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The BEF in France: Life on the Western Front

An earlier photograph: Lord Gort, Commander of the BEF in France, General Brooke, Commander of II Corps and Hore Belisha, Secretary of State for War until January 1940

In March 1940 Alan Brooke was General commanding II Corps in the British Expeditionary Force in France. He kept one of the best diaries of the war, here he describes life close to the front line:

26 March
Left Metz at 8.45 and met Anderson at 9.30 am. Spent half an hour with him discussing the doings of the 11th Inf Bde during the last few days, and in obtaining from him details of the patrol encounter in which Hudson of the Lancs Fusiliers killed 5 Germans and captured one. It was a fine show as Hudson had only 5 men with him and there were 10 Germans in all, four of which escaped. I then went up to examine the front posts and the work that has been done on them lately. From a good point of observation we examined the village of Leuvage and Anderson explained to me his plans for an encirclement of the village by all his battalion battle patrols with the object of capturing Germans. It is to take place on Wednesday night. I had an interview with Hudson, a very nice boy who has spent most of his life shooting and poaching! He gave me a full and interesting account of his adventures.

On the way home I went to call on the French general who commands the infantry of the division. While we were out an air combat took place over our heads. We could hear the machine guns firing and the roar of the planes but they were above the clouds. One plane was brought down but we could not see it nor could we discover its nationality. A perfectly lovely spring day, and very different from the freezing and snow visits of former occasions.

Just as I was finishing writing the AA defence of Metz opened fire and has been hard at it, on and off during the last half hour. I went out onto the balcony but could see nothing although the German planes were easily audible.

See War Diaries 1939-1945: Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke.