British withdrawal accelerates

German tanks, 1940

German armour advancing into Belgium

Captain R. Leah describes the practical difficulties faced by the British Expeditionary Force units as they seek to withdraw:

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

Sunday 19th May.

Anxious to get away before light, but no sign of A.F.V’s till about 3 a.m. and were just moving out of Lessines as dawn was breaking. “B” Coy were rear guard and last away. Heavy mortar shelling this morning. Apparently insufficient transport for everybody. Transport took some on, part of the way, then came back and lifted others, and so on. We marched until about 10 a.m. Everybody extraordinarily tired. Road crowded – at least 2 waits moving back on our road. Our Tpt not too well organized, drivers did not know their destination nor did I. Saw Michael Kemp when entering Tournai. R.A.S.C. finally dumped us in Tournai. Eventually got hold of Rutterford, P.S.M., who took me to Bn area, borrowed some tpt and went back and fetched company.

Battalion area large wooded grounds with field in centre. Food cooked and much appreciated. A/Q.M.S. Miller, ? and Mackenzie were doing incredibly well and always had food waiting for us when possible which made all the difference. Once again allotted billets, very fine ones, just moving in when ordered to form perimeter camp in Park. This is continually happening so enemy tanks must be getting through. Had Bn. officer’s mess just opposite gates of grounds, and sat down this evening to good meal.

Took C.O.’s steel helmet by mistake which caused great deal of consternation. Orders to move again early tomorrow morning. Mortar shelling again later at night. L/c Martin hit, but not badly but out of action.

12 miles marching, Coy and self.

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

See TNA WO 217/15

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