1940

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.

May

16

1940

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.

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.

May

15

1940

The BEF start to withdraw

Bomb craters on aerial picture of Arreux

“Took Hughes up as runner. His and my first experience of shelling. Did not care much for the position. Kerr, on the right, was isolated, forward up the road, with Fleming behind him about 1/2 a mile and 10 Pl on the left. The previous Company had obviously left in a great hurry, not having time to collect all their kit.”

May

14

1940

Rotterdam bombed, RAF suffer major losses

Bombing damage to the medieval city of Rotterdam

The Dutch were in the process of negotiating with Germans when they were subjected to a massive air raid. The incident continues to attract controversy. The German commander had intended to make a combined assault supported by dive bombers to hit specific targets but Heinkel III general bombers were allotted to the raid, and the German land forces were unable to call them off whilst their negotiations continued.

May

13

1940

Churchill offers "Blood, toil, tears and sweat"

German tanks in forest

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire; no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal.

May

12

1940

British troops take up positions in Belgium

A low level attack on a German Convoy by British light bombers, Fairey Battles: 12th May 1940 S.W. of Luzenburg

We entrained about 5.15 a.m. in the morning and were given coffee by the family and had breakfast from the Company Cookhouse. The road was crowded with transport and proceeded at snail’s pace most of the way. Fortunately no enemy bombing although the effects of yesterday’s efforts could frequently be seen.

May

11

1940

Belgian refugees clog the roads

German Panzers and Belgium refugees near the Albert Canal, 11th May 1940

About 8 to 10 men then left the wood and opened fire. More men from the wood also fired on us. One man advanced towards us but was severely hit in the stomach, At least two more were hit by grenades as we heard them screaming. The enemy threw stick grenades, one landing near my bearer and me cutting us both and temporarily blinding me with, blood owing to a cut above the eye.

May

10

1940

Churchill becomes Prime Minister as Hitler attacks

Winston Churchill: appointed Prime Minister on 10th May 1940

“…let pre-war feuds die; let personal quarrels be forgotten, and let us keep our hatreds for the common enemy. Let party interest be ignored, let all our energies be harnessed, let the whole ability and forces of the nation be hurled into the struggle, and let all the strong horses be pulling on the collar.”