on to R.A.S.C. dance afterwards.
Mar 19th/23rd. Went with first party for Easter leave, cut down to four days as move to France likely in near future. Went to Trocadero, London Casino and saw "Bringing up baby" at the Gaumont. Said goodbye to family at Paddington station. Saw David sitting in returning B.E.F. leave train, pulled him out in time. Met Laurie Bryar waiting to see me. Billeting party. Paul Beevor (now 2 I/C C Coy) to go to France on Mar 27th. Battn expected to leave few days later. Arrived Ilminster at 20.00hrs and went to Sgts mess dance and met Parker, his wife and daughter.
Mar 24th/29th. Adjt as Bryar on leave. Advance party of 5 officers, all transport drivers and transport to leave for France on Apr 6th. Battn to follow on Apr 13th. I was to go on this party as Adjutant, Chimay in command, Peter Smythe, Ray Milton (transport officer) and D. Rae (O.M.E.)
Mar 29th to Apr 4th. Preparations. Big parties in George. On Apr 2nd. David took Mike and I to Yeovil for dinner. Williamson, Kent, Evans and Burton to be 1st line Reinforcements officers and 120 O/Rs Middx draft. Parade in full marching order for C.Os inspection. Recce of route to Crewkerne.
Apr 5th. Rang up various people to say goodbye. Dance at the Shrubbery in the evening. Late at night all trucks had blue label attached to windscreen and at control point at Romsey we would then be told which port we were to go to.
Apr 6th. Breakfast at 06.00hrs. Mrs Meltorn gave Peter and I large luncheon baskets with bottle of whisky each in them. Left George hotel at 07.00hrs in David's Humber Snipe. Joined column of transport drawn up from White Horse Inn on Yeovil road along Strawberry Hill and past the Shrubbery, 122 vehicles and 61 motorbikes. A/A trucks dispersed along column. Reported all correct to Chimay at 07.20hrs. Col Parker, his wife, Mrs Chimay, Laurie and Phyl Bryar and all Coy Cdrs there to see us off as well as local population. Move off at 07.30hrs. Main Dorchester road, Sherbourne, Wimbourne, New Forest, Ringwood, Romsey (control point). Huge congestion of all types of army vehicles outside Southampton, wonderful chance for enemy bombers. After long wait waived on by M.Ps and then rushed through Southampton escorted and surrounded by M.Ps straight to the docks. Report to E.S.O. trucks driven into large sheds, petrol drained off, lamps reversed and first trucks loaded by civilian dockers at 15.00hrs, who however knocked off sharp at 16.00hrs. Meanwhile Peter Smythe had gone off to Rest Camp with most of the drivers, about eight miles away in the town. Chimay arranged to have the C.Os car and Donald Rae's car loaded last so that we could use them. Left docks at 16.15hrs in C.Os car with Chimay and Ray Milton with Donald Rae following in his car. Stopped at pub on common. Arrived at Rest Camp, Commandant dug out Captain with M.C and two bars up. Said only necessary for 1 officer to sleep there, Milton at once volunteered so the rest of us decided to stay at the Polygon. Rest Camp was an old school but quite comfortable. Whilst Chimay, Roy and I arranged matters for tomorrow Peter went off to fix us up at the Polygon. Only a small working party required at docks each day and Ray served. Rest of troops to do light PT, clean barracks etc in morning and have afternoon and evening free in the town area up to 22.00hrs but were warned not to telephone, write letters or talk aloud. I had excellent dinner at Polygon and then went to South-Western hotel to meet Major Bellamy who commanded HQ Coy before the war and was now in movement control.
Apr 7th. Went up to rest camp after breakfast. Troops satisfied with food etc. Drew imprest money and held pay parade. In afternoon went to docks with Peter Smythe and inspected several liners including one recently bombed in the Chanel. Our convoy due to sail on night of Apr 9th/10th. Went to variety theatre in the evening and attended dance at Polygon afterwards. Lot of R.A.F. there with wives although contrary to security orders.
Apr 8th. Took troops to public baths in morning. In afternoon Chimay, Peter and I went to a cinema and in evening had Major Bellamy up to the Polygon.
Apr 9th. Heard Norway had been invaded. Chimay wondered whether we would go to France after all. Last of trucks loaded in the morning. Troops to be embarked on 8500 ton ship "Isle of Man" at 16.00hrs, previously on Holyhead -Dublin service. After good lunch at Polygon, went to docks to arrange matters with Ray Milton. Chimay, Peter and David were to march troops down from Rest Camp. Did not envy them as it was a very hot day and full marching order had to be worn. Pity coaches could not have been arranged for. At ship Ray and I obtained good single cabins on top deck for all of us. Mens accommodation overcrowded and poor. Battn marched into long shed given instructions in use of life-jacket to be worn the whole time and a good dry ration but hot meal would be given them at 20.00hrs. Saw troops all settled in , had tea and then attended conference of all officers in main lounge re submarine and air attack etc. Afterwards went to cabin , very comfortable bed, H & C water etc and prepared for bath in Captain's bathroom which he had offered to Chimay and his officers only. Excellent dinner whilst ship pulled out into the Solent and drew behind long line of other ships and destroyers. Convoy due to sail 23.00hrs. Persuaded steward to sell us whisky and cigarettes out of bond although we were not outside three mile limit. Went round troops and inspected meal. Had final look at England in growing dusk and wondered how long it would be, if ever, that I should see her again. Retired to Ray's cabin with Peter and Donald and drank whisky after whisky listening to Ray Stones. Retired to bed in happy if intoxicated state.
Apr 10th. Batman brought cup of tea at 06.15hrs. Visited troops and warned them to be ready to disembark at 09.30hrs. Had breakfast on board. E.S.O. came on board and said everyone except 1st Kens to disembark. Thought then that we were going to Norway after all but it was only to take us round in boat to other side of harbour where M.T. boat was. Disembarked there and met Paul Beevor, advance party to be billeted at chateau at Valliquerville, small village just off route Nationale from Le Havre between Bolbec and Yvetot. As trucks were unloaded, drivers to take them off to billet in batches of six. Our batman and Peter Smythe went in first truck to get things organised there, Stayed at Quai all morning and then went to the Transatlantique for lunch. Drew 800 Frs, 1/3 of month's allowance, from field cashier. In afternoon went round the town with Donald Rae in his car. A.M.Ps who were dockers in civvy life unloaded all the trucks and were very bolshy as got lower rates of pay than in peacetime employment. Docks closed at 16.00hrs so left for Valliquerville. Chateau in big grounds with large avenue of trees under which trucks were to be parked. Empty downstairs but upstairs rooms had beds in them. Beevor had got meal ready for troops having drawn R.A.S.C. rations which would be delivered to us in future. Guards arranged. After seeing men settled in, Chimay, Peter, Donald and myself drove into Le Havre in C.Os car which had been unloaded first. Ray did not come as he was tired. Excellent dinner at Frascati and then went to Cabaret shows.
Apr 11th. Had breakfast at Hotel de l'Europe, rue de la Poste, at Bolbec and then went to Le Havre. Drivers whose trucks had not yet been unloaded were driven down in two trucks. Air raid warning went on arrival but no one seemed to take any notice, All clear five minutes later. I had lunch again at Transatlantique and then went round town. After tea at Chateau, liaison officer to be attached our Battn arrived named Drouet. Took him into Yvetot to dine at Hotel des Grandes Victoires and played table tennis with daughter of proprietor. Went on to Bolbec afterwards and drank far too many Grands Marniers with some other French officers. Felt dreadful. Chimay drove car on wrong side all the way home. On arrival felt my bed was going to hit the ceiling.
Apr 12th. Whilst last lot of trucks were being unloaded at docks and after breakfast at Bolbec, called on Mairie to arrange billeting of Battn. List of places obtained. I did A Coy, Peter, B Coy, and Paul Beevor and Drouet C, D and HQ Coy. Battn HQs were to be billeted at the chateau. Only barns available for troops but R.Es were to put up wash troughs etc . Mike and I were to have two large bedrooms in old lady's house near the church, Charles in room at baker's shop and David in nearby farmhouse whose owner made me drink his own distilled Calvados at 09.30hrs in the morning after a thick night. B, C and D Coys were billeted in farms and barns between Valliquerville and Yvetot . Spent afternoon and evening in Le Havre with Donald Rae visiting cabaret shows and had dinner at the Frascati, then more cabarets.
Apr 13th. All trucks off loaded and maintenance on them started. Had lunch at Hotel des Grandes Victoires in Yvetot again and afterwards were advised that Battn would be arriving at Yvetot station at 14.00hrs on Sunday April 14th. Spent evening in Le Havre again.
Apr 14th. All transport driven to Yvetot station after lunch to await arrival of Battn. Train steamed in at 14.00hrs. Drove Coy off to billets. Tea in Coy office, empty house in main street, then had conference. Anticipated stay at Valliquerville would not be long. Had dinner at Hotel des Grandes Victoires with David, Mike, Parker, Laurie, Eardley and Chimay.
Apr 15th. Paul Beevor left at 10.00hrs with Drouet to do billeting for Battn at Armentiers near Belgian frontier. Battn to follow next day. Day spent in truck maintenance and gun cleaning etc. Troops allowed into Yvetot until 23.00hrs. Spent long time censoring letters. Coy conference at 18.00hrs. Route cards issued to NCOs I/C trucks. 20 V.T.M, 10 M.T.H, A/A trucks to be dispersed along column.
Apr 16th. All transport drawn up on main road to Yvetot at 08.00hrs. Ernest Shanks, I.O. had taken all D.Rs except 1 per Coy and Regt police to police the route ahead. Order of move Battn HQs, D, C, B, A, HQ Coy L.A.D. Yvetot, Mottevik, Totes, St Saens, Faucament, Neufchatel, Landmieres, Blangy, Hallencourt, Abbeville, Crecy, Hesdin, St Pol, Bethune, Merville, Estaires, Armentieres. Country very wooded but flat. ½ hour halt at Neufchatel. Beautiful country around Foret d'Eu. Somme flat. Stopped at St Maxeme, small village, for night, billeted at farmhouse, troops in barns, officers in farmhouse. The young farmer and his wife gave us excellent dinner and refused payment. Listened to news on wireless.
Apr 17th. Moved off at 07.30hrs. We were last so we watched the Battn go past. Country flat and marshy. Crossed river Somme at Abbeville. Village of Crecy. Brief halt at St Pol and then passed Agincourt. Entering now upon the industrial area of France. Town after town of cobblestones and slag heaps. Brief halt at Bethune then Lillers (Loos). Stop of ½ hour at Merville for lunch. Obtained beer from Estaminets. David's car broke down. Reached Armentiers at 14.30hrs. Halt in main square opposite Hotel de Ville. Parker drew all trucks up into line. Long wait for appearance of Beevor and Drouet. On arrival Beevor obviously drunk, stopped rocket from Parker. Coys billeted in various empty shops, factories etc. A Coy in empty building in road off main street and empty house in main street. David, Mike, Charles and myself billeted in furnished apartments in Rue Sadi Camot off main road. Use of dining room. Agent to draw rations from C.Q.M.S. Minski and appointed Charles P.M.C. to supplement them. We paid him 25 Frs each a day and our batman, who lived in loft of adjoining stables, bought white loafs, eggs, cakes, wine etc and produced excellent meals. We always had dinner at the only hotel in the town, the "Cafι Jolie". Only one licensed brothel, but plenty of unlicensed ones. David turned up towed by the L.A.D. at 18.00hrs. Having seen troops settled and issued orders for parade at 10.00hrs next day, went to Cafι Jolie and met most of officers of Battn. That night the Green Howards left for Norway and whilst doing so succeeded in overturning one of our 30cwt trucks, but fortunately no one was hurt.
Apr 18th. Large scale maintenance of transport. Trucks of our Coy parked under trees in waste land adjoining Rocky's Bn Q.M. stores. Joined 5th Division under Maj General Montgomery. We were very lucky in being billeted in centre of Armentiers as most units were in small villages some way out. Went to Black Cat in the evening.
Apr 19th. New covers arrived for trucks, and Charles put in charge of the change-over. Drew Coy pay from field cashier and held pay parade. In afternoon troops given hot baths at factory in the town.
Apr 20th. Route march to Estaires where Kensingtons first went into action in last war. A/A fire on way back. Saw two enemy planes overhead. Went to cinema in afternoon and afterwards went to Cafι Jolie for dinner with Laurie, David, Mike, John Smith, Eardley, Ham and R. Wasey and then on to Black Cat. Requested to leave by the A.P.M.
Apr 21st. A Sunday. Drum head service held on square. After lunch first very large quantity of mail, newspapers and parcels arrived. Walked to Belgian frontier in afternoon and had tea in cafι there with John Smith, Mike and Charles. Spent evening replying to mail and censoring letters.
Apr 22nd. David had his languished for Coy drill parade. In evening night drive Charles led Coy and loses way early, fails to pass starting point. Well brassed off by David who in turn was brassed off by Parker for not leading the Coy himself.
Apr 23rd. Informed we were leaving 5th Div and joining 51st (Highland) Division who were relieving a French Div on the Saar. First time British Div had been down there, previously only Brigades. I was to leave next day with Salmon as advance officers to do the billeting, to take two 8cwts with us and 1 Sgt from each Coy, the R.Q.M.S. and our batmen. 300 mile journey to be done in two days. Route Estaires, Bethune, Lens, Douai, Arras, Cambrai, St Quentin, La Fere, Laon, Rheims (1st stop), St Menehoold, Verdun, Etain, Conflans, Metz. Parker had already left in morning with Drouet to do recce on .
Apr 24th. Left at 08.30hrs. Raining hard. Journey over cobbled roads was very uninteresting until we left slag heaps behind us. Bethune road straight for miles on end. Stopped at Vimy ridge. Passed cemetery after cemetery of last war dead beautifully kept. Went over Arras cathedral. Many signs of last war still about, pill boxes, half filled-in trenches etc. Crossed river Aisne, more scenes of last war. Passed R.A.F. aerodrome outside Reims. Reported to M/C in Reims, troops given good billet and meals in French barracks (although we had with us seven days rations). Salmon and I stayed at Excelsior hotel and went over Reims cathedral (all boarded up).
April 25th. Started off at 08.30hrs, country more wooded and very pretty. Still signs of last war. R.A.F. planes hidden in woods. Went through Verdun. On left of road from Verdun, village completely in ruins as it was left after last war. Entered Lorraine, beautiful, valleys, rivers, woods. Stopped for drinks at Estaminet and although it was "no spirit" day managed to get round that. Metz reached at 14.00hrs, reported to H.Qs of 3rd French Army. Met D.A.Q.M.S.G. of 51st Div, Lt Col R. Dougal. Said Col Parker had returned to Armentiers but had left Drouet behind who was due to report to Div H.Qs at Rombas at 15.30hrs. Troops given meal in barracks and Salmon and I had excellent lunch in officers mess. Left for Div H.Qs and met G.2. Major Macassack. Said we were to be billeted in two towns side by side, Talange and Hagondange about 6 miles from Metz. Suggested we took no action until next day so when Drouet turned up left for Metz. Fixed the troops up at the French barracks and then went to the Royal Palace hotel, best in Metz. Very beautiful city, wonderful buildings, good shops, excellent bars and cabarets and very, very lovely women. After a tip-top dinner, Salmon went to bed and Drouet took me round the cabarets.
Apr 26th. After breakfast, took one of the 8cwts into Talange with Salmon, Drouet and the R.Q.M.S. and called on the Mairie; there they sent us off to Hagondange to see the Town Major, a very old French Capt. He said that both villages and all surrounding ones were already full up with Scotsmen and he only had a few barns left. We explained to him we had 701 men, 122 vehicles and 61 motorbikes to put somewhere but he merely shrugged his shoulders but gave us a French Sgt. Sgt a decent chap and we soon had buildings earmarked for H.Q. Coy, an empty house for Battn H.Qs and barns etc for C and D Coys on outskirts of Talange. Had lunch at cafι on main road leading to Maizieres, very charming blonde daughter of proprietor. After lunch we told Sgt we still had two more Coys to fix up and he said he knew of a school but French building laws did not allow these to be used. However he thought French billeting commission might accede to request as no other buildings available if we were to allow them to purchase some English cigarettes. This we were able to arrange and the school near the iron factory was taken over with ample accommodation for both Coys and covered- in court for the trucks. (Hagondange and Talange were adjoining roads on the main road to Metz). Most of the people being in large coal, steel and iron factories close by which were a mass of light at night, because, so they said, the Germans would not bomb what they themselves had built before the last war. The people born during and before the last war spoke German only and only those born since spoke French. They were supposed to be very anti-British but all those I met went out of their way to do me every kindness and the rest seemed apathetic . We decided to leave the officers billets until the next day and returned to Metz. In the evening Drouet and I went to the Moulin Rouge and the Casino.
Apr 27th. Did billeting of officers of A and B Coys at Hagondange. Salmon and Drouet did same for officers of C, D, H.Qs Coy and Battn H.Qs at Talange. Had list of houses given me near school and on presentation of billeting form was shown bedroom. Charge was 70 cents a troop, 1 Fr for Sgts and 3 Fr for officers. Obtained rooms in adjoining houses for Charles, Mike and myself and got Eardley and David two excellent bedrooms in large mansion of factory manager. I was billeted on very charming old lady and gentleman who only spoke German and their son who spoke French as well. Charles had a bedroom with a small room leading out of it and I arranged with the owner to use this as our Coy officers mess and put a platoon petrol cooker in the basement on which our batmen could cook our rations. Meanwhile I was suffering intensely from a bite on my arm received on the way down in the forest of Argonne. I looked at it after lunch and the daughter of the cafι proprietor dressed it and as I had a red streak going up my arm, told me to go at once to a chemist. He was a very old man and only spoke German but said I must go to a doctor at once. Whilst Salmon went over to Metz to get instructions about the arrival of the Battn I went over to a nearby village and showed the M.O. of the 51st Div Signals my arm. He at once said hot poultices every two hours and bed. I drove over to Metz and met Salmon who said Battn was arriving that night and he had to go and meet them after dark at Conflans and lead them to the billets. He said he would take the Sgts with him and I should go back to the billets. I collected my kit from the Royal Palace hotel and left for Hagondange but on arrival there remembered my room would not be available until next morning at midday, so I went into Talange and saw owner of flat where Fanny Walden was going to be billeted and she readily agreed to take me in. It transpired later that no-one should have been billeted on her as she was only young and was there with her baby daughter, her husband being at the front. She was very kind and hot poulticed my arm every two hours.
Apr 28th. Woke up feeling much better although arm still inflamed. After Brackley had got my breakfast he went off to fetch John Smith who said I could get up provided I kept my arm in a sling and did not overdo it. He also said that David had been rushed off to Metz hospital with appendicitis. Mike and Charles then arrived and I left Brackley to get room ready for Fanny Walden who was finishing up the billeting at Armentiers and arriving that night. Thanked the girl and gave her 100 Fr to buy the baby something and left for Hagondange. After lunch in our mess received mail which had arrived after I left Armentiers and spent afternoon censoring letters. In the evening the three of us went into Talange to the cafι to have dinner with John Smith and after a great deal of drinks, he and I finished up eating snails which the proprietor specially reared in his garden.
Apr 29th. Large scale maintenance of transport carried out also gun kit cleaned. In afternoon game of football arranged with local French side. Band and terrific bout of hand shaking. In evening went into Metz with Eardley and John Smith for dinner and cabarets afterwards. All W.D. vehicles had to be clear of Metz by 23.00hrs; as we didn't leave until midnight had some difficulty in avoiding M.Ps.
Apr 30th. Arm now much better and able to take it out of sling. Weapons training in the morning. In afternoon Coy had showers at factories and Charles, Mike and myself had a bath there. A bit disconcerting when a woman attendant walked into bathroom to enquire whether water was hot enough. In evening C and D Coys left to move into advance posts in front of Maginot in support of 152 and 153 Bdes. After seeing them off went for a walk in the woods.
May 1st. Informed that Major de Chimay was to take command of A Coy. I heard this with rather mixed feelings, sorry that Charles had not command although he was in many ways inefficient on the other hand he did know quite a lot about M.Gs and their tactics which Chimay didn't (he was a naturalised Englishman, his family having fled from Belgium during the last war and he was educated at Eton and Sandhurst, but did not reach France until after the armistice, he was then in the Scots Guards. In 1922 he went on R.A.R.O. He married a Russian princess and later became director of a boiler firm. In May 1939 he joined our Battn as M.T.O. and was promoted Captain. Away from the army he was a most amusing fellow and extremely generous. In the army he was however very guarded in his habits and got into most frightful panics). During the morning he came over, said he relied on us fellows to put him right about M.G. tactics as we knew more than he did and invited Mike and I to go into Metz for dinner and a party that evening. Charles could not go as he was O.O. We left at 17.00hrs and having parked the car by the cathedral in Metz we made a round of the bars in Metz. The polished buttons and Sam Brownes of British officers stood out in strong contrast to the scruffy appearance of French officers. We went to Hotel Meunie for dinner and met there Eardley and John Smith. It was a change to see really fashionably dressed women again. Sir ordered the best of everything, Chablis, Champagne etc and then we all went on to the Casino. A very charming blonde beauty wearing a majors crown as a broach tried to inveigle me to her flat at midnight saying "C'est defendu ici".
May 2nd. Next day Chimay held a drill parade, one of his especial fads, and said he liked officers when on parade in battledress to wear belts and braces. As this meant our batmen taking binocular case, revolver holster, compass case and ammo pouches off our belts we decided to wear S.D. on parade in future but unfortunately that did not occur again. Heard we were going up in front of Maginot to relieve C and D Coys on May 3rd. in the ligne de contacte and they were going into the ligne de recueil which was about 1 ½ miles in front of Maginot, the ligne de contacte being about six miles in front.
May 3rd. Whilst Coy spent the morning in packing trucks, Sir, Charles and Mike went off on a recce in the Humber Snipe to reconnoitre the route to Bibiche, a small village in front of the Maginot where Battn H.Qs was to be and where we should stay until we relieved the forward Coys. Drouet and I were sent into Metz to buy a portable wireless set for Battn H.Qs. Managed to get a good one for them at 1200 Fr and a small one for us at 600 Fr. Afterwards had lunch at Royal Palace. Drouet and I were to stay at Hagondange until 12.00hrs Saturday to clear up the billeting after which time under French laws no further claims would be met for damages. Coy packed and ready to move off at 18.30hrs, lot of troops had had plenty to drink. M.T. drawn up in falling rain on main Metz-Thionville road. Masses of French vehicles and Frenchmen who were the Div being relieved by the 51st Div were coming in the opposite direction with thumbs up signs. All officers of the Battn had dinner at Tolange Estaminet and then at 20.15hrs the Battn moved off. Having seen the last truck past, Drouet and I went back into the Estaminet and were joined at the table by the proprietor's daughter who was anxious to avoid the attentions of the French who were pouring in. The proprietor insisted upon providing the drinks and cigars and by 22.30hrs I was well the worse for wear, however he insisted on my visiting his wine cellar and made me taste every conceivable wine and spirit, some of it of 1870 vintage. At last I managed to get away and Drouet and I feeling extremely ill had a most affectionate farewell from his daughter. We staggered into our truck feeling like nothing on earth, and Peach, my driver, saw us both safely home. I went to bed wishing I could die.
May 4th. The good lady at my billet prepared a magnificent breakfast for me and although I did not wish to see the sight of food, had to gulp it down. Drouet and I went round all the billets, the only claim was for a broken pissoir at the school and they only charged us for its actual cost and not labour of installation. At 12.00hrs left for Bibiche, I drove with Drouet beside me and Peach (driver) and Brackley (batman) in the back. Went through tertiary and secondary line of defences consisting mostly of trenches and pill boxes and after passing through Ebersviller reached very wooded country and proceeded into Maginot Line. Went through the Line at Dalstein and checked by control. Whole line here built into hills and woods, deep A/T ditch in front, large mine field and masses of barbed wire. Map reading now of supreme importance otherwise would find myself in enemy lines. Eventually Bibiche reached, roads leading into and out of village mined at both ends. The place was incredibly filthy, manure and dung heaps piled up high outside the houses. Even the church was full of straw and manure. Reported all correct to Battn H.Qs and then found house in village which A and B Coys officers were sharing with Coy offices etc on ground floor. Troops in other houses and trucks in barns. Big cleaning up in process, straw being burnt and cartridges dropped by the French exploding right and left. Mike, Charles and I shared a large room and put up our camp beds. Ron our Coy mess downstairs had bought large supplies of tinned food, beer, whisky and wine at Hagandange and N.A.A.F.I. at Metz . Meantime Chimay was out on recce of C Coys positions whom we were to relieve on Monday, May 6th., and we were to go round with him next morning. At night the sentries in the village were increased in case of penetration by German patrols although we were about three miles behind our advance posts. That night as we went to sleep we heard the chatter of her guns in the distance.
May 5th. Chimay to have only two Pls under him, No 4(mine) and No 6(Mike). No 5 and one from B Coy were to be under Charles` command in the next sector with Coy H.Qs Waldweisstoff, ours to be at Remeling. At 09.15hrs Chimay, Mike and myself left in the Humber Snipe and drove to the Battn H.Qs of the 1st Gordons in a wood behind Remeling where Chimay saw Col Wright, the C.O. On leaving there we drove off to Remeling on a road, screamed at rider overhead as we were under enemy observation. After passing through intricate A/T barriers we arrived in Remeling showing some signs of enemy shelling and stopped at house which Padfield was using as Coy H.Qs. Had a drink with him and he said daytime was alright, but nerve-racking at night coping with enemy patrols and his platoons in front were firing most of the night. Got the impression he was windy. Went to the Heydwald wood about 1 ½ miles away to see J. Walker's position which Mike was taking over. These consisted of trenches with log dug-outs surrounded by masses of barbed wire on the edge of the wood overlooking the German positions. Nearby were Platoon positions of a Coy of 1st. Gordons. We then returned to Remeling and out to the foret Dominale where ..which I was to relieve. The position was on the edge of a wood overlooking Grindorf railway tunnel, the primary task, whilst the secondary was to prevent counter penetration on the left edge of the Grossenwald wood about 1000 yards in front. The guns were in log dug-outs surrounded by barbed wire and with a hut a few hundred yards back which served as Sec or Pl H.Qs. All three emplacements shut themselves in at night and no movement could take place between them, even in the event of wounded. If we ever were seriously attacked we should be caught like rats in a trap. The other Section was in the right edge of the Grossenwald. To reach this we went down a road across open country screened from enemy observation where a road ran parallel to the foret Dominale back to Remeling.. We struck across open country, the road we had come down leading up to the left edge of Grossenwald. Suddenly a whistling noise was heard, Chimay flopped down on his face, we followed suit and several shells burst nearby. We waited a few minutes and then continued. A marked path led us through the wood (as a lot of booby traps etc had been set) and we reached the Coy H.Qs of D Coy, 1st Gordons well dug into the side of a road going through the wood. Barbed wire was everywhere. After a call and drink then proceeded to the section position on the edge of the wood. Except for one log hut where those off duty slept, the gun positions were mere emplacements connected by trenches and very open to grenade throwing. An O.P. was also built out in front. A little in front of us and to the left, in a valley separating the Little Welschler, Big Welschler and Heydwald woods was the small village of Bettang where another Coy of the Gordons was and which was a scene of lively activity at night as was the Grossenwald also. We returned down a screened road leading to Remeling on which snipers frequently fired and after arranging with Padfield about the take-over the next morning returned to a long overdue lunch at 16.00hrs at Bibiche. In the evening we held a conference and gave instructions to Pl Sgts, Sec Cdrs and Sec Cpls. Only two trucks were to be allowed up to the positions and these had to carry between them 33 men. The drivers were being left behind at Bibiche. The guns and equipment we were taking over from C Coy. Only small haversacks allowed and no packs. C and D Coys were to return to Bibriche, collect our guns and equipment and move into the ligne de recueil which the French had started to dig.
May 6th. Left at 09.15hrs to relieve C Coy. I took large pack with change of kit, shirt, vest, pants, socks, boots, book, 500 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky. In addition I had two bottles of whisky in my greatcoat pocket. Trucks travelled 100 yards apart, route Halstriff, St Travois la Croix and then road leading into foret Dominale. Various tank barriers and mines laid in the roads had to be circled around and the two villages showed signs of enemy shelling. Just before entering foret Dominale saw dummy batteries made of logs and camouflaged with netting. Proceeded up road into wood as far as possible and then off-loaded Sgt Hewey's platoon in this wood, made my Pl H.Qs here during the day as good hut available. Spending the alternate nights at each position as sections were a mile apart and no communication possible except by telephone after dark. Leaving Sgt Milnes, my Pl Sgt, permanently at Grossenwald position. Checked stores with Page, put my platoon in position and in the picture and then with Henry Page took other section to Grossenwald, well spread out. Explained to Sgt Webb Gordons at Bettang, secondary to lay down defensive fire between Little and Big Welschler if former wood had to be evacuated by platoon there. Warned troops to get as much sleep as possible during day, necessity of shaving etc (in contrast to C Coys scruffy appearance). Retired to Sgt Hervey's section who had done wonders already over installing a stove in Pl H.Qs hut. When the French had originally built these positions it had been autumn but now foliage etc screened field of fire and view which C Coy had done nothing about. Rations were brought up at 08.00hrs, 13.00hrs and 18.00hrs from Coy H.Qs at Remeling. Mail etc and stuff ordered from Rocky came up with evening rations. Clearing of foliage and wiring during afternoon. I liased with platoon of Lothian and Border Horse nearby and also with platoon of B Coy on the other side of the road with whom we shared the duty of putting A/T barrier across road at night and down which A/T rifle was sighted. Lt Watt of Gordons came round after tea to give me route of his battle patrol he was taking out that night. At dusk left for Grossenwald. Milnes and I occupied O.P. and to do 4 hours on and 4 hours off but it always worked out we were both awake all night taking odd nips from my flask and also one at a time lying flat in the trench smoking a cigarette. Dark fell at 22.45hrs and dawn at 03.15hrs, `stand to` half an hour before each. Activity at end of wood during night but nothing near us except when Cpl Fox threw a hand grenade at what he thought was a German and was only a rabbit and nearly hit Milnes and myself in the O.P. An hour after dawn the Gordons sent a patrol out to clear the wood and it was then safe to move about again.
May 7th. Left for the other section at 07.30hrs. I had passed quiet night except when night firing lamp had been lit and illuminated the whole wood until Sgt Harvey crawled out and placed a piece of cardboard over it. Half of the section slept in the morning whilst the other half cleaned guns, improved wire etc and reversed it during the afternoon. I used to help with the wiring , read a book etc and tried to sleep in the afternoon but generally one side or other started shelling. Chimay used to come round at about 10.00hrs with C.S.M. Darling. This afternoon a French mobile battery appeared behind us, loosed off several shells and then quickly disappeared. 10 minutes later the enemy replied and a few shells landed on a newly set-up wire, much to the annoyance of all. Stayed night here. Unpleasant feeling being shut in these log emplacement. Johnny Rhodes of 1st. Gordons took out battle patrol and brought in 4 prisoners.
May 8th. After breakfast went over to section in Grossenwald . Said they had heard a great deal of noise and lot of flashes from Little Welschler wood but no C.D.F. put up. Stayed there during morning and at lunch time walked down road to Coy H.Qs at Remeling and had lunch at Coy H.Qs. Met Rocky and ordered some whisky from him. Amused to see that Chimay had moved his bed up to second floor. Spent night at Grossenwald position. Severe shelling at 21.00hrs . Gordons had casualties. Patrols very active, opened fire three times and grenades thrown at party raiding Gordons platoon on our left who had casualties. Rumble of traffic behind German lines entire night, seemed as if they were bringing stuff up.
May 9th. When Chimay visited me in foret Dominale in the morning he said there was a talk of our withdrawal through the ligne de recueil where C and D Coys were as the enemy had brought up large reinforcements opposite us and it would be impossible to hold the outposts. At 13.00hrs orders covering a withdrawal through ligne de recueil to Verkering in the Maginot came through. Code word was "Alerte". Two trucks would be sent up to foret Dominale to take away Sgt Hewey's section and all the guns and equipment. The section in Grossenwald was to retire down road to Remeling and take up position in a cemetery overlooking road and Betting and cover the withdrawal of Gordons from there. Bren gun carriers of L. and B. Yeomanry would then cover our withdrawal. Roads would be left open for us unless enemy penetrated behind when bridges would be blown and we should have to take pot luck. In afternoon did recce of this position, set 8 men digging two gun emplacements. R.I.A.S.C. were now bringing up our rations on mules. Some of my platoon, reservists, who had been in India got on well with them. Brought up first mail we had received since leaving Hagandange. Glad to get letters, "Sketch" and "Overseas Daily Mirror". Shelling heavy at night, enemy patrols close, wire cut in several places.
May 10th. Friday At 03.30hrs large fleets of enemy aircraft passed overhead and returned with several gaps a few hours later. At 08.00hrs Chimay rang up to say Belgium and Holland had been invaded. Every one on alert as push expected in our sector. In afternoon masses of enemy troops observed opposite Little and Big Welschler woods. Tremendous barrage on woods at 17.00hrs, then enemy attacked. Opened up with everything we had. Heavy mortar and shell fire on us. Gordons Coy H.Qs had several casualties. Little Welschler soon captured by enemy, opened up with enfilading fire when crossing over to Big Welschler. Attack then developed on Bettang. Gordons trying to withdraw. L/Cpl Stokes and I took gun out in open to be able to fire over their heads down main street.
May 11th. The Coy Cdr of the Gordons from Bettang said that the noise of our bullets going over their heads was like music in their ears. Soon afterwards news came through that C Coy were going to relieve us. We were humbly relieved as it meant not having to take up the suicide position in the cemetery. One section was to be relieved in the afternoon and the other the following morning. I sent Sgt Milnes and two scouts off to Remeling to get a truck and recce the positions in the ligne de recueil and stay there. In the afternoon Sgt Webb's section in Grossenwald was relieved. Handed over to Henry Page and then left for my other section in the foret Dominale. Only slight patrol activity took place that night but our wire was again cut.
May 12th. Relieved at 09.00hrs and left on truck for St Marguerite via St Francois-la-Croix and Hargarten. On arrival at Mameren where the road led straight up to Vekering in the Maginot tunnel turned right and half way along road to St Marguerite met a scout. Led us off road up a track into a copse. Met Milnes who said C Coy had not done much in their five days sojourn and took me forward to the positions. Trench system connecting two M.G. pits and O.P. and log dug-out at back. Trenches very shallow but Sgt Webb's men already digging and camouflaging hard as it was in the open on a small ridge overlooking road, Hargarten, Lamesfeld, Kalembourg about 600 yards away, on the right east end of foret Dominale, Hargarten railway tunnel and road leading up to Mameren. Targets of this platoon were enfilading fire on Hargarten railway tunnel up to half way of road to Mameren. Other section position 100 yards away, targets road from Hargarten to Kalembourg and edge of wood beyond. On their right was a Coy of 7th. Norfolks in a wood. In between my two sections was a Pl of 1st. Black Watch with two others in between Sgt Webb's section and St Marguerite. About 50 yards .A/T ditch and barbed wire. Behind us giving us a very confident feeling the guns of the Maginot. Pl H.Qs were established in the copse which also gave cover for our two trucks. Troops set to work improving positions, reported position to Coy H.Qs Ύ mile away at St Marguerite and liaised with Black Watch, Norfolks and A/T gunners. As we were in the support line only three men on duty in each section at night, one on each gun and one in O.P. , rest rested in dug-out. At Pl H.Qs one sentry - all relieved every hour, this necessary in case of enemy patrols. I slept in truck.
May 13th. Rations came up as usual from Coy H.Qs. Improvement of positions. Chimay came round and invited me back each night to Coy H.Qs for dinner. Food obtained from Rocky and beer from Black Watch canteen in St Marguerite. Enemy planes active in morning. Went with Chimay in afternoon to visit Maginot. Much impressed by gun chambers, chart rooms etc and depth. In evening Farlander drove me to Coy H.Qs in farmhouse in St Marguerite. Coy transport parked in an orchard. Chimay produced champagne as well as excellent wine. Rocky arrived with rations and mail and I ordered some more whisky from him. Cigarette parcels also arrived. Shelling in the evening.
May 14th. Censored letters in my truck and ate some of Pte Farlanders birthday cake. Enemy recce planes over. Maginot A/A engaged them when they were out of range! Chimay arranged for baths by mobile bath unit at Verkering, half platoon to be away at a time. Left with first party at 14.00hrs, truck driven slowly so as not to raise dust and attract enemy observation on open road to Verkering. Showed pass at barrier and drove to shed in main street behind where bath unit was. Verkering was a garrison town and the new barracks were very clean. Most of civilians evacuated at start of war. Bought chocolate and champagne from French canteen. Saw 70 ton French tanks drawn up in "Bois Militaire". At dinner that night Chimay expressed the opinion that if the French had severe reverses he would never be surprised if they packed in.
May 15th. All morning and afternoon enemy recce planes were active and heavy shelling could be heard from the front, so we were not surprised when at dinner we got the "Alerte" though, Mike and I rushed back to our platoons as, when C and D Coys and those in front came through us to withdraw behind the Maginot, we should be the front line again. So much for our five days rest with all the digging, although it repaid us in fewer casualties.
May 16th. When dawn broke C and D Coys were safely behind us in the Maginot except for two trucks ditched in the A/T ditch in front of us, one at Kalembourg, the other at Lamesfeld. The troops had taken all the equipment etc out and carried them with them. At 06.00hrs enemy troops and a truck were observed at Hargarten railway tunnel. Later on a patrol was observed about half way up the road from Hargarten to Mormoren in an orchard and they immediately (opened fire) with bad luck for the Black Watch who had some casualties. During the afternoon Ray Milton arrived from Battn H.Qs safely behind the Maginot to pull out the two trucks C Coy had left. I went out with a covering party to Lamesfeld and Mike did the same at Kalembourg. It was tricky work picking our way through the mine- fields but after what seemed an eternity with the enemy possibly very close, the trucks were got out and driven off without hesitation to St Marguerite. Whilst at Coy H.Qs in the evening we saw a German officer and 2 O/Rs caught by Johnny Rhodes and a patrol who were having a very good dinner with the Black Watch and were being well cared for. That night I was glad to get a large quantity of mail, magazines and cigarette parcels. We were not receiving large supplies of milk from the cows which the French had left behind. Just before dusk the village was heavily shelled and one unexploded shell landed about 50 yards away from the Coy H.Qs which caused Chimay many qualms until the sappers cleared it away.
May 17th. Except for shelling by an enemy mortar established in an orchard on Hargarten-Mormoren road, nothing much happened the whole day except L/Cpl Parnell endeavoured to engage an enemy recce plane with a Boyes A/T rifle. At 20.00hrs severe shelling but most landed just in front or behind us until they ranged on Mormoren and soon had it well alight. Soon afterwards the Maginot guns replied for an hour. That night patrols were active on our left and there had been talk earlier of shortening the line by pulling in the flank where Mike's platoon and the Gordons met the French Division.
May 18th. Chimay returned from a conference at Brigade and a visit to Battn H.Qs with the news that we were to be relieved that afternoon by the R.N.Fs and take over their positions in the secondary line of defence, 2 miles behind the Maginot. He also brought back some choice wines and spirits as well as tinned food. At 13.00hrs were not impressed by visit of the C.O. and Adjutant of the R.N.Fs. Chimay had said my relief was due at 15,00hrs and I was to pull out at 17.00hrs. He himself was going back with Coy H.Qs. I thought this strange as he should have seen both Mike and myself out first and left last. He also said he would send me an R.V. and a route card. The relieving platoon Cdr was Lovell Garratt the old Rosslyn Park rugger player and he seemed a bit worried and not to understand much about M.Gs. His platoon arrived two hours (later) and as soon as possible we left. Chimay of course had not sent me a route card but I had got one off Mike who passed by my position an hour earlier. Proceeded slowly and well spread out to Mormoret and observed effects of previous enemy shellfire and bombing. Leaving Mormoret we kept our eyes well open for enemy planes. After passing through the control we entered Verkening and breathed a sigh of relief at passing behind the Maginot, however soon afterwards the truck struck a bank. I went face out of the truck and was picked up bleeding and with many gashes in my face. The French R.A.P. patched me up as best they could and with a splitting headache (the steel helmet saved me from a fractured skull) left for Metzervisse. On arrival there at 20.15hrs there was no sign of A Coy so I sought out the French town major who, seeing my battered appearance, produced a very large whisky. He knew nothing about A Coy but told me where Div was so I sent Pte Greener, my D.R., off there. He returned with the news that A Coy should be here but they would let me know in morning anything further. I quickly arranged to billet the platoon and trucks in barns and Sgt Milnes prepared a meal from the Iron reserve of 3 days. I myself was billeted on a lady and her daughter and they did everything to make me comfortable.
May 19th. Woke up with splitting headache, ate little of magnificent breakfast prepared for me by lady of the house. D.R arrived from Chimay to lead the platoon to Ebersviller, said Cpl Masters the M.T. Cpl had been left at cross roads at Metzervisse to lead us on to Ebersviller but as we hadn't arrived by 20.00hrs had left. Passed through Dalstein, then reached Ebersviller a town two miles behind the Maginot evacuated the day before by the civilian population. Coy H.Qs in a house in main street. Chimay wanted me to go to bed straight away but I put my platoon in position first, up a track about a mile away from Coy H.Qs and near the edge of a wood, 2 sections about 60 yards apart, well dug positions covered over with logs. Pl H.Qs in wood. Our object was to prevent penetration down the road leading from Ebersviller to the Maginot in the unlikely event of the Maginot being pierced. Left Sgt Milnes in charge and went back to Coy H.Qs and slept on comfy bed left behind by civilians in room on second floor. John Smith arrived, dressed my face and said I had slight concussion, to stay in bed all day. Excellent dinner of chicken (killed on the doorstep so to speak) brought up to me.
May 20th. Woke up feeling better. Took a stroll around, everywhere signs of hasty evacuation of civilians given only two hours to quit. Coy H.Qs personnel had been busily employed the day before in releasing dogs tied up and milking cows which were crying in agony. We were to discover that the plight of abandoned livestock in France was second only to that of the refugees, Quarrels kept on breaking out with the French troops re looting etc and also because our troops had more to spend in the canteen in the village than they did. In the afternoon Ernest Shanks arrived with the welcome news that the Div was to rush off and join the B.E.F. (this had always been the arrangement if the enemy offensive started whilst a British Div or Bde was on the Saar front). Q.M.S. Minski was to leave at 19.00hrs in a truck and report to Major Walden at Battn H.Qs who with the other C.Q.M.S. was to go ahead and do the billeting at our first stop, St Marie aux Chenes. As we could not move by daylight,. the Coy was to leave at 22.00hrs, no lights showing. At 17.00hrs Capt Bennett, the padre, arrived with the canteen truck and was soon sold out. According to orders the platoons came in at 21.30hrs and the Coy was drawn up in line under the trees on the road outside Coy office. Night was very dark and roads dusty and as we crossed the river Moselle could hear bombs dropping . Found out later that Talange and Hagondange had been severely bombed, also Metz which suffered too from long distance shelling. Road full of British and French units moving both ways. Arrived at St Marie aux Chenes covered in dust. Met Minski who led Coy H.Qs 4, 5 and 6 Pls into two large barns. Mike and I parked our trucks under a belt of trees off the main road and fell fast asleep.
May 21st. Had good wash and shave in house nearby and Chimay arrived at 07.00hrs saying he had had a most unpleasant night in his truck as he had gone to sleep with a dead rabbit underneath him which Lloyd his batman had killed at Ebersviller. The Coy was to have the morning free to sleep off after billets had been cleaned etc. Mike and I moved into a very comfortable bedroom of a house next to the Mairie and we looked forward to spending our first night in a comfy bed between clean sheets for many a long day. Chimay was billeted next door in the Mairie where there was the untold luxury of a bath which we used. He had met a forester and arranged for Mike and myself to have breakfast there with him and Charles ( who had just arrived with the other pl ). The forester's father had fought for the French in 1870, the forester for the Germans in 1914-18. We arranged to have a birthday party for Charles there that night. During the morning Mike and I settled ourselves in the billet and then had drinks with Johnny Walker and Padfield at a cafι where Chimay joined us for lunch. At 14.00hrs there was to be a Coy parade for gun cleaning and maintenance but most of the Coy were dead drunk having had all their accumulated money to spend. Fortunately all my Sgts were alright except Sgt Hewey. Chimay, despite our advice, insisted in carrying on but most of the Coy were soon either in arrest or on a charge. The trouble of course was that Battn H.Qs had not yet arrived and so no regimental police were available. Chimay as senior officer present at once put all Estaminets out of bounds for the day much to the annoyance of Eardley when he arrived who said very pompously that his troops wouldn't get drunk. In the early evening Battn H.Qs arrived and the Estaminets were open to all except A Coy. A large quantity of accumulated mail and parcels arrived. That evening Chimay, Mike, Charles, Johnny Walker, John Smith and myself had an excellent dinner with excellent wine and champagne all paid for by Chimay at the Forester's cottage.
May 22nd. First real comfortable night since leaving Hargondange on May 3rd. Coy office took about 2 hours that morning dealing with yesterday's drunks. Several N.C.Os had to go up before the C.O. amongst them Sgt Hewey reverted to Corporal. Maintenance of transport and gun cleaning carried out. Opportunity taken of exchanging guns etc with C Coy which we had taken over at St Marguerite. In afternoon whole Coy had hot baths at local iron foundry built in last war by Germans. On way back called in on John Smith and drank whisky until tea- time. Orders came through to move off that night at 21.00hrs for Hautecourt near Etain, same procedure as before. Fanny Walden and C.Q.M.S. to leave two hours earlier to do billeting. After dinner at cafι and whilst waiting to move off Mike and I noticed a cemetery nearby containing graves of Germans killed in 1870 war. Night again dark and roads dusty but as we were now well behind the Maginot, allowed to show a modicum of lights.
May 23rd. At 02.00hrs arrived at Hautecourt, a small village near Etain where Div H.Qs was. A Coy billeted in large brick built barn of a farmhouse, trucks on ground floor, troops on second floor. A and C Coy officers billeted on second floor of school . Mike, Charles and Chimay set up our camp beds in long classroom. Lived on service rations augmented from what we could get from the farm. At hours notice to move. The Germans had captured Calais and Boulogne cutting us off from main B.E.F. but 1st. Armoured Div and other units landed on May 16th were along line of river Somme with French. However owing to large attacks at Languyen and Sedan and likelihood of Maginot Line being turned we were to be ready to go off to the assistance of 2nd French army. Mike did first spell of 24 hours as liaison officer at Div. Orders to move off at 02.00hrs next night but cancelled 1 hour beforehand.
May 24th. Rumours reached us that enemy had broken through during the night and armoured columns quite close. Village put in state of defence by all Coys. If we moved off M.Gs to be mounted ready for action in the trucks. Day passed quietly however and rumours proved false. At 16.00hrs Div send orders that Div would be moving up to near Langguyen and one Brigade would go up to support French. Left at 19.00hrs, night bright and warm, passed convoy after convoy of all types, horse drawn, mechanised etc, all spread over the road. At Verdun we got badly mixed up with a French cavalry Corps. Eventually with tempers frayed Grandpre was reached where guides from 2nd French army were to meet us. Of course they weren't there. For two hours we waited whilst enemy planes were constantly overhead (they couldn't have been British or French) and then we moved off only to stop again because the Black Watch and some gunners were being bombed in front. Dawn found us all packed head to tail on a narrow road, but thank god the enemy bombers had disappeared, otherwise it would have been a massacre. Soon afterwards word came through that the French had the situation now well in hand and we were not needed so we harboured in a large wood near Grandpre to await further orders.
May 25th. I spent the morning trying to sleep on my camp bed under the trees but dog fights were constantly going on above between French and german fighters and bullets kept whizzing down upon us. Several were shot down and one pilot came down by parachute. After lunch Parker arrived, had a drink and said the Div was now going off to defend Paris. Charles was to go off as billeting officer for the Battn to Fontainbleau on the outskirts of Paris and leave at 17.00hrs. The Battn was to take two nights over the move and Salmon was to take the C.Q.M.S. of each Coy off at 18.00hrs to do the route billeting. General Fortune had also told him that the evacuation of the B.E.F. cut off in Belgium and Northern France was a distinct possibility. Chimay inclined to the view that the French would not defend Paris but declare it an open city. During the afternoon and evening all types of French troops, guns etc were moving up to Sedan, looking very scruffy as usual. Our journey was the worst we had had yet, roads extremely dirty, limiting vision, French moving up the other way all over the road and we kept on getting mixed up with guns, tanks, horses and . Eventually St Vitry le Francois was reached, a smoking, burning ruin with a dreadful stench already smelling of burnt corpses, for it had been bombed a few hours earlier and of course the French government had provided no air raid precautions. No guide from Battn was there to meet us (we were last Coy) and we fell asleep at the wheel, one of my trucks already having had to be towed owing to the driver falling asleep at the wheel and hitting a tree. Chimay went off and returned about an hour later at 06.30hrs to lead us to a wood where he had located Battn.
May 26th. We went up a long winding chalky path which soon covered us in dust from head to foot. At a farm on the edge of the wood Mike, Charles, Chimay and myself had a good wash, shave and breakfast whilst the men had theirs. Just as we were about to get our much needed rest we heard the Battn had to leave again at 10.00hrs. Much amazed as our drivers had had no proper sleep or rest since May 22nd. After about two hours on the road heard large thuds in distance and saw enemy planes. Kept well spread out but were soon diverted into the grounds of a large chateau outside Sezanne. This order had come from Division due to the bombing ahead, and we were to stay there the night. As the grounds of the chateau were extensive and wooded it was possible to harbour the entire Battn there. After lunch despite myriads of insects, put my camp bed up under a tree and went fast asleep whilst Chimay went into Sezanne to replenish our stocks of food and wine. After tea had a good bath out of a petrol tin and watched H.Qs and H.Q officers sit down to a meal at a table covered by a white tablecloth and with flowers. Parker returned from Division to say that the plan to defend Paris was now abandoned and we were to go up after all to the Somme where we should meet Charles somewhere in the neighbourhood of the foret d'Eu.
May 27th. Moved off at 06.30hrs on main Route Nationale to Paris which we turned off about 12 kilometers from centre of city and crossed the Seine. A/T guns and weapon pits much in evidence but all facing different ways. Had a halt in small town and took the opportunity of buying beer and biscuits from the Estaminets. Harboured at village on a hill near Gisors at 15.00hrs. Battn H.Qs and H.Q. Coy put themselves in an empty Chateau. We put the Coy in nearby barns, parked the trucks under trees and decided to sleep the night in our trucks. Maintenance of trucks rapidly carried out, not able to buy anything in the village except inferior vin Blanc and even more inferior French chocolate. Had a good dinner on back of Chimay's truck. Parker returned from Division and said we were to leave next day for Foucarmont in the foret d'Eu.
May 28th. Raining hard. Jim Battye did recce and policing route job vice Ernest Shanks who had done it ever since we left the Saar and was absolutely worn out. Passed masses of refugees in cars (mattresses on top), on carts, pushing prams, all containing their most treasured possessions, the sorriest cavalcade of people I have ever seen. None of them knew where to go, the French government had issued no instructions. On arrival at Foucarmont met Charles, A and B Coys to be billeted in barns of large farm on the Route Nationale leading out of the town to Neufchatel, the trucks to be parked under the trees on either side of the road. C and D Coys similarly on the route to Abbeville. H.Qs Coy and Battn H.Q. in large empty houses near main square. Slight flap on that we might have to move up to front straight away but word soon came through that we were in Divisional reserve and although at an hours notice could expect at least two or three days rest. Chimay suggested that Mike, Charles and myself should get bedrooms in the Hotel du Grand Cerf in the main square. He was quite willing to sleep in his truck in the lines and we could all have our meals at the hotel. This we arranged. The hotel was mostly of wood but very comfortable, the town being a great shooting centre in peacetime as well as important road junction for Abbeville, Neufchatel, Paris, Dieppe and Rouen. Despite the fact that a good many of the civilians had left the town, the host and his wife always produced excellent meals for us. Charles, who couldn't bear French cooking had for every meal "une grande Omelette". Bren guns on A/A mountings were sited during the afternoon and sentries posted day and night. The following morning large scale maintenance on the trucks was to be carried out also gun cleaning etc, and then the trucks were to be packed ready to move off at an hours notice. After that the afternoons were to be devoted to football and the mornings to a drill and revolver practice etc, so that the troops could have a rest. The enemy had only crossed the Somme at one point, Abbeville. The French were now busily employed in trying to throw them back assisted by two Brigades of 51st. Div, R.N.Fs and the 1st Armoured Div.
May 29th. Woke up after a very comfy night in a soft bed between clean sheets. During the morning masses of refugees came streaming through towards Neufchatel, the same carts and prams contained their belongings. At lunchtime the square outside the hotel was packed with refugees unable to walk any farther and Parker obtained permission from Div to transport these to Neufchatel in the 30cwts. We were all disgusted at the French governments lack of instructions or care for these poor victims of the war. Large quantities of mail arrived that evening, the first we had had since St Marie aux Chenes. On the wireless that night we heard that the evacuation of the main B.E.F. from Dunkirk and other ports was in full swing whilst the remainder of the B.E.F. is holding a line on the Somme with the French army and more units are being sent to their assistance.
May 30th. Drill, revolver practice, cobbling in the morning and football in the afternoon now occupied our time each day. I was kept busy too censoring letters. The drivers were kept constantly busy repairing refugees cars which kept on breaking down and chocolate and cigarettes were also given freely to them. Rocky had found quite near a N.A.A.F.I. full of drink, food and cigarettes completely abandoned so we were well set up for the future. In the afternoon large numbers of bombers flew over; we thought they were going to bomb the town, being an important road junction and full of troops but they passed on to Neufchatel which suffered severely particularly the station full of refugees.
May 31st. Pte Holmes of my platoon, a good soldier but too fond of drink which he couldn't take was up before the C.O. for calling Mike an unmentionable name. Otherwise we spent the usual day and had dinner with some French officers.
Jun 1st. Town to be placed in state of local defence in case of enemy break-through. Put A/T barrier across our part of sector on road to Neufchatel consisting of broken down lorries and cars and sited Boyes A/T rifle by it and pegged M.G, positions. Mike did same on another track leading to a Chateau (Duke of Westminster's) and B, C, and D Coys responsible for other parts of the town. Slit trenches for protection against air attack were also started under the trees in the fields alongside a Bofors A/A battery which had arrived together with a French Corps H.Qs who moved into the Chateau.
Jun 2nd. Rev Bennett wanted to hold a church parade so those who went to it excused digging slit trenches. Heard at lunch that the French attack with Armoured Div and 2 Bdes of 51st. on Abbeville had failed due to lack of French tanks. Chimay to go off on recce that afternoon as we were to take part in new attack. On his return said that aim was to push enemy out of Abbeville over the Somme and then hold the line of the Somme until French had time to prepare positions on the Seine right up to the Maginot. The French 3rd. Army supported by 2 Armoured Divisions were to carry out the main attack on the town. The 51st. were to attack on their left flank up to within eight miles of the coast where it was held by French marines. We were attached to 153 Bde with 154 on our right with C Coy and we were to support an attack ..on two large woods which the enemy held on our side of the Somme, left of Abbeville. We were to take up positions in and alongside D Coy 4th Black Watch. There was to be a preliminary bombardment and R.A.F. attack on the Abbeville bridges. As this was to be our last night in comfort for god knows when, we had an excellent dinner (despite the fact that the food was getting very short in the town) and it was well washed down with excellent wines. During the night a gunner convoy moving up from Neufchatel to the Somme hit an A/T baracade and Chimay and the C.O. concerned had very heated words on the subject.
June 3rd. Although the hotel was very comfortable, its sanitary arrangements were poor like all French hotels, and it possessed no bath room, so during the morning Mike and I had a good bath in the stream that ran past the chateau although it was bloody cold. After an early lunch we left in my truck, taking with us our batmen, an orderly and rangetaker from each Platoon, to meet Chimay at Miannay. We passed through the beautiful foret d'Eu and then entered St Maxeme where we had stayed for a night on our way up to Armentiers on Apr 16th. It was a very different sight now, completely deserted and showing much after-effects of shellfire and bombing. About a mile from Mannay we were warned by an M.P. that we were under observation from the enemy for about 200 yards so we went as fast as possible until we went down the dip into the town where Chimay was waiting for us at the cross-roads in his Humber Snipe. He said that our destination was Lambricourt, a small village about a mile to the west and we were to follow him carefully as a platoon of the R.H.Fs had taken the wrong road a day or two before and lost four trucks on the main road to Abbeville which had been shot up by an A/T gun. As we sped along the leafy country lane into Lambricant there was a sudden whine and rush of wind and two shells dropped just behind us, shrapnel flew up on to the bonnet of the truck and without a word we all dashed from the truck into the ditch but fortunately no more came over. Evidently the enemy had observed us on the Route Nationale and only just misjudged the time it would take us to reach that section of the road. It was one of the closest shaves I had had from shelling and we all returned shaken to the truck and drove on into the village. Lambricourt was a small village lying in a dip, from the centre of which road ran back over the west to Lamantant and forward into the bois de Cambrai joining the Route Nationale outside Abbeville. Chimay showed us the empty and evacuated house which he had chosen for Coy H.Qs and having parked the trucks in an adjoining orchard we went up to the ridge in front of the village for a recce and observed the Grand Bois on our left through which the Gordons and Black Watch were to attack, the gap between that and the Bois de Cambrai to which it was thought the enemy would try to retreat to when the attack on the Grand Bois commenced. Nos 4 and 6 Platoons were to be practically side by side, 6 on the left of the road and mine on the right. Our task was to enfilade the Grand Bois just in front of the advancing Gordons, to cover the gap between the two woods and stop any nuisance fire from the Bois de Cambron. The position was not an enviable one, right on the top of the ridge, no cover and very hard ground making it very difficult to dig in during the few hours of darkness at our disposal and the necessity of maintaining absolute silence. Just on the left of my platoon was one of the 4th. Bn Black Watch, another on their left and another on the main road to Abbeville where we could see the trucks of the R.H.Fs which had been shot up as previously mentioned. In front of us were abandoned armoured cars and light tanks of the 1st Armoured Division. Mike and I proceeded to peg positions for our guns crawling about through the long grass to do so and chose places for our Pl H.Qs on the road back to the village where our trucks could also be harboured under cover of the trees. The Coy Cdr of the 4th, Black Watch was then told what time we should be coming into position and asked him to warn his respective platoons. On arrival back at the village we both stressed strongly the fact that better positions would be available on the hill behind, from which we could do overhead fire over our own troops in front and at the same time obtain good and uninterrupted observation. However Chimay said the Brigadier was adamant that we should be alongside the front infantry platoons. Mike was going back to the crossroads at ..at 21.00hrs to lead Charles and the Coy in, who were due to arrive at 21.30hrs. Meanwhile we had time on our hands so explored the village. An old lady was discovered who refused to be evacuated and in the cellar of a house we found some barrels of what we hoped was Calvados but turned out to be extremely bitter cider. Throughout the afternoon desultory shelling went on, on both sides. At 18.30hrs Lloyd and the other batmen produced an excellent meal and we listened to the wireless and heard that the B.E.F. still left in France was holding the line of the river Somme with units of the French army whilst behind us another French army was being rapidly organised. At 21.30hrs the Coy arrived and our platoon trucks were soon in position under the trees whilst the rest of the Coy trucks and No 5, which was in reserve, were parked in orchards. When all the kit was unloaded and the platoons ready to move up, Chimay, Mike and myself went forward to see the Black Watch Coy Cdr and find out whether the area in front was clear of German patrols so that we could move into position. However this individual turned out to be hopelessly drunk and very obviously windy, so after we had all told him exactly what we thought of him, we took our platoons up the road and into position. Previously the whole scheme had been explained to all the troops and above all the necessity of maintaining absolute silence. None the less they seemed to drop everything and make more noise than on training at home. However by 23.30hrs we were in position and everyone started to dig as quickly as possible but even so dawn found us with very shallow gun pits and an even shallower O.P. Thus we` stood to` feeling none too happy or secure.
Jun 4th. At 03.00hrs a terrific artillery bombardment of the two woods began, shell after shell went whistling over, landing with a terrific roar amidst dust, smoke and debris in the woods. In half an hour this crashing cascade of shells went over and it seemed impossible that anything could be left alive in those woods. At 03.30hrs a Very light went up on our left and the Gordons started their attack through the wood. Soon another light went up which meant we were to put down fire just in front of them as they advanced. We opened up and traversed along as the lights went up. We kept up this hail of lead for a quarter of an hour until the guns were red hot and by that time the very lights were only about 100 yards from the edge of the wood and the gap. A red light went up then and we stopped firing. After an interval of 10 minutes a hail of M.G. bullets came whizzing over. We were directly exposed and I never felt so uncomfortable in all my life with only long grass in front of us and no protection at all. A Cpl of the Black Watch lying beside me was hit in the shoulder and an O.R. whose arm was touching mine was hit by a bullet there at the same time as he was shot in the heel. This fusillade continued for about ten minutes and then stopped as quickly as it had started. I crawled forward some distance to see if I could possibly pick out the enemy M.G. nests and thought I observed what might have been some camouflaged mounds about 300 yards in front of the Bois de Cambron. When I had crawled back to the platoon I found that on the guns and personnel from Pl H.Qs had pulled the wounded back and were taking them down to the R.A.P. in the village. However our success was short-lived as a rain of heavy things shook the ground and we now found ourselves under intense mortar fire which I believe came from the road on our right. Sgt Bailey was hit in the back and Pte Nesbitt was badly wounded in the legs. The mortar fire was now getting almost unbearable and it was with great relief that we received a message to withdraw our guns from the ridge into the copse down the road but to have them ready to be rushed up again at a moments notice. It was obvious that something had gone wrong with the attack as the Gordons and Black Watch should have crossed the gap to attack the Bois de Cambron. Recce planes were now very active and we kept well under cover as they "hedge-hopped" over us. Of course we still had not yet seen our first R.A.F. plane in the air. Chimay came to see us and said that the main attack on Abbeville had failed due to the fact that the French tanks had all run out of petrol a mile from their objective thus causing, through their lack of support, the Seaforths to advance across open country swept by murderous M.G. and mortar fire. Moreover the R.A.F. had failed to turn up and bomb the Abbeville bridges. The Gordons had, therefore, stopped when they got to the end of the Grand Bois and were now consolidating their positions with the 1st. Black Watch and a reserve platoon had also been sent off. He added further that the Gordons casualties had been heavy. Whilst we were waiting in the ditches along the road M.G. bullets came whizzing over the crest but it mercifully stopped when a stew came up in containers from Coy H.Qs. Soon afterwards, Col Wright of the 1st. Gordons came round and congratulated us on the excellence of our support which had worked exactly as planned. I thanked god that I had worked out my safety angles alright. M.G. bullets continued to come over the crest and made life rather uncomfortable but otherwise the early afternoon was quiet. At 15.00hrs Chimay came round with the news that the Gordons were evacuating the Grand Bois as intelligence reports stated that German tanks were massing and a large-scale counter attack was to be expected that night or tomorrow morning. The Gordons were to take over the positions of the 4th. Black Watch and one M.G. platoon was to stay and get in position with them along the ridge, the other to go back with Chimay over the ridge behind to Le Montant and the platoon with the Gordons in the Grand Bois was to stay with another Coy of the Gordons opposite the end of that wood. My platoon was to stay, so I again stated strongly that the ideal position was on the hill behind the village where we could get an uninterrupted view but as Brigadier Burney was not coming round until 18.00hrs nothing could be done at the moment. I therefore put my platoon into position again on the ridge and soon afterwards a large number of enemy bombers flew towards us so low that the faces of the crews could easily be discerned. To our relief they flew past us and then circled slowly around Marimay. Bombs glinting like large silver fishes in the sunlight came whistling down from underneath the planes, the ground all round us shook heavily and we kept as much under cover as possible until the bombers had flown past us again. After that everything was quiet again, the birds began singing, the sun shining, and it seemed difficult to realise that only a few hours previously this place had been an inferno of death, destruction and noise. The Gordons had now joined me and they were all very disheartened at having to withdraw from their conquests of the morning, particularly as it had been bought at a dear price, nearly half of every company involved being casualties. Brigadier Burney came round and I pointed out to him very forcibly how wasted M.Gs were in this position and pointed to the better one on the hill behind. He told me to take him to it and on arrival there agreed that it offered a far better position. The range was about 3000 yards and there was no really difficult overhead problem. I immediately went back, loaded the kit and platoon onto the truck ,and moved up the hill behind to our new positions where I parked the trucks in a small copse and the troops immediately started digging in. I went down to the village and liaised with Capt Stanisfield, the Gordons Coy Cdr, and asked him to keep me informed of any orders for withdrawal. Johnny Rhodes was also there with his battle patrol which had done much stirling work on the Saar, and he had led the attack. Whilst we were talking bullets again came whistling down into the village from an enemy M.G nest sited on the Abbeville road. We rang through to the gunners to engage it. On arrival back at platoon H.Qs I found R.Q.M.S. Edgecombe waiting in a Battn H.Q. truck with mail and rations for the Coy. I told him that Coy H.Qs were at Le Montant but took off him our share of the rations and also mail which was especially welcome. Brackley soon had a good stew going and we ate a satisfying meal. The counter-attack was expected the following morning and I wondered with no A/T guns or tanks in our sector how we could possibly deal with the enemy tanks. The platoon was to `stand to` in shifts during the night but everyone was to be ready for action from 02.00hrs onwards.
Jun 5th. There was a very thick mist at dawn and it was impossible to see a hand in front of me. However at 04.00hrs it suddenly lifted. I sent a D.R. off to the Gordons Coy H.Qs in Lambricant but he soon returned with the news that the place was deserted. I swore volubly at their neglect of keeping me informed. As I thought the road behind us to Le Montant was probably cut by enemy forces I decided to go through Lambricant and try to reach Miannay and then withdraw along the Route Nationale until I found someone. The trucks were hastily loaded and M.Gs mounted at the rear of each and with everyone grasping their small arms we shot into the village. About 50 yards away I saw out of the corner of my eye a German but we were out of sight round a bend before he realised what was happening, then as we passed the road leading up to our old position I saw a line of tanks halted at the A/T barrier which the Gordons had created. I thanked god for that, and again we were past before they could take any action. On reaching Miannay, the entire cross-roads were blocked by the massive craters caused by the bombing of yesterday afternoon, but as all the houses nearby were knocked flat it was a simple movement to drive over the rubble and back onto the road again. Soon afterwards I ran into Col Wright and he told me I should find de Chimay at a small village just off the main road about 5 miles back. As we drove along we found the ditches full of troops and we realised we were driving along the front line but there was nothing else to be done and soon we reached a cross-roads, turned left and went towards the village. There we met Chimay and I told him what I thought of Capt Stansfield. He said that he and Coy H.Qs and No 6 Pl had only just got away from Le Montant in time and proudly pointed to a bullet in his truck. Apparently the enemy had broken through on our left flank at the junction of the British and French forces, towards Le Treport on the coast and it was feared that some of 154 Bde had been cut off. Our sector had therefore had to fall back. No 6 Pl was in position in front of the village, No 5 had gone off to support the L. and B. Yeomanry at Oisemont and mine was to go over to a wood on the left about 1000 yards away where there was a Coy of Black Watch. I drove off and we harboured our trucks at the entrance of the wood. As the troops started to off load and I went forward to find the Black Watch we suddenly came under intense mortar fire from a hill 200 yards away supposed to be in the hands of another Coy of the 1st. Black Watch. Pte Tandem was badly wounded in the back, Pte West likewise in the legs and Sgt Milnes (my Platoon Sgt) and Pte Paul were slightly wounded. We jumped on the trucks again and drove hell for leather deeper into the wood towards the Black Watch but we only came under rather wild rifle fire from the enemy who were where the Black Watch should have been. I decided that the only thing to do was to go back as quickly as possible to the village as we should be wiped out before we could have got the M.Gs off the trucks. On arrival there, the village was being evacuated and Chimay was relieved to see me as the Black Watch Coys had returned by a different route, having been driven out of their positions soon after I had left to join them. We all retired to another village about three miles away and I left my wounded at the R.A.P. Chimay said that once again the enemy had appeared where he was not expected and I was to take up a position on the outskirts of the village with a Pl of the 1st. Gordons. The entire Battn, together with the 1st. B.W. under Col Honeyman were to hold a line along the village. Chimay established his Coy H.Qs in an orchard and suggested I put my Pl H.Qs there also as my platoon was only 100 yards away. Whilst seeing my sections into position and giving arcs of fire on the Route Nationale about 1000 yards away, an enemy truck appeared and was promptly engaged. No further sign of the enemy was obtained during the morning but a Coy of the 4th. Black Watch had been with us at Lembricant earlier on came through having been badly shot up. An O.R. reported that their Coy Cdr had been badly wounded and whilst he and another were trying to help him along, they were overtaken by a German officer and troops. The German officer said it would be better to leave the wounded Coy Cdr with them as the movement would cause him great pain and he said he would take care of him and told the two O.Rs to go off back to rejoin their comrades. After lunch Chimay, for some reason or other, sent back Q.M.S. Minski to another village with all the Coy H.Qs trucks except his own car. In the afternoon three enemy bombers came over and dropped a stick of bombs on the main road through the village. They scored a direct hit on a 30cwt truck close by us. Shelling was also active with many landing in our immediate vicinity. After tea Chimay went off to a Brigade conference and on his return said we were pulling out again that evening and withdrawing about 12 miles. He was leaving ahead (as usual, which I thought a little strange) and I was to follow the Gordons out who were bringing up the rear. As they would be marching, I foresaw a very uncomfortable night drive on a dusty road with overheated engines due to the low speed. I was to follow C Coy, 1st. Gordons out as soon as it was dusk, i.e. about 22.00hrs. In the break-through yesterday, he also said, the enemy had encircled two Coys of the Argylls, a section of Jack Lavington's platoon of D Coy and a Coy of the Camerons; the latter however had fought its way out. I went up and warned my platoon to have everything ready to move off at 21.30hrs and told them, meanwhile, to get as much rest as possible. After supper I lay down on some blankets on top of ammo boxes and with some petrol tins as pillows and although the shelling started again I was too tired to worry about the ammo or the petrol having had no sleep for 60 hours. At 22.00hrs C Coy of the Gordons marched out and I followed behind at a speed of about 2 ½ m.p.h. The night was as black as pitch and the road being dusty we were soon covered in layers of dust hurled up by the tramping feet. We hadn't been going for long when the engines of the trucks started getting overheated but there was nothing we could do except hope for the best. The drone of enemy planes was heard constantly overhead and they no doubt knew a withdrawal was in progress and the parachute flares they kept on dropping were very disconcerting as they lit up the area all around for many minutes. Once again we sighed for our first sight of a British plane.
Jun 6th. At last dusty and with red-rimmed eyes we reached a village at about 03.00hrs and here we were to stay until further information arrived. I fixed my platoon up in a barn and went into a farmhouse where I discovered a bed already made (evidently the owner had not much time to gather his things together before leaving) but just as I was about to flop on it, Hector Christie, the 1st. Gordons Adjutant, said another platoon of my Coy had arrived and I was to go off with them and join de Chimay. I got the men out of the barns and then followed No 6 Pl off along the dirty roads again and into the grounds of a large Chateau at Grandevilliers where 153 Bde H.Qs was situated and we parked our trucks in a long avenue of trees behind 5 Pl and Coy H.Qs. The time was just on 05.00hrs and we all immediately fell fast asleep. No one stirred until 09.30hrs when we were awakened for breakfast. Soon afterwards Chimay went off on a Brigade recce whilst the tired Coy carried out truck maintenance and gun cleaning. Enemy aircraft were extremely active and were bombing French troops moving up. Just after lunch Charles was called to Bde H.Qs and told to send my platoon off to assist the Black Watch at a village about 3 miles in front. Half an hour later I left and after crossing a river was stopped by a French officer commanding an A/T battery and told I couldn't go on any further as the enemy were ahead. I told him the 1st. Black Watch were in the village across the fields but he shrugged his shoulders. However I had my orders so proceeded along the road across the fields. Half way across a hail of M.G. bullets skimmed the tops of the truck from our left. We put on full speed and rushed down the hill into the village. As we entered the square I saw Germans lolling in the doorways of houses so I told Peach to drive in a circle and beckoned the other trucks to overtake us and speed on back up the hill. Fortunately all the drivers had also seen the enemy and they shot past us in a wide circle and when the last truck passed mine we followed them hell for leather up the hill. This whole operation took about a minute and we were nearly out of sight before the surprised Germans could take any action. As my truck disappeared over the next hill a few rifle shots followed us. Once again we ran the gauntlet of the enemy M.Gs. As we rushed along raising clouds of dust I prayed that the French A/T gunners would recognise us before shooting. Fortunately the officer did so although as we passed him his expression clearly said "I told you so". On arriving back at Coy H.Qs I reported to Charles and he went off and complained to Brigade. They said it was the first information they had had that the Germans were so close. At 16.00hrs Chimay returned from his recce and said the whole Division and the French army were to withdraw across the river Bresle that night and take up positions in the foret d'Eu. For a change the French were to cover our withdrawal and were moving up a reserve Division for that purpose. As usual, and entirely against military custom, Chimay said he was going off first to recce our new positions (instead of sending Charles) and told Charles to lead the Coy off at 18.00hrs for Millebose. As we moved through the Foret d'Eu towards the ., large numbers of scruffy French passed us moving up with even scruffier horse transport although it was noticeable that now the French were not giving the thumbs-up sign which they always gave when we were moving up and they were moving out! The road ahead of us was full of other divisional transport and as we crossed the river Bresle, fleets of enemy bombers roared over us and soon we saw bombs coming down just in front. A gunner convoy was hit which caused a stoppage of about 20 minutes and when we moved on we passed through a small town which had received the full weight of the bombs, burning trucks and guns, French soldiers and civilians lay dead and wounded amidst the ruins on the street and the burning houses. We skirted the craters and heard bombing again from further on and presently a car passed us on the way to the town ,where there was an R.A.P., with a Brigadier wounded in the head inside. From now on our biggest worry was to dodge the panic stricken civilians fleeing into the woods. Eventually we arrived at Millebose and saw on the other side of the river Gamaches blazing merrily which the planes had bombed on their way back. In the village, besides ourselves, was a Coy of the 7th Norfolks, two batteries of medium and heavy guns, a 6 inch Howitzer battery and an A/T battery. Whilst we harboured in the orchard which Chimay had chosen for Coy H.Qs, some stragglers of another Coy of the Norfolks came through saying that the enemy had crossed the river and were in the wood on our left flank. Chimay at once sent No 6 Pl off to take up a position watching the road from the wood and without awaiting confirmation of these stories called a conference of the senior officers of each unit in the village and said he was going to put the village in a state of local defence. Having told everyone the positions they were to go to, he then got in touch with Brigade and told them what he had done. They refused at first to credit his statement but eventually believed him although the Brigadier said he was coming down to investigate matters himself after getting in touch with Div H.Qs. My platoon was to go into position on a field on the outskirts of the village on the road leading down to the river Bresle and foret d'Eu in the direction of Gamaches. An A/T barrier was to be erected across this road and any civilians coming through were to be searched for arms in case they were fifth columnists, and their trucks and wagons searched. As we started digging in rain began to fall and we were obviously in for a very wet and another sleepless night. A battery of 6 inch Howitzers was behind us and the battery Cdr told me that he was certain there was a lot of British infantry in the woods in front of us and on our left and that Chimay was flapping unnecessarily, Crowds of civilians came streaming through down the road from Gamaches. At dusk this stream of unhappy refugees, not knowing where they could or were to go, stopped and we settled down to an uncomfortable night.
June 7th. At 03.30hrs No 6 Pl came down the road from the village and Mike said he was going off to join the Black Watch who were said to be in the wood about a mile in front and that Chimay had stopped a tremendous rocket from Brigade and Division for starting a first-class panic by his wild conjectures without adequate proof, as the enemy had nowhere crossed the river Bresle. Breakfast came up in hot boxes from Brigade and soon afterwards Chimay came round to say he had been mistaken the previous night as the village had never been endangered and the 153 and 154 Brigades were in the foret d'Eu in front of us. No 5 Pl was being sent off to join the Black Watch too and my platoon was to stay in front of the village in case of counter penetration. 6 inch Howitzers and 25 pounders were concealed in the orchards close behind us and enemy recce planes were very active during the morning trying to spot them. Anything moving on the road from the village past my platoon to the foret d'Eu was machinegunned by the enemy fighters and we kept well under cover whenever they were about. At lunch- time I went back to Coy H.Qs and met Ray Milton who had just arrived on a motorbike to see if our transport was alright and had also brought some mail with him which was to prove the last we should get. I took the opportunity of giving him a field service postcard to send off for me when he arrived back at Battn H.Qs. My latest letter was Jun 4th. And was full of the success of the evacuation of Dunkerque. At 13.00hrs the wireless announced that the British army on the Somme was still holding on tenaciously to its positions in face of insuperable odds- at that time we were about 30 miles behind the Somme! In the afternoon counter battery work was engaged in by both sides so we all kept our heads well down. At 18.00hrs I received a message to take one of my sections and report to the 1st. Gordons Battn H.Qs in the wood on our left in front. We waited until there were no enemy aircraft about and left at top speed, leaving Sgt Webb behind in charge of the other section. On arrival at Battn H.Qs in a chateau in the woods, Col Wright informed me that we would not be required until the early hours of the morning when he would take me on a recce and show where he wanted my section. He invited me to dinner which I eagerly accepted and then went back and told my section to prepare themselves a meal and have a good rest whilst they had the chance. I had an excellent dinner with Col Wright, Major Hutchinson, the 2 I/C, and Hector Christie, the Adjutant, and then went back to my truck to get a few hours sleep.
June 8th. I woke up at 02.00hrs feeling better having had a few hours sleep for the first time for six days, Having washed and shaved I waited for the first signs of dawn before going to report to Battn H.Qs. On arrival there I went off with Col Wright and my orderly in his car down the road through the wood towards the river. A very thick mist was about and he stopped the car just short of where the wood ended and we walked down towards the river. Col Wright said his C Coy was in position along the front of the wood overlooking the river and the hills behind and he thought the enemy were in strength on the hill and possibly had M.G. and mortar nests right down to the river. I prayed the mist would not rise as we were in open country and had a steep slope to negotiate before reaching the comparative shelter of the wood. After walking along the river for a bit we ran into a Gordons patrol and then went back to where we had left the car and struck along a path through the wood until we reached the Coy H.Qs of C Coy well dug in. Col Wright introduced me to Capt Culver, the Coy Cdr and then left. Culver took me round his platoon positions and showed me where he wanted my section. Its primary task was a fixed line on the river where a bridge was blown in case the enemy should attempt (or had attempted under cover of night and morning mist) to rebuild it and was about 800 yards away; the secondary task was the road along the crest of the hill opposite which was at the moment shrouded in mist still. The positions which C Coy were occupying could not be called good ones being on a forward slope of the wood and amongst trees very closely planted together restricting considerably adequate vision of field of fire. Moreover the ground was extremely hard which would make digging in very difficult and laborious. I sent my orderly back to bring the section up and told him to bring the trucks right up to the Gordons Coy H.Qs in case we had to make a quick get-away, although it was doubtful if it would be very quick as the path through the woods was only just wide enough for the trucks to get through. I had decided to establish my Pl H.Qs with the Coy H.Qs and had also left my D.R. behind at Battn H.Qs and requested Hector Christie to give him any orders for me which he might receive. Whilst waiting for the section to arrive Culver said the Division was holding an 18 mile front! and if the enemy attacked in force there was no hope whatsoever of preventing a break-through. When the section arrived digging in was at once started, with the guns mounted just in front of where the pits were to be. About 06.30hrs the mist lifted. Soon afterwards an enemy plane flew down the river but we didn't engage it as we did not wish to give our position away. Shelling was also active but they mostly all fell about 800 yards behind us. Later on an enemy mortar opened up on an A/T troop sited behind some bushes about 100 yards in front and to our left. Most of the crew were hit and we managed to pull the wounded in but had to leave the dead behind. L/Cpl Essex crawled forward to the O.P. which had had a direct hit and brought back the only man left alive there, the Pl Cdr who was badly wounded. On his way back he stopped a large jagged fragment of H.E. from the mortar in the back of his head. Gordon stretcher- bearers took the wounded back to their Battn H.Qs and they were then taken to the R.A.P. at Millebose in a truck. Meanwhile my section and the Gordons mortar had effectively engaged the enemy mortar. Towards lunch enemy planes were very active and to our surprise and astonishment several British fighters appeared and we saw an enemy plane hit and its pilot come down by parachute. After lunch an order of the day came round from the French army commander saying there would be no withdrawal from the line of the river Bresle and every man would fight to the last man and last round. At 19.00hrs the French army commander issued orders to withdraw! Except for the bren gun carriers my section was to be the last out and I did not look forward to moving my trucks through the track in the wood in pitch darkness. The Gordons were to start moving out at 23.00hrs and I was to withdraw at 03.00hrs and join my Coy at Dieppe on the line of the Bethune river.
June 9th. The Gordons were late in getting out and I did not leave until 04.00hrs in broad daylight. Once we had left the foret d'Eu we put on all speed across the open road to Millebose and in the far distance on a road parallel saw large numbers of German tanks moving. Near Arc-la-Bataille I ran into Johnny Padfield and C Coy who were halted and drawn up under some trees. They were making for Forges but had heard large numbers of enemy bombers about. However, I continued and just before entering Arc-la-Bataille a whole fleet was seen in the distance. We rapidly drove under some trees and they roared over us, the town received the full weight of the bombs and soon smoke and flame were pouring upwards. When they had departed we drove on into the town and saw some fearful carnage; horses, civilians and French troops all mixed up together and direct hits scored on the railway station. We approached Dieppe and saw columns of smoke arising and guessed that they had been bombed also. As we drove down the main road towards the harbour we saw Chimay standing outside a house which he was using as Coy H.Qs, He told me to put my trucks and men under cover in a nearby garage and then join him. He said as far as he knew Divisional H.Qs were being established in a wood outside Arc-la-Bataille and he was going later when all the aircraft had disappeared to find out what was going to happen to us next. Shortly afterwards large numbers of enemy planes appeared and we rushed down to the cellars of the house . Without any R.A.F. opposition the enemy proceeded to systematically bomb the town and a large R.A.S.C. depot close by was hit. A great deal of damage was done and several ships in the harbour had direct hits including . As soon as the raid was over Chimay said we would clear out so we left the town as quickly as possible, Half way towards Arc-la-Bataille more enemy air formations were seen but we were on an open road so could do nothing about ( it) except stop and dive into the ditches. The planes roared over us but made no attempt to bomb or machine-gun us. We resumed our journey and saw in the distance hundreds of enemy planes so rapidly pulled into a large orchard near Arc-la-Bataille where we found B Coy were too. Eardley was very annoyed as he said the planes has probably observed us and would now come and bomb us all. Chimay told him not to be childish whereupon Eardley said he had been holding a position on the river Brede with the Division on an 18 mile front. We asked him what the hell he thought we had been doing and said we had been constantly in action ever since Jun 2nd. and yesterday was the first day his Coy had done anything having been in Divisional reserve ever since we left the Saar. Altogether Eardley behaved like a complete ass and quite unlike the Eardley of old. The planes seemed to be about everywhere and thuds and clouds of smoke could be (heard and) seen in the distance. We stayed in the orchard all morning and had a meal after which Chimay went to Div and soon returned with the news that we were to join the Div H.Qs at Arc-la-Bataille and Nos 4 and 5 platoons were in Div reserve. No 6 Pl had withdrawn from the Brede with the Black Watch and were now in position along the Bethune river. We parked under an avenue of trees at Arc-la-Bataille and awaited further orders. Planes were active in the afternoon but otherwise we had no scares. At 15.00hrs Fanny Walden turned up and said the French were really making no effort to fortify the Seine and the Germans were driving hard towards it in the centre, the situation was getting hopeless and the 51st Division was going to retire on Le Havre and be taken off, Units had been formed of the officers and troops of base details at Rouen and they were coming up to our L. of C. B and C Coys who had had practically no action since we arrived from the Saar were going back to Le Havre that night with Bn H.Qs and 154 Brigade to prepare defensive positions around Le Havre so that the rest of the Division could withdraw through them. D Coy was to remain up with the Division with the R.H.Fs and A Coy was to go back into Le Havre and be in Battn reserve. He suggested that we went back that night with the other Coys and Battn H.Qs. However to my great dismay and consternation Chimay said his drivers were too tired and wanted a good nights rest and said we would leave early the next morning. Fanny said he thought he was being foolish as the road back might be cut during the night or tomorrow but Chimay persisted much to my annoyance. So it was arranged that when No 6 Pl had rejoined us we should leave for the wood where Battn H.Qs were, near La Chausee, and spend the night there and leave for Le Havre at 07.00hrs the next morning. As soon as No 6 Pl arrived, we left for La Chausee and reached there an hour later. We were all soon bedded down and looked forward to our journey to Le Havre the next morning.
Jun 10th. At 06.00hrs Chimay came rushing round in a dreadful panic and said the enemy had broken through and we were to go to the support of the 51st A/T Regt at a small village close by. How I cursed de Chimay for not taking Walden's advice of the day before. We reached the H.Qs of the A/T Regt and each platoon was told off to a separate battery. Mine was about ½ mile away and guarding a cross-roads and a railway line to Le Havre. French troops were moving both ways obviously very fed up and with their morale completely gone. A few tanks were seen in the neighbourhood but they disappeared before the A/T guns could engage them. Soon after the inevitable stew had arrived from Coy H.Qs at 13.00hrs I had a message to report back with the platoon to Coy H.Qs and there Chimay told me I was to report to Div H.Qs at . As I drew near the village I saw a German bomber on the ground which a Bofors A/A gun had brought down. On arrival I was told to report to Lt Col Lord Anson, the C.O. of the Lothian and Border Horse, a tank unit, which was the 51 Div cavalry. He said that reconnaissance tank units of the Germans had been seen near Forges and Rouen, and convoys moving along the Route Nationale to Le Havre had been fired on by the enemy . A mopping -up party was therefore being formed of his own unit, 1 A/T battery and 1 M.G. platoon (mine) and was to move in bounds to Le Havre reporting each found clear to Div which would then follow up. Opposition, if light, would be dealt with on the spot; if heavy, reserves would be called up and alternative routes worked out for the Division. One squadron of tanks was to take the main route to Le Havre along the Route Nationale, another with Battn H.Qs, my platoon and the A/T battery were to take a minor road in the centre and the other squadron the coast road and tracks. Wireless communication was to be maintained throughout, from squadron to Battn H.Qs and thence back to Division. At 17.00hrs after a good meal we left and completed the first bound without anything of note happening. Soon afterwards, however, firing was heard on our left and that squadron reported German tanks in vicinity across their front and possibly spreading towards us. The column was stopped, the A/T gunners rushed their guns out and we mounted our Vickers alongside them. Heavy firing continued for some time until the message came through that the opposition had been liquidated. Soon after we had moved on a message came from the squadron on the coast road for a M/G. section as a number of enemy infantry were on a hill outside a village. This was sent off and when we heard that the obstacle had been overcome we moved on again and later reached the outskirts of Fecamp where an old gentleman rushed out of his house, gave me a bottle of Calvados, and before I could thank him had rushed back to his house again. Fecamp was blazing as its oil tanks had been bombed a few hours previously but there were several British merchant ships lying off the shore. Near the harbour we met some sailors who said they had orders to wait and see if anyone wanted to be evacuated. We explained the situation to them and asked for the town major but that individual was drunk as a lord and had barricaded himself in his office and refused to come out. A message now came through that the squadron on the Route Nationale had encountered heavy opposition and had seen large formations of enemy tanks approaching Fecamp. We therefore withdrew some distance, (advised) Division and harboured for the night in a small village near Veules-des-Roses and not far from St Valery en Caux. The village was put in a state of defence and whilst some rested, others watched and waited.
Jun 11th. Early in the morning a message came through from Division that it was hoped to evacuate the Division and the French army that night from St Valery en Caux as it was impossible for us to get through to Le Havre. The C.O. of the Lothians was to make a recce for positions for forming a perimeter around the town. Accordingly he took the A/T Commander and myself in a bren- gun carrier and we made a circle of about 10 miles from the town and earmarked positions for a Brigade of supporting troops. Soon afterwards, however, General Fortune said he could only spare two Battns, the 1st. Black Watch and the 1st. Gordons together with the R.N.Fs and Lothians to hold the perimeter on the east flank and on the west would be the French of whose support he was very dubious as the Corps Commander had already tried to send a message of surrender to the Germans. A and D Coys of the Kensingtons were to establish themselves on the cliffs west and east of St Valery respectively to prevent counter penetration by the enemy along the beaches and flanks and also if necessary to fire at any sign of the boats being rushed, this particularly referred to the French troops who were to embark on one part of the beach and harbour whilst we had the remainder. When the main force had been evacuated the Lothians and R.N.Fs were to withdraw through us and be taken off and then we were to go and last of all the Gordons and Black Watch. Our chances and those of the Gordons and Black Watch of being taken off seemed very slight as we were not due to leave until 03.00hrs when it would be daylight, even assuming everything went according to plan. Just as we were about to split up and go to our various destinations, a large body of troops in the distance started firing on us. We immediately unleashed the tanks who went forward and it transpired that they were French troops mistaking us for the enemy. I then left with my platoon for St Valery but on a road leading to the village we were suddenly fired on so we rapidly reversed and went onto another road also leading into St Valery. As I passed through Cailleville I was amazed to see Div H.Qs there as they were supposed to be in St Valery. A minute later I saw De Chimay and he said the French had let the enemy through on the east and Div H.Qs had had to beat a hasty retreat to Cailleville. Meantime operations were in progress to clear the enemy out of St Valery and I was to stay with him. I was sent to put my guns in action on the road leading from Cailleville to St Valery and to stay there until dusk and move them into a position on the cliffs overlooking the town. No 6 Pl was away with an A/T battery and No 5 was with de Chimay still. At 14.00hrs the enemy patrols had been driven out and well away from St Valery and Div H.Qs had returned there. Meanwhile enemy tanks had been seen in our rear coming from the Rouen direction and supported by infantry. 25 pounders of the 23rd. Field Regt were rushed up and fired point blank at a range of 500-800 yards at the tanks. Some horse-drawn French guns came galloping into Cailleville and we thought "good, their help will make a lot of difference" but the French unhitched the horses from the guns and ammo limbers and galloped away as fast as they could on their horses. The enemy attack was soon dispersed but enemy planes were overhead the whole time and St Valery was the target of many attacks as well as any troops seen moving about. Several times Cailleville was machine-gunned from the air. At 16.00hrs another large bombing attack was made on St Valery which left it well ablaze. Two hours later Chimay ordered Q.M.S. Minski to give everyone a tin of bully and a packet of biscuits which was all the food we had left and was to last until we reached England. At 20.00hrs we left for St Valery, Chimay leading, myself next with 4 Pl, then 5 Pl and Charles, and Coy H.Qs bringing up the rear. Chimay had previously stressed that if anything happened to him I was to lead the Coy on. On arrival at St Valery, still burning and with many ruins, I took my platoon up the cliffs and established positions and then went and reported to Chimay at Coy H.Qs which was at the railway station. The square was packed with troops and Chimay said there was obviously a first class mess up and that no evacuation seemed to be taking place. He was going down to the beaches to see what was happening as would also Div H.Qs. He again stressed to Charles and myself that if he did not return within a reasonable time , we were to take it that he had been hit and were to carry on. I wondered then what his game was and whether we should see him again. I returned to my position and in the falling dusk an enemy attack was launched up the cliffs and along the beaches but after some tricky moments it petered out. Our main worry was ammunition as we only had enough for five minutes rapid fire. Shelling of the town now started spasmodically and mortars opened up on us. Grenades came flying from all directions and enemy patrols penetrated along the shore causing great damage. It was obvious that the French on our left and right had disappeared as mortars were established very close to us and A/T batteries were opening up on the beaches, firing by the light of flares which kept on going up. At midnight there seemed to be no sign of any evacuation so I went down to Coy H.Qs and found Charles very depressed. He said he had not seen Chimay since he left us and a naval officer had just landed and gone into Div H.Qs. I returned with a heavy heart to my platoon. Enemy flares were now lighting up the beaches and sea the whole time and I saw several M.T.Bs close into the shore manned by Royal Marines which were taking badly wounded cases on board.
June 12th. To add to our discomfort and misery, it now started raining. Towards 03.00hrs a message came through from Charles by a runner to say that he considered a mass evacuation was unlikely as the destroyers and cruisers out on the skyline dare not come any closer as enemy batteries were well established on the hills and cliffs which the French had deserted. When dawn broke it revealed two destroyers and a French destroyer coming towards the shore but still some distance away. An enemy attack was launched again on the perimeter but it was beaten off chiefly due to the 25 pounders who fired their last rounds. Soon afterwards several bombers came over and the quay hospital and some M.T.Bs were hit. Meanwhile the French Corps Commander had twice hoisted the white flag on a chateau a mile away and both times it was shot down by the British troops. A conference took place at Division and the naval officer who had landed the night before, Lt Commander Elder, said there was a chance, if we could hold on for another day, of being evacuated that night. On the other hand it looked as if the warships on the horizon were steaming away as it was obvious that they had seen the town ablaze and thought we were finished. The three destroyers were probably coming in to pick up survivors. Unfortunately the code for use to the navy and to the War Office had been discarded after the fall of Dunkerque and although a Black Watch officer, Lt Davidson, had gone by sea to Le Havre to get the new one, he had had to return empty-handed and resisted the temptation to stay there and leave with the garrison troops there (it transpired later that some boats had managed to get in to Val de Roses, a fishing village about two miles away, and quite a number of troops had got away including most of the garrison force of Dieppe, and a Battn of the Duke of Wellingtons Regt, whereas at St Valery we had only managed to evacuate some of the wounded and the Div I.O. with all the records etc. Unfortunately every unit left at St Valery had practically run out of ammunition, there was only enough for about ten minutes firing, there was no food and precious little water. The enemy were obviously massing for a large scale attack, there was no hope of holding them off with our depleted ammunition and we should be at the mercy of the bombers as the Bofors guns had no ammo at all. The French were either packing in everywhere of deserting and so in all these circumstances and to avoid unnecessary useless waste of life, General Fortune decided to surrender at 08.00hrs. Charles came and told me this at 06.00hrs. It was pouring with rain and we all felt very miserable when we heard it. He suggested that the non-essential personnel should be sent to the beaches in case, after all the wounded had been got away in the available boats, they might have a chance. I sent off my truck driver and D.Rs. The destroyers were now about a mile off shore and were obviously coming no closer so at 07.00hrs I told the platoon (as no attack seemed to be developing now) it would be every man for himself at 08.00hrs. Soon afterwards, however, bombers flew over and one British and the French destroyer had direct hits. On the latter were Ptes Farlander, Haslam and Paley who were killed and Pte Green who managed to swim back to the shore. Enemy infantry were now in force along the beaches and as we had expended the last of our ammo we destroyed the guns and scattered the locks. I burnt all my papers and soon afterwards the order to cease further resistance came through and as we left to go back to Coy H.Qs we were overtaken by German tanks. An officer who spoke excellent English relieved me of my revolver. On reaching the town we were led into a large field and joined a large number of British troops including Salmon, Hammond and Levington of D Coy who said Johnny Dodge was in the vicinity and thinking of risking the M.G. bullets and enemy batteries which were firing at anything moving out to sea. We sank down on the grass, wet, tired, miserable, dirty and hungry with little hope for the immediate future.
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