The German advance continues

German built pontoon bridges allowed their advance to continue even where bridges had been blown up – a Panzer crosses the Maas on the 16th May.

The British Expeditionary Force now faced the very difficult task of conducting a fighting retreat across Belgium:

From the Diary of Captain R. Leah, 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders :

Thursday 16th

Withdrawal generally not quite to plan, and Kerr came in too soon. Forward battalions not even clear at 3.15 a.m. By this time all the company were back on the roads leading in to the village. [?] Section 10 Pl only members of the company who were in contact with the enemy. Saw Michael Kemp tonight going back with his company. We did not quit Ottemburg till 3.45. Had sent C.S.M. , Coy H. Q. and 12 Pl back previously, about 2 a.m. to the 1st Bound. After 1 1/2 hours they gave us up as lost, and started withdrawing.

We overtook them half way to Terlaenen. Very surprised at not being in contact with the enemy and getting clean away. Reported to Brigadier – Bde at Terlaenen and told to rejoin Bn who had moved to La Hulpe 8 miles. Tiring march: no food: reached La Hulpe about 8 a.m. and took another hour to find the Battalion who were in the Chateau in forest (extension of Foret Soignies). They had moved from Maemelford overnight. Sent Barrett out with P.V. to bring in company and had breakfast myself.

Slept for a few hours in grounds and then took up position and started digging. Very tiring recce, in afternoon, of new position, maps inaccurate, this was cancelled by order to withdraw same night. Went up with Coy Comdrs and C.O. to recce position along main road on race course. Got company in about 11 p.m.

Coy Cmdrs Conference at Bn H.Q. midnight. Bicycled down about 1 1/2 miles. Bn H.Q. back of [?] which was extremely difficult to find in dark. The chateau as occupied to-day was a very large and fine one with beautiful gardens and grounds. Particularly struck by the hard tennis courts. Bn H.Q. was actually in smaller house below Chateau which was unoccupied. Heard today of enemy break through on right. Saw several Moroccans knocking about, apparently lost heavily.

Coy and self 15 miles marching.

Entry No.7, for the first entry see 10th May 1940.

See TNA WO 217/15

A significant component of the French Army were their colonial troops – the group seen here were taken prisoner by the Germans in May 1940. Nazi racial attitudes meant that many received particularly poor treatment.