The Defence of Cassel 25-29th May 1940 by 145 Infantry Brigade

War Diary of the 145 Infantry Brigade – 4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and 2nd Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment.  For full list of other units at Cassel, refer Appendix A.

24th. May 1940

145 Brigade (Brigadier Somerset) withdraws from Gort Line to village of Nomain for rest in reserve, arriving at daybreak.

At 07.00hrs. Orders are received to form “Somerset Column” and proceed immediately to Calais. A Lifting Company RASC is en route to transport marching troops. Brigade Command issues orders.

At 15.00hrs. A Divisional Staff Officer from 48 Division arrives to inform Brigade Commander that the destination has been changed to Cassel as a force from the UK has been sent to relieve Calais.

MT finally arrives at 21.00 hrs having been bombed on the way. In the meantime, troops have been fed and rested and have sorted out their weapons.

Move to Cassel starts approx 22.30hrs.

25th May 1940

4th Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI (Lt Col Kennedy) and 2nd. Glosters (Maj Gilmore) move overnight by MT from Nomain to Cassel in a 145 Brigade column. The column is seriously delayed in some places by fires started by bombing and traffic congestion. Some vehicles become lost.

At approx 03.00hrs, Brigade Commander receives a message that a battalion is to be diverted to defend Hazebrouck. A Divisional Staff Officer RVs with Brigade on the road East of Ballieul and briefs Brigade Commander. Brigadier Somerset sets up Control Post with his BM at the fork of the roads leading to Cassel and Hazebrouck and detaches Bucks Battalion (Maj Heyworth) from the tail of the column with orders to go to Hazebrouck with a Sec 226 Fd. Company RE, a Troop ATk guns RA, and the Bucks Battalion ATk Platoon.

Advance guard of 145 Brigade arrives Cassel 04.00 hrs. led by Padre and Brigade ATk Company who have taken an alternative route. Town is being held by a Squadron of Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, together with the carriers of the battalions in 145 Bde which have been sent on ahead.

05.00hrs. Battalions arrive and debus. They take up temporary positions. Town has been badly bombed.

Brigade Commander arrives at 06.00hrs. and RVs with General Mason-McFarlane (DMI GHQ) i/c “Mac Force” who briefs him on his task and available forces.

Mac Force comprises:

– 1st. Welsh Guards (GHQ Defence Battalion – the plan was for GHQ to move from Hazebrouck to Cassel). It is not present at the outset but arrives later – leaves, and returns again

– 1st. Light Armoured Recce Brigade (Brigadier Norman) of two regiments of light tanks and carriers, (East Riding Yeomanry and Fife and Forfar Yeomanry),

– The 13/18th Hussars (GHQ Troops),

– 3 Batteries RA, with 18pdrs, two from 5th. Fd Regt RHA (G and K Batteries), one from 140th. Fd Regt RA (367 Battery)

– 3 Troops RA ATk Arty, from 209 ATk Battery and a Troop of 211 ATk Battery, 53rd. ATk Regt RA (Worcestershire Yeomanry). 145 Brigade WD also mentions a Troop of 223 Battery, 56 (Kings Own) ATk Regt. This Troop was kept at Cassel when the rest of the Battery was sent to Hazebrouck to support the Bucks Battalion since it does not feature in the accounts of Cassel.

– A/C Composite Company of 4th Cheshire with Vickers MMGs;

– 2 Companies York and Lancaster Regt,

– Construction Companies RE at Terdeghem to the North.

– Searchlight Company RA.

– 5 (or 6?) x 75mm French Field guns in the ATk role.

– A Company 143 Field Ambulance

With these resources and his own Brigade, Brigadier Somerset is expected to hold an 11- mile frontage, from a boundary with 44 Div south of Hazebrouck to the Blockhouse North of Cassel inclusive.

Brigade Commander carries out brief recce of the town and issues orders:

4th. Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI is to take up defensive positions at East end of town 2nd. Glosters are at West end of town. Both are to prepare against attack by enemy AFVs.

On Mont des Recollets to the East, Brigadier Norman’s 1st. Light Armd Recce Brigade. Also 1st. Welsh Guards when they arrive.

N.B. In some accounts there were also some troops of the 9th Sherwood Foresters on the Mont des Recollets. This battalion was part of Mac Force at some stage. It may have been troops from this battalion who were caught in the bombing in the Grande Place on the 27th May (See below).

MMG Platoons 4th. Cheshire are put under command 2nd. Glosters and 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI.

All ATk Batteries are put under command Maj Ronnie Cartland RA (a Member of Parliament) and are tasked to cover armoured approaches from the West. At this stage, these comprise eleven of 209 Battery’s original twelve 2pdrs, four of 211 Battery’s 2pdrs, four 2pdrs of 223 Bty, one four-gun troop of 18-pdr Field Guns, six French 75’s, together with the 6 infantry 25mm ATk guns of the Brigade ATk Company under Capt. Dixie. In 209 Battery, 2nd Lt D Woodward leads A Troop; TSM Prosser leads B Troop and Lt. R.D. Hutton- Squire C Troop. The rest of 211 Battery are out tank-hunting with the Regimental CO. The Brigade ATk Company’s 25mm ATk guns are deployed to cover company positions.

All other Field Artillery comes under command of the acting CRA, Lt. Col Durand RA (CO 5th. RHA) and is deployed in indirect fire role from a gun area to the South East of Mont des Recollets. One Troop of K Battery RHA (Capt Teacher’s F Troop) is sent to Hondeghem to hold it with an officer and 80 men of 2nd Searchlight Regiment.

All RE under CRE Lt. Col Knot are tasked to create roadblocks against AFVs.

Two Companies York and Lancs and 1 Troop 140th. Regt RA sent to reinforce Wormhoudt.

Brigade HQ sets up in houses on col between the town and the Mont des Recollets.

RAPs set up in a convent of Augustinian nuns in the town centre. (A company of 143 Field Ambulance was also in the town. It is not yet clear where the Field Ambulance personnel were located but possibly also in the convent. A dressing station was set up at Steenvorde and later at Oost Cappel).

B Echelons are at Steenvorde to the East.

At some point in the day, the carriers of 1st Bucks are sent under their Carrier Officer back down the hill to Hazebrouck, escorting the balance of 223 ATk Battery.

4th. Oxf & Bucks LI positions in detail – (There were some moves even before these positions were taken up)

Battalion HQ in the Gendarmerie, Place Dunkerque.

HQ Company and Carrier Platoon are in the Place Dunkerque. Signals Platoon at the Church.

A Company (Capt Lord Rathcreedan) covering the Lille Road on the South East side of the town. This Company had lost several men in an air raid near Tournai. Battalion Mortar Platoon is attached to A Company after having been initially positioned near Battalion HQ.

B Company (Capt Falkiner). Brigade Reserve and holding the “Keep” on the citadel in the town centre. (This was the Casino perched on top of the citadel.)

C Company (Maj Graham) to North of the town covering the Dunkirk Road

D Company (Capt Clutsom) on the road junctions between Cassel and the Mont des Recollets covering the Steenvoorde Road.

2nd. Glosters positions in detail –

Battalion HQ in the Banque du Nord, Place Dunkerque.

HQ Company and carriers in Place Dunkerque.

A Company (Capt. Percy Hardman) reserve, with Carrier Platoon, elements of HQ Company and an ATk Section, in Place Dunkerque.

B Company (Capt. Wilson) North West edge of town covering the roads from Calais. 2Lt. Weightman’s 10 Platoon positioned in a farmhouse to the Company front. B Company supported by a Platoon of 4th. Cheshires, two sections of 2pdr ATk guns, and some French.

C Company (Capt. Lynn-Allen) South side of town (next to A Company 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI),

D Company (Capt. Cholmondely) SW corner of town covering approaches from St. Omer. Supported by Battalion Mortar Platoon, some ATk guns and a section of MMGs from the 4th Cheshires.

09.00hrs. Positions changed on orders of Brigade Command.

12.00hrs. Brigade Command told he is now under command 44 Division (General Osborn)

14.00hrs. General Osborn arrives and approves defensive plan. 13/18th. Hussars are withdrawn by GHQ. General Mason-McFarlane departs having told Somerset that Germans are expected to advance on the 27th but not to attack Cassel.

15.00hrs. Brigade Command tours Glosters’ position with CRA and CRE – some positions changed again. Some bombing. Enemy AFVs seen in the distance. Somerset orders evacuation of civilians to Lille. He asks GHQ for some AA guns and some 25pdrs.

Night – quiet. Patrols sent out, including carriers. Two patrol clashes.

26th May 1940

Morning – positions improved. Some bombing and air recce. Enemy patrols probing forward positions. Reports of enemy AFV movements in Fôret de Clairmarais to the South West.

09.00hrs. – Brigade Command visits all 4th Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI positions with CO.

Two Gloster carrier patrols with ATk gun and 18pdr, accompanied by an FOO sent to South West towards Fôret de Clairmarais. Run into an ambush of two enemy tanks near Cassel and lose ATk gun and 18pdr before returning. They are told to go out again and find them by Brigade Commander. Later, they return reportedly having knocked out the two tanks and patrolled to the edge of the Fôret de Clairmarais, finding no other sign of the enemy.

12.00hrs. – some positions changed again.

14.00hrs. GHQ LO arrives. Brigade Command asks again for a Battery of 25pdrs which would have the range to shell the Fôret de Clairmarais, and some AA guns to deal with the dive-bombers.

14.30hrs. GOC 48 Division (General A.F.A.N. Thorne) arrives and tells Brigade Command that 145 Brigade has reverted to his Division. 144 Brigade is to take over Wormhoudt and 1st. Light Armd Recce Brigade (Brigadier Norman) is to come under command 145 Brigade. General Thorne also suggests positioning some forces South West of Cassel along the railway line, and also in the blockhouse to the North. He reports that the Germans are likely to withdraw back across the Aa “out of the pocket they have got themselves into.” He does NOT mention the withdrawal to Dunkirk.

15.30hrs. Brigade Commander sets off with the CRA to tour his area. He issues a Warning Order to 2nd. Glosters to recce the blockhouse and to stand by to send off a Platoon to occupy it later.

16.00hrs. Brigade Command visits Hondeghem between Cassel and Hazebrouck held by F Troop of 18pdrs. from K Battery 5th RHA and a Searchlight Company from 2nd. Searchlight Regt RA, under Maj Hoare RA. He subsequently orders a Section of Carriers from the Bucks Battalion to move from Hazebrouck to Hondeghem to add a mobile element to the defence. This is done.

Brigade Commander then moves on to Hazebrouck and visits the Bucks Battalion. He recognises that they have an immense task. He orders them to try to make contact with 44 Division on their left and to send a carrier patrol in that direction towards Morbecque.

Brigade Commander then visits 144 Brigade to the North of Cassel. The Troop of 18pdrs. from 140th. Regt RA is ordered to return from Wormhoudt to Cassel.

On his return to Cassel, Brigade Commander orders 2nd. Glosters to send a Company to Zuytpeene and to occupy the blockhouse, and the 4th Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI to send a Company with an ATk gun to Bavinchove. These two companies ate to act as breakwaters on the expected enemy approach routes.

Evening – D Company 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI moves to Bavinchove as a breakwater. According to some personal accounts, D Company 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI set off from the Mont des Recollets but came under some enemy fire to the South of Cassel. They may have been withdrawn briefly before being ordered to press on to Bavinchove. They arrived at last light. Once at Bavinchove, it appears they occupied a position with two Platoons to the North of the railway line, and therefore for the most part outside the village, with an ATk gun (No. 8 gun from the Brigade ATk Platoon) firing along the line of the railway. One Platoon was in the village forward of the railway. A locomotive seems to have been used to block one of the two railway crossings. Otherwise positions do not seem to have been very well prepared.

A Company 2nd. Glosters is sent to Zuytpeene with a 25mm ATk gun, and a weak Platoon (8 Platoon under 2 Lt. Cresswell) to the blockhouse to the North at Hardifort.

4th. Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI position on Mont des Recollets taken over by East Riding Yeomanry and 1st. Welsh Guards who have arrived during the day.

After dark, Lt Col Knot RE arrives and reports that the Construction Companies are to be withdrawn to Dunkirk. 145 Brigade is left with two Field Sections of 226 Field Company RE under Maj Griffiths. The third section is in Hazebrouck.

Report from French civilians that the enemy is withdrawing South West from St. Omer area, which ties up with report from the carrier patrol. Brigade Commander does not believe this and prepares a plan with the CRA to deal with armoured attack the following day.

Night – some shellfire. Cycle patrols sent out.

27th. May 1940

Early morning – an hour of heavy enemy shelling.

Enemy AFVs seen moving on a wide front towards Cassel from the South West. This is the advance elements of Kampfgruppe Von Esebeck of 6 Panzer Division (see Appx A)

07.00hrs. shots fired on D Company 4 Oxf & Bucks LI front.

07.30hrs. Meeting in Hotel Sauvage Grande Place Cassel, between General Adam (Commanding the Dunkirk Perimeter), General Lindsell (QMG BEF), Lt Col The Lord Bridgeman, (Ops Officer Dunkirk), French Generals Fagalde, Blanchard, and Koeltz, and Admiral Abrial, Port Commandant, Dunkerque, to approve the plan for the defence of the final perimeter drawn up by Col Bridgeman.

Also the Advance Party from GHQ under General Pownall arrives with a Signals detachment, which starts laying telephone lines for the occupation of the town by GHQ Main. As the battle starts they hastily depart.

08.00hrs. an attack develops on D Company 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI in the village of Bavinchove by 4 AFVs, and M/C Troops. No 8 Gun from Brigade ATk Platoon quickly knocks out 4 AFVs. Lorried infantry then dismount and begin attack on D Company. This is Kampfgruppe von Esebeck who speedily outflank the defence as well as attack through the village.

Lorried infantry seen dismounting to the West of Cassel and attack also develops on A Company 2nd. Glosters in Zuytpeene. This is also Kampfgruppe von Esebeck.

Maj Hoare at Hondeghem reports by radio he is under attack by AFVs and enemy have penetrated the village. This is the Kampfgruppe von Ravenstein of 6 Panzer Division moving East between Cassel and Hazebrouck towards Wallon Cappel. The Brigade Commander sends relief column of East Riding Yeomanry and ATk guns to Hondeghem under Lt Freeker RA of 53rd. ATk Regt but it is ambushed on the way near St Sylvestre and remains pinned down for most of the day.

Freeker has to be rescued by carriers and a Platoon of 1st. Welsh Guards. Brigade Command orders Gunners to shell forward edge of Hondeghem. 5 RHA carry out an accurate shoot directed by radio from the OP in the church tower in Hondeghem. While the tanks of 65 Tank Battalion of Kampfgruppe von Ravenstein bypass the village and continue East, the infantry of the Rifle Regiment spend most of the day trying to take the village.

09.00hrs. A misdirected Company of troops in MT, said to be from the Green Howards, draws up in the Grande Place and is immediately dive-bombed with heavy casualties. (These troops may have been from 6th. Battalion Green Howards, allocated to Usherforce, and then put under command 48 Division. Their parent Battalion was in position further north on the Dunkirk perimeter, and were eventually put under command Brigadier Norman of the Light Recce Brigade when it was withdrawn with the 1st Welsh Guards to plug a gap near Rattekot. Another account has the troops from the 9th Sherwood Foresters of 46 Division who were moving to Steenvorde and who had been part of Mac Force. As there are several soldiers of the Sherwood Foresters in the CWG cemetery at Cassel, it is probable that the victims of the raid were from the latter regiment).

10.00hrs. Contact with Hondeghem lost and enemy tanks reported in St. Sylvestre cutting off road to Hazebrouck. Some Enemy AFVs run into 4 Royal Sussex of 133 Brigade/44 Division positions at Caestre to the South East of Cassel and 6 are knocked out, discouraging further forward movement.

10.30hrs. D Company 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI is outflanked and begins to withdraw under mortar fire to intermediate position ½ mile South of the town. Capt. Clutsom brings wounded out in his car under fire, making three trips. 30 tanks then pass across D Company front, heading East. This is probably Kampfgruppe Koll heading towards the East end of the town. D Company is eventually supported by some of C Company 2nd. Glosters coming down the side of the hill to cover withdrawal into the town. They eventually return to a position on the East end of Cassel opposite the Mont des Recollets.

Brigade Commander orders RA to shoot on further enemy columns at Les Trois Rois approaching from the South West. Some problems of crest clearance interfere with this shoot.

11.00hrs. A Company 2nd. Glosters holding out in Zuytpeene come under heavy mortar fire. Brigade Command orders them to withdraw but runners and a carrier fail to get through. They are surrounded.

13.00hrs. After intense artillery and mortar preparation, the Kampfgruppe von Esebeck attacks with ca. 40 tanks and infantry on the South and West end of the town held by C and D Companies 2nd. Glosters. Enemy AFVs get into D Company perimeter. OC B Company comes with a party to the rescue to stalk the tank with a Boys ATk Rifle. They are hit by their own mortars. The tank is eventually knocked out by an ATk gun. Antitank guns knock out several tanks on the slopes of the hill, which cannot surmount the ramparts. C Company 2nd. Glosters finally beats off AFVs supported by Infantry.

Another attack develops towards the col between the town and the Mont des Recollets held by A Company 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI. This is Kampfgruppe Koll of 6 Panzer Division. Brigade HQ is hit by shellfire and moves to a more sheltered position 150 yds behind the hill. Padre Wild of the 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI sets up an improvised Aid Post in Brigade HQ.

Enemy infantry using the cover provided by woods gets so close to Brigade HQ that Brigade Command orders Sappers from the Field Company to form improvised defence platoon. CSM Bailey DCM of A Company 4th. Oxf & Bucks LI leads counter-attack down the slopes to the South and evicts enemy infantry from the chateau at the foot of the hill. Some of B Company Oxf & Bucks LI from Brigade Reserve under Lt Keene are sent to reinforce this counter-attack. Battalion mortars are firing into dead ground below the town. Carriers are brought forward and clear enemy from road down hill towards Mont des Recollets.

Attacks are seen off by 16.00 hrs. with 25- 30 tanks lost to ATk fire and 18pdrs firing over open sights. Capt Dixie (Bucks Battalion) OC Brigade ATk Company is killed.

16.00hrs. Maj Hoare finally withdraws the survivors of his Troop of K Battery and the Searchlight Battery from Hondeghem with his two remaining 18pdrs. They are ambushed en route at St. Sylvestre and lose their guns.

18.00hrs. Enemy attacks blockhouse to north of Cassel held by 2 Lt Creswell but fail to make any impression. Brigade Commander orders carriers of 2nd. Glosters to reinforce but they come under heavy MG fire and withdraw to Cassel.

19.00hrs. Remains of A Company 2nd. Glosters finally overrun in Zuytpeene.

22.00hrs. Enemy finally withdraws but some infiltrate onto Mont des Recollets and bring the road up into the town under MG fire. Enemy drops leaflets calling on garrison to surrender as they are surrounded.

After dark, Brigade HQ moves again into town to the Gendarmerie where 4th. Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI have their HQ.

Night – Patrols by both sides, including an unsuccessful attempt to get through to Zuytpeene.

During the day, radio messages had been received from the Bucks Battalion in Hazebrouck to say they were under heavy attack and that the enemy was getting into the town. Brigade Command had asked 44 Division to the South of Hazebrouck to help. No help is forthcoming.

28th May 1940

Town is shelled all day and enemy probes around defences losing some tanks.

East Riding Yeomanry patrols sent out North towards blockhouse and South to Hondeghem but run into the enemy. They also report that road to Steenvorde is cut. CRA asks if his guns can all be brought into the perimeter as the town is nearly surrounded. Brigade Commander agrees.

B Echelon has moved to Hondeschoote.

CO 53rd. ATk Regt RA, Col Medlicott, arrives from 48 Division HQ at Bergues and asks if Somerset can relinquish any ATk guns to defend the Dunkirk Perimeter. This is the first that Somerset has heard of the Dunkirk Perimeter. He says that he has no ATk guns to spare.

12.00hrs. Orders are received from GHQ that the Light Recce Brigade and 1st. Welsh Guards are to be withdrawn to hold a sector of the Dunkirk Perimeter. Somerset agrees with Brigadier Norman that he leave the East Riding Yeomanry to provide 145 Brigade with a recce force and take the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry and the whole of 5th. Fd Regt RHA under Lt. Col Durand. Maj Cristopherson takes over as CRA.

Late afternoon, enemy infantry attacks on B Company 2nd. Glosters positions on North West of town. Beaten off.

1st. Welsh Guards and Fife and Forfar from Armoured Recce Brigade withdraw. B Company 4 Oxf & Bucks LI sent from Brigade Reserve to cover the Mont des Recollets.

Evening – it pours with rain. Enemy drops leaflets

After dark, Brigade HQ moves again, from the Gendarmerie to the Keep in the citadel. (This may have been to the crypt of the former church on the citadel, or to the cellar of the large casino on top.)

Lt. Lightfoot, QM 4th. Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI brings rations up from B Echelon and reports the true situation to the Brigade Commander, that the BEF is pouring back to Dunkirk and destroying its guns and transport. Somerset swears him to secrecy.

Final evacuation of wounded by ambulance from Cassel.

Night – quiet.

29th. May 1940

Heavy bombing and shelling. RA reply where possible from within the town. Enemy spotting aircraft circle the town but AA guns fail to fire on them for fear of being bombed.

10.00hrs. a DR arrives from 48 Division with orders for withdrawal of 145 Brigade which is to move to occupy a position on the Dunkirk Perimeter at Hondechoote. He had failed to get through the previous night. Somerset cannot understand why he has not been ordered to withdraw by radio as the Brigade have been in touch with 48 Division by radio throughout. He radios Divisional HQ to say he intends to withdraw that night. Division replies that he is to abandon all his transport and heavy weapons and attempt a break out across country towards Hondeschoote. Enemy columns seen moving to North and South of Cassel.

12.00hrs. Warning Order issued to move that night.

Afternoon – Enemy fire increases. Following mortar bombardment, infantry attacks on B Company 2nd. Glosters positions from the West – Platoon in farm overrun, Platoon Command (Lt. Weightman) is killed. Farm is reoccupied by counter-attack led by Company Commander

HQ 4th Oxf & Bucks LI in the Gendarmerie id hit by a heavy shell and the 2 i/c Maj. Thorne killed, several OR’s wounded. Padre Wild has a miraculous escape.

14.30hrs. Armoured patrol of a Troop of the East Riding Yeomanry (2Lt Wilmot-Smith) and ATk guns sent out under Maj. Mercer RA towards Dunkirk to attempt to secure road through Winnezeele, but run into enemy armour and fail to get through.

16.00hrs. Orders for move issued. 2nd. Glosters are to move to Mont des Recollets, and 4th. Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI are to move off as advance guard, followed by 226 Fd Company RE, ATk, AA and MMG and RA – then the Glosters with the East Riding Yeomanry and carriers as rearguard. Wounded (about 40) are to be left in the RAP under the MOs. (In the event both MO’s moved with the columns leaving the wounded under volunteers from amongst the Medical Orderlies.

17.00hrs. Fighting dies down. MMGs and RA engage enemy columns moving to the West of Cassel. 18pdrs are running short of ammunition.

19.30hrs. Incoherent radio message received from Division. Destruction of vehicles and guns begins.

21.00hrs. 2nd. Glosters withdraw from the West end of the town. Cheshire Regt MMGs keep up fire to cover withdrawal. 4th. Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI are late withdrawing to take their place at the head of the Brigade column.

22.30hrs. Evacuation begins across country towards Watou and then to a RV at Hondeschoote on the Dunkirk perimeter. Column is led by the 4th Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI. It is a very dark and warm night.

29/30th. May 1940

Column becomes divided and 4th. Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI bump enemy at Winnezeele. Maj Graham is killed leading a bayonet charge trying to clear the way. The column gets to Watou but then again runs into the enemy. WO II Bailey DCM, CSM A Company is killed charging down an MG. CO (Lt Col Kennedy) and the Adjt Capt. Fleming, and three other officers are wounded. Capt Wykeham leading a party of HQ details including Lt Eley attempts to cross a field in daylight and comes under fire. Eley and three men escape – the rest of the party are killed or captured, including Capt Wykeham. Two other officers are killed, to die of their wounds. Most are then captured, including Brigade Commander.

Of the 4th Battalion Oxf & Bucks LI, only 2 Lt Eley and 2 Lt Wallis (ATk Platoon) return to UK from Cassel. Three other officers sick or wounded had already been evacuated. Approximately 80 men, mainly from B Echelon also get home. Two Oxf & Bucks LI Officers from Brigade HQ also escape. 10 Officers and 113 Men were killed or died of wounds. See Appx. B.
The 2nd. Glosters column gets to the ditch along the Franco-Belgian frontier and attempt to escape along it but are caught in a wood called Le Bois D’Acaire. They lie up for a lot of the day but are eventually flushed out. Of the 2nd. Glosters one Officer (2 Lt Fane) and around 100 men of the Battalion made it home. 5 officers and 132 men were dead. 472 are taken prisoner.
The Platoon in the blockhouse to the North of Cassel overlooking the Hardifort Crossroads holds out until the evening and is eventually captured.
Maj Cartland of the Worcestershire Yeomanry is shot standing up to surrender his battery. Lt Hutton-Squire is also killed. The rearguard, comprising the East Riding Yeomanry and the carriers of the two battalions run into a German unit and after a stiff fight in a minefield are lost.
I.B.H.M. 9 Nov. ’09 Updated 15 Sep 2011.


2ND. Glosters – 3 ½ Rifle Companies and HQ Company (including support weapons)

4TH. Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry – 4 Rifle Companies and HQ Company (including support weapons)

1ST. Welch Guards – 3 Rifle Companies and HQ Company (Not Present throughout)

York and Lancaster Regiment – 2 Rifle Companies

Cheshire Regt – 1 Composite MMG Company

1st. Armoured Recce Brigade – 2 Regiments (East Riding Yeomanry and Fife an Forfar Yeomanry)

140TH. Army Field Regiment RA – 1 Battery (367 Battery – 11 x 18pdr.)

5TH. Field Regt RA – 2 Batteries (24 x 18pdr) (One Troop detached to Hondeghem)

53 ATk Regt RA (The Worcestershire Yeomanry) – 209 Battery and one Troop 211 Battery (2pdr ATk)

56 ATk Regt RA – 1 Troop 223 ATk Battery (2pdr.ATk)

145 Brigade ATk Company – 2 Platoons (25mm ATk)

AA Battery RA – 1 Troop (40mm AA)

Searchlight Battery RA

226 Field Company RE – 2 Sections

Construction Regt RE – 3 Companies

French Field Guns – 5 (75MM)


145 Inf Brigade HQ
Command Brig Somerset PoW
BM Capt Dewar The Buffs PoW
Staff Capt Capt Wilks R Berks PoW
IO Capt Reddings R Berks PoW
Transport Officer Capt Wakeling Oxf & Bucks Returned UK
LAD Lt Warner RAOC Returned UK
Supply Offr Capt Gillespie RASC Returned UK
Signal Offr Lt Danielson R Sigs PoW
Brigade ATk Coy Capt Dixie Oxf & Bucks KiA
ATk Platoon Cmd Lt Wallis Oxf & Bucks Returned UK
LO Capt Lovett Glos Returned UK
LO Capt Watson Oxf & Bucks Returned UK

4th Battalion the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry TA
CO Lt Col G.W. Kennedy MC PoW
2 i/c Maj J. Thorne KiA
Adjt Capt M.V.P. Fleming PoW (died of wounds)
IO 2 Lt C.L. Dilwyn KiA
OC HQ Coy Maj G.C.H. Wykeham KiA
Padre Capt Rev R.D.F Wild CF MC PoW
QM Capt E. J. Lightfoot PoW
RMO Lt N.R. Landsell RAMC PoW
Signals Offr. 2 Lt T.A.W Wynne PoW
Carrier Offr. 2 Lt C. Clerke-Brown PoW (died of wounds)
Patrol Offr. 2 Lt F.E. Hicks PoW
AA Platoon Lt O.P. Haig Returned UK (evacuated wounded)
OC A Coy Capt Lord Rathcreedan PoW
A Coy Lt M.G. Duncan MC PoW (Later escaped to UK)
A Cy Lt J.A.R. Forster PoW
A Coy 2 Lt C.H.W. Troughton PoW
A Coy 2 Lt S.J.K. Molloy PoW
OC B Coy Capt L.L. Falkiner KiA
B Coy Capt J.A. Gordon Returned UK (evacuated wounded)
B Coy 2 Lt R.M.A. Bourne PoW
B Coy Lt A.A. Eley Returned UK
B Coy Lt E.C.A. Keen PoW (wounded)
B Coy Lt P.J. Pearman-Smith KiA
OC C Coy Maj J.P.A. Graham KiA
C Coy Capt D.H. Whinney PoW
C Coy 2 Lt N. Ruck-Nightingale KiA
C Coy Lt M.J. Waterhouse PoW (wounded)
D Coy Capt C.R. Clutsom PoW
D Coy Lt P.M.C. Onions PoW
D Coy 2 Lt R.J. Whistler PoW
D Coy Capt H.E. Montgomery Returned UK (evacuated sick)

2 Glosters
Lt Col Gilmore PoW
Maj Campbell PoW
Maj Percy-Hardman PoW
Maj Cholmondley PoW
Capt Lynn-Allen PoW
Capt Wilkinson Wounded – evacuated UK
Capt Jones PoW
Capt Wilson PoW
Capt (QM) Brassington Returned UK
Capt Lovett Returned UK
Lt Carter Injured – evacuated UK
Lt Olive KiA.
Lt Walter Returned UK ?
2 Lt French KiA
2 Lt Robertson PoW
2 Lt Fane Returned UK
2 Lt Reeve-Tucker PoW
2 Lt Charlesworth PoW
2 Lt Way KiA
2 Lt Weightman KiA
2 Lt Rice PoW
2 Lt Cresswell PoW

48 South Midlands Division, comprising 144 and 145 Brigades, plus elements of “Usherforce” to the North, Mac Force in Cassel and “Woodforce” in Hazebrouck, was opposed by two German Panzer Corps, part of the “Kleist” Group.
The German Advance to 24th. May 1940.

Having reached the Channel Coast the Panzer and Motorised Infantry Divisions of the Kleist and Hoth Panzer Groups turn back East. Their aim is to encircle the BEF and the remains of the French Army fighting around Lille, and to prevent them escaping by sea.

By the 24th May the XLI Panzer Korps (General Reinhardt) comprising the 6th, 8th and 3rd Panzer Divisions and the SS Verfügungs Motorised Infantry Division have reached the Aa Canal between St. Omer and Aire. The line of the Canal, which forms an outer perimeter of the Dunkirk Pocket, and the towns of Cassel and Hazebrouck are held by British and French scratch forces. 3 Panzer Division was under command for part of the time, and a regiment of 29 Motorised Infantry Division was coming up behind
XIX Panzer Korps (Guderian) comprising 1st., 2nd., and 10th. Panzer Divisions, has under command 20th. Motorised Infantry Division, from another formation. 20th. Motorised is on the right flank of the Panzer Korps and has under its command the LSSAH (Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler) Motorised Infantry Regiment and the Gross-Deutschland Infantry Regiment. The Boundary between XIX and XLI Panzer Korps is just to the North of Cassel.

At midday on 24th. May 1940, Hitler issues the “Halt Order” to the Panzer Divisions, prohibiting movement forward of the Canal Line. The Luftwaffe claims to be able to reduce Dunkirk. The Halt Order is only lifted on the afternoon of the 26th May.
On the 27th May, with 20 Motorised Division leading, and the Gross-Deutschland Infantry Regiment on their left, the advance starts at the Watten-St. Pierre bridgehead held by the SS Leibstandarte Division, and is directed towards Wormhoudt. Later in the day 2 Panzer was ordered up on the left of 20 Motorised with an additional panzer and an additional infantry brigade under command. (It is possible the troops who attacked the 2nd. Glosters on the 29th May came from 20 Motorised Division).

With a regiment of 29 Motorised Infantry Division under command, 6 and 8 Panzer Divisions of XLI Korps advance East from the canal line towards Cassel on the left, Hazebrouck centre, and Morbecque right, the general objective being Poperinghe. 6 Panzer attacks Cassel and Hondeghem from the line of march.

Training and Tactics. The Armoured Division and Motorised Infantry Division of the German Army were organised and trained for mobile warfare. Motorised Infantry Divisions were designed to keep up with Armoured Divisions and expected to provide additional infantry support where the tanks needed it. Non motorised infantry Divisions marched and a substantial proportion of their transport was horse-drawn.In practice organisations varied considerably. SS Motorised Divisions were organised as other motorised infantry.

Both infantry and tanks were trained at all levels to infiltrate and probe boldly for weak spots in the defence, then to take the initiative and exploit the gap without waiting for further orders. Air recce using light aircraft and even balloons was used to direct movement on the ground and control artillery fire. On the battlefield, strong armoured recce units, motorcyclists and special forces were sent ahead to feel round the flanks and scout out the layout of the British defences. Bold foot patrols were used in semi-static situations.

German infantry and tanks were also trained to work together in mixed battle groups. German formations would attack from the line of march without elaborate preparation, relying on speed and covering fire, their reconnaissance elements feeling round the flanks of a position and for weak spots in the defence. Tactical decisions and control of support weapons were delegated to unit level, and the battalion was more lavishly equipped with mortars, machine guns and infantry guns than its British equivalent. Radio communications were used at unit level and air support could be summoned by radio within two or three hours, the Stuka dive bomber being seen as mobile artillery.
Commanders moved well forward where they could observe the battle at close quarters and make rapid decisions.

See also 140th (5th London) Army Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

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