May 1940

May

26

1940

Calais surrenders to Germans

British dead immediately after the battle in Calais.

Things livened up towards midday. French seem to have gone on right. Am told Worcesters have taken their place but continually failed to get in touch with them. Enemy through on our right, 1 sec of Worcesters back on our rt hand platoon Enemy in view out of wood, but withdrew under French M.G. fire. Very pleasant Fr officer in charge of M.G.s but he is rather worried about the situation, so am I.

May

25

1940

Norfolks fight on as bombing fails to halt Germans

Pontoon bridge over La Bassee Canal. German PzKpfw 38(t) crossing. probably on 27th May, from Rommel's personal collection, later captured by the British.

‘Great enemy air activity today. Had orders to move back to Festubert. Sent Cameron on billeting, then arrived self with 1 Pl. Got settled in and was going to look for Camerons in War Cemetery when we were called back to Estaires. Lot of enemy air bombing along roads. Then had orders to move back to Violaines. Later in afternoon Coy Comdrs went on to meet Queens Regt, who we were to relieve in L.B. and recce area there. The usual defences of a canal in a town. Mortar shelling. ‘

May

24

1940

The evacuation from Calais as Hitler orders ‘Halt’

British transport at the dockside at Calais, pictured after the Germans had captured the port.

When I first emerged from the stuffy cellar and instinctively sniffed the fresh salt air I was met with, for me, a new and very unpleasant smell. It was the smell of scorched flesh, coming from the corpses of men who had received direct hits on the quayside. For the unloading of the hospital train it was a question of pairing off with someone, going into the train (which also stenched heavily) and carrying to the ship a wounded man on his stretcher. Very soon all the available space below decks was full, and stretchers had to be arranged on the open decks.

May

23

1940

The BEF cross back into France

German half track with Flak gun

Very tiring march. Started at 11 last night, crossed frontier about 6 a.m. This morning arrived in Lannay approximately 7.30 a.m. Once again got good billets but as it later happened, we did not expect to be left in them for more than 12 hours. Could not get hold of transport for about an hour but had breakfast at 10 a.m. then slept for 2 hours.

May

22

1940

The Holocaust progresses while war rages

Roma and Sinti are deported from the German city of Asberg, 22nd May 1940. They were sent to forced labour camps in Poland where the majority died. The remainder were later sent to death camps. There are apparently no records of any survivors.

Men, women and children of the Roma and Sinti peoples are deported from the German city of Asberg, 22nd May 1940. They were sent to forced labour camps in Poland where the majority died from starvation and maltreatment.

May

21

1940

The British counter-attack at Arras and Escaut

British troops man an anti-tank gun position in the ruined Belgium town of Louvain.

Shelled all the way between Merlin and main road, but Coy well spread out. Munro of 10 Pl killed, Cpl. Campbell, Hunter, Armstrong, all wounded, but they continued to objective. Ground very unpleasently open all way to main road. All Pl’s got into position and Coy H. Q. was on back in thick wood on S.W. side of main road. Coy heavily shelled in position and sniped.

May

20

1940

The BEF are encircled, 7th Royal Sussex are decimated

German artillery on the western front, May 1940

Lots of rumours of tanks again. On arrival back forced another perimeter of village and blocked all roads. Sudden move again this evening. Marched to Ere about seven miles, Waited there several hours, supposed to be taking over line from another unit… All slept on the side of road. Finally received orders to return Taintignies. While waiting at the roadside to Ere about 10.30 p.m. Pte Hutchinson had his arm run over and broken by a truck.

May

19

1940

British withdrawal accelerates as Churchill speaks

German tanks, 1940

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.

May

18

1940

Mounted troops consolidate the German advance

German mounted troops

Pte Yates hit by sniper late in evening but not badly. Great deal of mortar shelling all night, especially round Coy H.Q. C.S.M. Maclean was standing in the courtyard with his haversack on when a shell exploded some yards away. His mug attached to the haversack on his back, had a large hole blown through it. Orders to withdraw following morning when relieved by cavalry.

May

17

1940

Churchill stiffens British resolve

German troops were apparently welcomed in some parts of Belgium

Crossed canal held by Gds and S.H’s. slept in field two or three hours and ate haversack ration. About 4 p.m marched off about one mile and embussed. Very crowded in transport had to take round about way by side roads to avoid aircraft. Were machine gunned and bombed.