May 1940

May

30

1940

134,000 troops now saved by Dunkirk evacuation

The Royal Navy destroyer HMS VANQUISHER alongside a sunken trawler at Dunkirk, 1940.

On the 29th a number of merchant seamen at Dover refused to take their ships to sea for the evacuation and were replaced by Naval ratings from Chatham. By midnight on the 30th/31st 134,000 troops had been landed. Evacuation is still proceeding. Up to the present 222 warships and 665 other ships have been employed in this operation. Twelve Naval officers and a number of ratings have been sent as a ” beach party ” to Dunkirk, and about 130 small ships, requisitioned from the French, are being sent to Dover…

May

29

1940

Dunkirk evacuation underway – HMS Grafton sunk

Troops under fire on the beaches of Dunkirk, as seen from a ship offshore.

I pushed my way out on deck. Someone said: ‘Keep down. They’re machine-gunnmg us.’ I huddled against a steel door and watched the fight. Two dark shapes in the middle distance turned out to be German M.T.B.’s. The destroyer and another British warship were giving them hell with shells and tracer-bullets. The M.T.B.’s were answering with machine-gun fire. But one by one they were hit. We saw them leap into the air and then settle down’ into the water and sink. Everyone sighed with relief….

May

28

1940

RAF over Dunkirk beaches – Captain Leah is captured

Spitfire Mk I in flight, May 1940.

Floundering about in mud and water and crossing last wire fences. Kilt badly torn. However we covered about 7 1/2 miles and dawn found us on outskirts of Laventie. By this time we were more or less clear of enemy except for odd motor cyclists but very tired and hungry. Here made unfortunate mistake of deciding to lay up for another day until dark. Poured with rain and had to take to houses – for a few hours but got out again about 8 a.m.

May

27

1940

Massacre as situation worsens for the BEF

Propaganda leaflet with map of encircled Dunkirk

In my ditch were remains of original 10 Pl., Sgts Turner and Watson, Ptes Leidlar, Gillespie, Nicholson, Buchanan, Elvin. Opened fire on tank with Bren and unfortunately A/T Rifle jammed and striker broke. Turner and Nicholson there hit. Ditch very uncomfortable with about one foot of water in it. We stayed there from 2 p.m. till nightfall.

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.