1st Tyneside Scottish May 1940

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In view of the complexity of the War Diary for this crucial month in the Brigade's existence it is recommended that the Diaries for each of the Units concerned are read alongside each other, so as to form as accurate a picture as possible of what was a confusing few weeks. The entries are kept in date order and, where clarity would be helped, the reader is referred to parallel entries from other Units. It is suggested that the Diary for the 23rd Division is read first, followed by that for the Brigade HQ and then the Infantry Battalions and Engineer Companies. There is a considerable amount of material to cover, especially as Units were in many cases broken into small parties and served as part of temporary groupings, such as Petreforce. The author has tried to be as faithful as possible to the original documents.

The War Diary of 1st Tyneside Scottish presents particular problems in terms of its presentation.

As far as the author can judge, and with the passage of time none of those involved are still living to confirm these points, Captain BURR produced a report on the traumatic events of May 1940 which was submitted to 23rd (Northumbrian) Division effectively as the Battalion's War Diary.

Subsequently, and one can only assume post-war, Lt.Col. SWINBURNE, the Battalion Commander, critiqued Captain BURR's report and annotated the document with his "corrections" and additional information. The original report seems not to have survived in its unedited form, and no explanation has been forthcoming for that. The reader will have to judge the nature of the comments made by Lt. Col. SWINBURNE, coloured as they are, perhaps, by the understandable frustrations of five years of captivity.

There is then a second lengthy document, described as a "Narrative" of the period 17 - 20 May 1940 in respect of the Battalion, which was produced post-war - and is acknowledged as such. Neither of the documents is signed and no indication is given in the Divisional files as to how they were received. It is assumed that this second document was produced by Lt. Col. SWINBURNE.

The one fact which is clear is that well-known authors have had access to the War Diary files, and in some cases to Swinburne family papers. The result is that the dominant perception of the events of this tragic period in recent histories of the Dunkirk campaign has been that of Lt. Col.SWINBURNE. When those authors have been approached, by me, about their use of this material they have, generously, acknowledged that the background to the events, and the command decisions made at the time, especially by the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Philip KIRKUP, may not always have been as described by Lt. Col. SWINBURNE. In his defence, this is not surprising - communication was almost entirely absent, Brigadier KIRKUP had been, for whatever reason, misled about the development of events (as perhaps also had the 23rd Division), and the French troops expected to be holding forward defence lines were not in position.

The testimony of my late father added a modest, but unique element, to this story. He stood by, as the Brigadier's driver, as some of these decisions on deploying the Brigade were made, overheard some of the conversations, and was acutely aware of the difficulties the Brigadier faced in obeying the orders he was given, in the face of a fluid battle dominated by a fast-moving enemy, and not knowing that the briefings he was being given on which to base his deployment decisions were inaccurate.

I would like to formally acknowledge the generosity and courtesy of Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, General Julian Thompson and Tim Lynch in responding to my queries and comments. Their work has helped the understanding of the campaign and added enormously to my knowledge of the events. I hope that my small additional pieces of information have caused them to take cognisance of a perhaps different interpretation of some events.

War Diary 1 TS May 1940

(CSM Baggs' Diary states....

2nd May 1940

Moved again to BALBECK my Coy being on Baggage Duty we loaded up the Battalion kit and then entrained for FREVENT. Travelled all night over the old SOMME battlefield – saw quite a number of places …. War. I had vivid memories of some, believe me.

3rd May 1940

…44th Birthday, and to celebrate I have a wash in “ALBERT” …. Boy”. Etc I remember this place, and what a change, it sure …. ance Place, from what it was in 1917.

….arrived 2 pm at FREVENT its teaming down, all Kits …. But we soon got them loaded then off to Camp; thank God …. A lift up to Camp and say its some place. Mud up to your ….under canvas, in a small orchard. This is sure a grand birthday.

4th May 1940

Batt started work on an “airadrome runaway”. We worked in 2 shifts, and believe me it was hard work. We got a grand name from the R.E. C/O. He said the Tyneside Lads were great. Grub was bad, and a lot of grumbling went on, but still the Boys went to work quite happy. On the 15th May I took 2 Platoons to “ABBEVILLE” in search of “Parachutists”, who were reported to have been dropped in this area. Capt Maughan went into ABBEVILLE with Lt Calderwood and returned with a German automatic pistol. Capt Maughan handed over a German who was passing off as French and asking questions. “Good Show Skipper”. Out all day and at 8 pm got transport from the 9th R.N.F. and returned to Camp at FREVENT. Just got in when ordered to turn out on “Night Patrol”. Oh Boy, this is sure some War?

Looking for some excitement, early morning “STAND-TO” in slit trenches we had dug around our camp; every morning 2 am out and in trench, we wonder “what this all means”; 3 am back to our tent, then at Daybreak, away to work again; when will we get a decent meal. Our Lt Quartermaster, could do with some instruction, believe me, in feeding the Batt.

15th May 1940

Lt Calderwood with 9 Platoon ordered to move to “ABBEVILLE” on A.A. Duty. Sgt Ford and Sgt Smith going i/c men.)

The document set out below is Captain BURR's report, with the annotations by Lt.Col. SWINBURNE identified as carefully as possible.

These notes have been read by me - the marginal notes are mine. I would specifically refer to my notes on the back of Page 2. (Sgd.) Hugh L. SWINBURNE, Lieut. Colonel.

Captain BURR’s Report, as annotated by Lt. Col. SWINBURNE.

Thursday 16th May 1940

After completing a normal day’s work on the aerodrome site at BEAUVOIR the Battalion rested. Mr J. Guerin, the Liaison Officer, had spent the day in ARRAS with Captain J.B. Burr, who had been appointed Mess Secretary the previous day, making arrangements for a special dinner for the following evening when some distinguished Officers (Swinburne: Captain D’etapes Doullens only) of the French Army were expected to dine in Mess.

At 21:00 hours all Officers were warned to “stand-to” and to remain fully dressed all night ready to move at five minutes notice (Swinburne: Not connected with move on 17th May, and then only referred to 1 Coy). However, nothing further transpired that night.

Friday 17th May 1940

The morning was spent in great activity (Swinburne: No orders on preparation until noon); all ranks preparing to move off in battle order, the remainder of all kits to be carried by M.T. For the most part, however, no kits were ever seen again.

At 13:00 hours the Commanding Officer, Adjutant and the four rifle company commanders, left by road as an advance (Swinburne: Recce) party.

The rest of the Battalion, excepting a few sick under Sgt Alderston (This may actually have been CQMS ALDERSON) and one Platoon of A Company under 2/Lt Calderwood, which had been detached from the battalion some days before for aerodrome duties at AUTHIE, should have begun to move from BEAUVOIR at 14:30 hours, but the convoy of French (Swinburne: There were other reasons. See Major Wilby i/c) “camions” including one vehicle that had been employed to take troops up to the line in 1914, had been mis-directed and arrived very late.

Eventually, starting at 18:00 hours, the main body of the Battalion began to move Eastwards just after one of three aircraft touched down on the partly completed runway at the aerodrome. The route was by way of DOULLENS, HEDAUVILLE, PUISEUX, ACHIET-LE-GRAND and BAPAUME to the FORET DE VELU, a distance of some 40 miles. The journey was uneventful, though the road through BAPAUME was partly blocked by a bomb crater, the result of enemy air action.

It was learned later that the advance party had been forced to seek shelter several times to avoid enemy attacks from the air. (Swinburne: 2/Lt Cohen was responsible for direction having the only map available. He did a marvellous job; over un-recced roads with civilian French drivers and assorted decrepit M.T. Much of move in darkness).

(CSM Baggs' Diary states....

17th May 1940

5pm. “Get dressed” A Coy, we now leave our Camp for our Baptism of Fire, I couldn’t help thinking how my Boys would take it. I knew what to expect myself, having met Jerry before, in the last War. However I had great “Faith” in my men. Away we went and to see what transport we had, would have made anyone in England THINK, any old Bus was used, to take us up to meet Jerry. Arrived at Batt HQ in “BAILLUE WOOD” about 10pm. Lay in ditch at side of the road until 11pm, had received orders from Capt Maughan, that the Jerry’s had been bombing HQ all day and that “NO SMOKING” would be allowed and movement to be strictly quiet.

11pm marched away and to see the civvys leaving their Homes with what they could take made us all feel bitter. Poor little Kiddies on top of farm carts with their mothers fondling them. By god, wait until we meet the German -----, we shall do our best to give him all we have got.

Saturday 18th May 1940

The main body had arrived at VELU by 00:30 (Swinburne: I think 02:00) and each Company was immediately sent off to take up its position on the CANAL du NORD. Captain Harker of C Company was responsible for the right flank. The right flank of C Company was (Swinburne: Including) the village of BERTINCOURT for the protection of which No. 14 Platoon, under Captain Burr, was responsible. It appears that this Platoon, therefore, had the distinction of forming the right flank of the British Expeditionary Force.

Captain Burr actually went two miles to the right to make contact with any troops who might be there but could find nobody. (Swinburne: This recce had already been done by C.O. looking for French expected to be there).

The whole of this day was spent in consolidating positions and preparing anti-tank obstacles, as a message had come through that enemy light tanks and A.F.V.s were running loose close at hand. (Swinburne: This message, if it existed, did not pass through Bn HQ).

During the early evening an enemy plane flew very low at about 200 feet – over 14 Platoon Headquarters. It was of the Lysander type but did not live long as an Allied machine caught it almost immediately and forced it down in flames less than two miles away. (Swinburne: No report of this to HQ. It probably refers to a Lysander from Authie shot down by Messerschmitts). (Recent research by George Brown, at the request of the author, using George’s RAF losses reference material, suggests that the casualty was most probably a Lysander of No. 4 Army Co-operation Squadron, although at this stage the name of the pilot cannot be ascertained. Grateful thanks are due to George for his help and for the account of the serious RAF losses on this particular day.)

At 23:00 hours C Company received orders to move off at dawn the following day.

(CSM Baggs' Diary states....

5am arrived at my Company Area, this side of the “Canal du Nord” with “HAYERINCOURT” village to my right Front, in rear of my Coy HQ is “HERMES” village, about 800 yards and “Boy” do I know this place. I was here in March 1918 when Jerry made his great PUSH. I put my two Platoons out into position then returned to Coy HQ with Capt Maughan, Lt Noble. Next morning CQMS Brockelbank and I had to take cover “and quick about it too”we were M.G. from the Air. Plenty of bombing around my HQ quite near at times but we don’t mind, as long as he misses our Estaminet (Coy HQ). Took a hot meal around to my 2 Platoons, which was greatly appreciated, and Sgt Bailes was detailing to me all about the Bombing around his Position. Sgt Rutherford was far happier, no bombs fell near him but, on the whole, all the Boys are OK and dead eager to have a go.)

Sunday 19th May 1940

No. 14 Platoon withdrew from its position at 03:00 hours and joined the remainder of C Company in BERTINCOURT at 04:00 hours and then marched Northwards against a never-ending stream of refugees to HENDECOURT, a distance of some twelve (Swinburne: ?) miles. (Swinburne: Route via VELU where Bn S.P. was).

The Battalion arrived at a Chateau here between 12:00 and 13:30 hours and the Companies immediately took up positions of all-round defence on the information that parachutists were reported to be in the neighbourhood (Swinburne: I have no knowledge of this.) as well as enemy tanks, which were reported to be advancing from the direction of CAMBRAI which was burning fiercely, and RIENCOURT.

At 17:00 hours the Battalion received orders to be ready to move off at dusk. It was possible to arrange a light meal for the men (Swinburne: Meal issued at 15:00 hours) the first food (officially) they had been able to get since the previous day. Actually the Battalion started to move off at 21:30 hours with the intention of marching to embus at THELUS for the purpose, it was understood, of taking up defensive positions on the LA BASSEE CANAL. Previous to this, the Commanding Officer, Adjutant and Liaison Officer with Captain Burr and two men from each Company to act as a guide party, had left HENDECOURT by M.T. as an advance party.

At GUEMAPPE (Swinburne: Monchy?) this party was stopped by a formidable road block. There followed a Conference of Brigadiers Viscount Downe and Kirkup and Battalion Commanders of 70th Brigade and all plans were changed. The 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish were diverted to NEUVILLE (Swinburne: No – to SAULTY, NEUVILLE for night only.) to go into rest billets. It was then nearly midnight.

(CSM Baggs' Diary states....

19th May 1940

2am. Just having a grand sleep when I was awakened by Capt Maughan receiving orders that we had to withdraw. Jerry had broken through, with his Tanks. Up I got, called out my runners, and sent one to each Platoon to inform them and with orders to withdraw and meet up again through “HERMES” village.

Lt Noble informs Coy HQ Personal that the Bridge across the canal was about to be “Blown up”. Everyone down in the cellar waiting for the explosion. Faulty Fuse holds up the operation so I move my “Coy HQ” away, in the direction of “HERMES” moving single File along each side of road. Just got moving when “UP went the Bridge” and down we went flat on the ground to escape flying fragments and M.G. bulletts from the air. Jerry is sure meaning business. Civvys Dead are all along the road, things are surely getting hot. As I entered the village I met CSM Parmenter, leading “D” Coy towards me. I informed Him that Jerry was advancing. He halted until I met Capt Adams to whom I explained the Pos and then they “about turned” and moved back. Arriving through the village I met my 2 Platoons and back we went, with the rest of the Batt “single file” along the road Back. German aircraft always giving us a reminder that we were being followed. Marched all day with no food and it is really warm. Boys getting weary and we all wonder where our Artillery is, not a single Gun, and not an RAF plane to give us a bit support. “Where the Hell” are we going everyone asks but believe me no-one knows anything, we are just moving, not knowing where we are going and what to expect. “Why don’t we halt and wait until Jerry comes and have a go at him”.

Arrived at last at HENDICOURT WOOD about 5pm on 19th May everyone feeling tired and hungry. At last we get a hot meal (its still the same, tin of McConacky’s warmed up, with some Tea) but we are glad of it.

Fancy putting the whole Batt. In this wood. I feel very uncomfortable believe me, with so many Planes after us. This is sure some Target for Jerry if he spots any movement. Patrols put out and everyone resting but all set, should Jerry arrive. “Halt’s” – they bring in a “Spy” to HQ and take him to the Comd Officer Col Swinburne, who with our French liaison Officer, interrogate Him. “Result – Sgt Dick Chambers has orders to shoot Him, it was done OK”.

9pm 19th May . Batt ordered to move. “A” Coy (my Coy) leading, so off we went as before “Single File” expecting anytime to meet Jerry so we are all “keyed up”. Passed through “WANCORT” about 1 am 20th and moved on to “MERCATEL” where we halted at 2am and each Coy put into Barns. Down to it Boys. Get what rest you can, for you will need it. Information very scarce in fact cannot get to know anything.)

Monday 20th May 1940

A Liaison Officer and Captain Burr went ahead to find barns in which to put the men for two or three hours rest. By an unfortunate error and owing to the darkness of the night, billets were selected at BEAURAINS, which place was found to be the wrong one. (Swinburne: And the party was located by C.O. in truck). It was now 01:30 hours and a dash was made for NEUVILLE, the correct village, and further billeting was arranged and completed, just as the Battalion began to arrive at 03:00 hours.

Everyone lay down to rest at once, having marched 22 miles (Swinburne: I made it more on pedometer – 27 to be exact.) in 23 hours with only one light meal at HENDECOURT. The Liaison Officer and Captain Burr were then instructed to take the Commanding Officer’s car (Swinburne: At about 03:15 hours 20th May.) driven by 2/Lt J.K. Dunn and proceed to SAULTY, some fifteen miles away, together with all their Platoon trucks (Swinburne: Available transport, less Water Cart.) and their personnel. This was the last time Captain Burr saw the Battalion and it is interesting to recall his final order from the Commanding Officer, who said:

“Captain Burr, your work is not finished. You will take Jimmy (the Liaison Officer) with you in my car and arrange billets for the Battalion in SAULTY. The Battalion is going to rest after the hard marching they have had. Shortman (Lt and QM), the R.S.M., R.Q.M.S., and Company Quartermaster and Storemen will go with you in the trucks which will return here as soon as possible and then I shall arrange to send the Battalion through to SAULTY by a shuttle system”. (Swinburne: 72 hours rest had been ordered by Brigadier Kirkup. I have no recollection of sending R.S.M. – there was no reason why I should. I added – I expect transport back by dawn, 05:45 hours at the latest.)

The billeting party found considerable difficulty in finding their way across country as the night was very dark. (Swinburne: See important note on reverse of this page),

They eventually arrived at SAULTY at 07:00 hours and a parking place was selected in the middle of the village and all trucks were emptied. Empty transport at once returned, under 2/Lt J.K. Dunn, leaving at 08:00 hours to pick up the main body of the Battalion. At 09:00 hours the billeting party was joined by Lt McGregor who came back to make a reconnaissance of the approaches to SAULTY for defence purposes.

Later the Medical Officer, Lt A. Forrester, arrived, having been sent with the Water truck to find out what had delayed the transport whose failure to arrive had immobilised the main body of the Battalion. The Medical Officer actually met the Transport at BEAUMETZ, delivered his message, and went on to SAULTY. At 11:00 hours the following message (From Brigade H.Q.), obviously intended for the Commanding Officer, who should have reached SAULTY by then, was received by Captain Burr from a Despatch Rider.




The Despatch Rider added verbally that the place for the 1st Tyneside Scottish to make for was BERLES. On reference to the map it was found that there were two places of that name, about equidistant from SAULTY, one to the North and the other to the South East. Not being conversant with Brigade or Divisional plans this message was utterly confusing.

Lt McGregor (Swinburne: This Officer had been sent on to make a recce of SAULTY for all-round defence.) at once took a bicycle and made a reconnaissance to the East as far as the main ARRAS – DOULLENS road and later reported that enemy tanks were in the neighbourhood and that a detachment of The Buffs from DOULLENS had been heavily engaged by the enemy and were about to withdraw to SAULTY. (Swinburne: I have met the Officer of The Buffs who saw Lt McGregor).

Captain Burr decided to cover this withdrawal and ordered all-round defence positions to be prepared. Although there were three French Anti-Tank guns at SAULTY, and plenty of ammunition (Swinburne: This ammunition had been “found” and 2/Lt Noble had organised gun teams (he was previously in Q. Bty. R.A.) but the guns had to be sent off with the transport.) use could not be made of them owing to mechanical defects in each and the defence had to rely only on two A/T. rifles and two Lewis Guns with a few hand grenades and rifles.

To our own transport, consisting of three 15-hundredweight trucks and the Water truck, which was hastily emptied of its load to lighten it, were added later two 30cwt. trucks belonging to the R.A.S.C. These had formed part of a convoy which had been attacked near POMMERA and were making an escape via SAULTY. These trucks were unloaded and lined up with our own 15 cwt. trucks on the road to BARLY and kept ready for an instant departure with engines running.

By 12:30 hours there was no further news of the Buffs and firing was increasing in intensity in the direction from which they should have approached. Captain Burr then summoned all ranks together, outlined the position as well as he could and arranged a whistle signal which would be the order for withdrawal from SAULTY by means of the waiting convoy. At 13:00 hours enemy tanks were heard approaching the village from the East and the withdrawal signal was blown.

All equipment and supplies (Swinburne: All supplies other than “fighting” had been jettisoned earlier.) except the A/T. rifles and Lewis guns were left behind. As the last truck left SAULTY the leading enemy tank entered the village and fired on this last truck which was well riddled with bullets. Fortunately nobody in it was hit, but one round from a two-pounder gun, fired by an enemy tank, penetrated the engine and the radiator was pierced and slowly emptied of water. It was at this time that it was discovered that the Lt. Quartermaster had some time earlier taken one of the trucks and had made his own unauthorised departure, nor was he heard of again (Swinburne: He was a P.W. deservedly so!)

The convoy found considerable difficulty in making progress as the Water truck was in some trouble and the road was densely packed with refugees travelling in the same direction in all manner of horse-drawn vehicles and on foot. From BARLY the route was by way of AVESNES to FREVENT, where chaos reigned. Here it was learned that nobody was to be allowed to stay, as the enemy were known to be very close. Accordingly, the convoy headed Northwards and stopped for a short halt at NUNCQ where it was discovered that the Water truck had come to grief and the Medical Officer had gone back to FREVENT with a wounded man.

At this point the note added by Lt Col Swinburne to the back of the previous page of the War Diary is here reproduced:-

This statement on pages 1, 2 and 3 clearly compiled by Captain Burr is extremely incomplete; many statements are incorrect, perhaps not surprising, as Captain Burr was not in the picture. This I have rewritten, but the crux of the whole matter lies in two facts:

(1) The diversion to SAULTY and the order that we would proceed there for 72 hours rest was due to some mistake by higher command, which is no concern of mine, but being distinctly uneasy I desired to get the Battalion concentrated at SAULTY at the earliest possible moment, hence the order at the top of page three.

(2) Captain Burr has his facts wrong – the night was clear in the main though cloudy at intervals it was practically full moon – for example I was able to drive my Truck at over 40 miles per hour without lights. The reason for the M.T. failing to find SAULTY is still unexplained, and even if darkness is the explanation (which I do not accept at the moment) dawn was at approximately 04:30 hours, and there was only fifteen miles to go, despite this, arrival at SAULTY was not until 07:00 hours. Transport should have been back at NEUVILLE by 05:00 hours and again by 07:00 hours. Had this been effected it is possible that none of the unit would have been trapped and probable that casualties would have been much lighter.

I have not as yet seen or had a report from 2/Lt J.K. Dunn (now Lt. Col. Dunn M.C.) on this delay.

Hugh L. Swinburne Lt. Col.

The Report then resumes with the fortunes of the various groups of men separately identified. This approach will be followed in documenting the papers and it will try and show which party was being described on which day and at which time.

20th May 1940 Continued.

Medical Officer’s Party

The Medical Officer returned later to NUNCQ to find that the convoy had gone towards St. POL, which place was also considered unsafe. He therefore, on the advice of the Town Mayor, set off for ABBEVILLE at 16:00 hours. Some kilometres out he again met enemy tanks and everybody on the road scattered. The M.O. made off across country to CONCHY and HESDIN where he joined up with the 186th Field Ambulance. They later attempted to contact Division H.Q. at SAILLY, but without success. Later at METEREN the M.O. transferred to the remainder of 70th Infantry Brigade, with whom he found 2/Lt J.K. Dunn with some twenty or thirty other ranks of the Tyneside Scottish, all that were known to the Brigade as surviving from the Battalion.

Captain Burr’s Party

Meanwhile, the main body of the Battalion, while at NUNCQ, had the good fortune to contact 2/Lt K. Calderwood and his Platoon from AUTHIE. They had come from BEAUVOIR where they had destroyed by fire all that remained at the former camp. Mr Calderwood was told to get his men together and try to get through to TROISVAUX that same evening.

Captain Burr and Mr McGregor had joined forces with an R.A.S.C. convoy who were bound for TROISVAUX, two miles North of St. POL and here they and the thirty-five or so men with them arrived at 18:00 hours. Mr Calderwood and his party managed to get through and reported to Captain Burr at 19:00 hours. A hot meal was arranged for everyone, the first food, except for some iron rations, since early the previous Sunday evening.

At 20:00 hours, Major Leggett, commanding that detail of the R.A.S.C., sent for Captain Burr and told him that St POL and district was not likely to hold out till morning and invited him to attach his transport and men to the R.A.S.C. convoy which was about to leave TROISVAUX. This invitation was gratefully accepted and the combined convoys moved off in a Northerly direction at 21:30 hours. The road taken was by way of ANVIN, CREPY, FRUGES, FAUKEMBEAGUES, WIZERNES and St. OMER to the FORET DE CLAIRMARAIS. The journey was a difficult one owing to the darkness of the night and the, by now, familiar streams of refugees.

Captain Craig’s Party

The Padre, Captain R.N. Craig was with the Battalion as they were approaching some crossroads near FICHEUX , South of ARRAS at about 09:00 hours (Swinburne: ?) The transport had now reached that point on its return from SAULTY and orders were given to most of Headquarters Company and a few details of D Company to embus. (Swinburne: Actually HQ Company, about 50% A.M.P.C. and R.A.O.C.). There were six or seven vehicles, some of which have not been accounted for. One contained 2/Lt J.K. Dunn and 4455325 Private Eric Taylorson. An account of the adventures of this Officer and Other Rank are given elsewhere in this Diary. Pte Taylorson was later awarded the Military Medal. The official notification of the award in the Gazette stated that:-

“Near FICHEUX on May 20th the Battalion transport was carrying troops tired after a long march who had to be rushed to a defensive position on the West flank of ARRAS. Private Taylorson’s truck was ambushed from the flank by enemy tanks. With great presence of mind he accelerated, avoided the enemy and reached woods some three miles on. Taylorson volunteered to try another route back, cutting across the enemy line of advance. This he did, making several journeys. As a result of his resource and determination some 150 men were transported and brought into a defensive position”.

(Swinburne: All the vehicles were together 1 mile earlier at S.P. i/c 2/Lt Dunn).

Three of the vehicles were ambushed a short distance down the road to BEAUMETZ. The occupants of these trucks included Captain Craig C.F. 2/Lt B.S.M. Stordy (Swinburne: Sent forward to make good crossroads at FICHEUX with one A/T Rifle and Bren Section.), six other ranks of the 1st Tyneside Scottish, four wounded from the 10th DLI and one fit man from that Battalion and one dead man of the Tyneside Scottish. All these were in one truck and they, after investigating the ambush and finding enemy tanks close at hand, established a defensive post in a farmhouse, where they were safe from shrapnel fire from enemy tanks.

Those from the other two trucks who took shelter in a barn or remained in the open were less fortunate. Later, the tanks moved off in line ahead formation and they must have caught the rest of the Battalion from the rear. Captain Craig and his truck got lost and soon met another column of enemy tanks in MONCHY. Having escaped from them they lay hidden for the rest of the day. Not until dusk did they attempt to move to the Battalion rendezvous at SAULTY. On the way they escaped from an enemy motorised column and later contacted an enemy patrol column at GUOY heading towards SAULTY. They finally decided to turn Northwards towards St. POL. (Swinburne: The account in this paragraph does not fit in with my observations or the facts as I have them from another source, but this depends on whether all the trucks were together or not.)

Also on this day Private 4459528 John Parkin was awarded the Military Medal. The official notification in the Gazette stated that:-

“Near ARRAS on May 20th, when under continuous fire from the enemy, Private Parkin went forward some 30 yards to the assistance of his Section Commander who had been severely wounded while manning a Bren Gun. While doing so, the Lance Corporal was killed and Private Parkin was wounded by a burst of machine gun fire”.

The award to Captain ADAMS in respect of 20th May is set out here;

The Citation for the award of the Military Cross to Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) E.T. Adams, 1st Tyneside Scottish, at FICHEUX on 20th May 1940, appeared in the London Gazette on 14th February 1946. The details can be found in The National Archives file WO 373/146 piece number 48862, image reference 177/714.

The Citation reads as follows:-

For gallant conduct and example in leadership in the face of the enemy. Recommended for Military Cross.

Captain Adams, commanding D Company, 1st Tyneside Scottish, when attacked on line of march by enemy Tanks rallied his Company (who had not even completed Individual Training) largely by his personal example. He withdrew them with little loss and then led an attack on several enemy L.M.G. posts and, though counter-attacked by 11 enemy Tanks, he held his ground for two hours, disabling one, and possibly a second, Tank with a Boys Rifle. During this period he carried out a personal reconnaissance – once on a bicycle and to a flank under direct enemy machine gun fire. His total disregard of personal danger undoubtedly contributed largely to the steadiness of his Company. When his position was finally overrun he rallied a small party and evaded capture in enemy country for two days. (There is a further sentence….”This followed several months of excellent work in training”…which has been deleted by the nominator).

The award was recommended by Lt Col Swinburne C.O. 1st Tyneside Scottish

The awards to Privates WATSON and FULLARD are recorded here;

The Citation for the award of the Military Medal to 4459443 Pte Herbert WATSON, B Company, 1st Tyneside Scottish, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) for action at FICHEUX on 20th May 1940 appeared in the London Gazette on 14th February 1946 and can be found in The National Archives, file WO 373/146 piece number 48864.

The nomination was initiated by Lt H.A. Dodds of B Company jointly with that of Pte James FULLARD – “though both wounded gallantly maintained in action an A.T. Rifle disabling an enemy Tank which had broken into the Company position”. Both men were recommended for the award of the Military Medal.

The Citation reads as follows:-

Privates Watson and Fullard, neither of whom had fired a Boys Rifle in training, in emergency seized a Boys Rifle and rushed it to a flank position and in the open engaged an enemy Tank at short range, disabling it. Though both wounded they maintained their Anti-Tank Rifle in action. Their gallantry and pertinacity enabled their Company to withdraw and undoubtedly saved many casualties.

The award was recommended by Lt Col Hugh Swinburne C.O. 1st Tyneside Scottish

The award to Pte TAYLORSON is set out here;

The Citation for the award of the Military Medal to 4455325 Pte Eric TAYLORSON, 1st Tyneside Scottish, appeared in the London Gazette of 20th December 1940 and can be found in The National Archives, file WO 373/16 piece number 7969.

The recommendation was initiated by 2/Lt J.K. Dunn, 1st Tyneside Scottish, and was endorsed by Brigadier Kirkup.

The Citation reads as follows:-

Near FICHEUX on May 20th the Battalion transport was carrying troops tired after a long march, who had to be rushed into a defensive position on the West flank of Arras. Pte TAYLORSON’s truck was ambushed from the flanks by enemy tanks.

With great presence of mind he accelerated, avoided the enemy and reached woods some three miles on. TAYLORSON volunteered to try another route back, cutting across the enemy line of advance. This he did, making several journeys. As a result of his resource and determination some 150 men were transported and brought into a defensive position.

I have investigated and verified the above facts. Signed, Brigadier, Commanding 70th Infantry Brigade.

The award to CSM NEWTON is set out here;

The Citation for the award of a Bar to his Military Medal for 4440338 Company Sergeant Major James William NEWTON, 1st Tyneside Scottish for action at FICHEUX on 20th May 1940 appeared in the London Gazette on 14th February 1946 and can be found in The National Archives file WO 373/146 piece number 48863, image reference 180/716.

The Citation reads as follows:-

For exceptional gallantry, example and leadership when in temporary command of two forward Platoons of his Company, and attached details, with no anti-tank weapons other than one Boys Rifle he held up an enemy Tank attack by skilful disposition of his men. He then made a personal reconnaissance crossing open ground of over half a mile under heavy Machine Gun fire, deliberately exposed himself in steadying his men and later made a personal report to Battalion HQ involving a deliberately hazardous movement again over open ground swept by enemy L.M.G. and Tank fire.

The recommendation – which was originally for a Distinguished Conduct Medal – was originated by Major Wilby and was endorsed by Lt Col Hugh Swinburne C.O. 1st Tyneside Scottish.

(CSM Newton earned his first Military Medal while a Corporal/Local Sergeant with 10th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers for which the Citation read….”During a raid on the enemy trenches this NCO did very good work throughout. He gained the third objective and finding no one there returned to the second objective and did splendid work in bombing dugouts on the road. He displayed great coolness and skill”. The award of his Military Medal appeared in the London Gazette on 24th January 1919).

The award to Lance-Sergeant OGLE is set out here;

Distinguished Conduct Medal Citation

4383645 Lance Sergeant Richard Davidson OGLE 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)

No citation or recommendation has survived in The National Archives.

In recognition of gallant and distinguished service in the field with the British Expeditionary Force.

On 20th May 1940, A Company, 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish was closing up on the forward elements of the Battalion and had reached a coppice some 600 yards short of FICHEUX.

At this juncture they were attacked from both flanks by some sixty tanks. After several hours stern resistance they dispersed into scattered groups until they were forced to surrender. During this time Sgt Ogle crawled out into the open under heavy fire to bring in a wounded man. At the same time he also recovered a Boys Anti-Tank Rifle, two crews of which had already been killed.

Up until the time of his capture he continued to use this weapon to great effect.

Lance-Sergeant Ogle’s award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal appeared in the London Gazette of 14th February 1946.

This summary had been compiled from the Regimental History of 1st Tyneside Scottish (“Harder than Hammers” published by Hunter’s of Perth, 1947 and written by Captain A.P. Whitehead) and from the Scrapbooks of A.L.R. Samson, held by the Regimental Museum of the Black Watch, Balhousie Castle, Perth, by Major Mike Spurrier – late 1st Durham Light Infantry. Mike Spurrier sadly died in July 2012.

The award to Lt C.T. COHEN is detailed here;

The Citation for the award of the Military Cross to 2/Lieutenant (now Lieutenant) Clifford Theodor Cohen, 1st Tyneside Scottish, at FICHEUX on 20th May 1940, for exceptional attention to duty and personal gallantry in the face of the enemy, appeared in the London Gazette on 14th February 1946. The details can be found in The National Archives file WO 373/146 piece number 48865, image reference 176/713.

Lt Cohen was originally recommended for the award of the M.B.E. but was eventually awarded the Military Cross.

The Citation reads as follows:-

2nd Lt Cohen, by unremitting hard work at home and overseas trained the Intelligence Section to an exceptionally high state of efficiency. Under fire his conduct was an example of coolness to all and he was in fact the last man of this Unit to be captured on the field of battle at FICHEUX, carrying on at the finish, even after his Sergeant and more than half his Section had been killed, in a lone fight with a rifle against two enemy parties of Infantry.

The award was recommended by Lt Col Swinburne C.O. 1st Tyneside Scottish.

(CSM Baggs' Diary states....

20th May 1940

6 am. Moved 7 Platoon forward through village to take up position to cover the Batt as it moves back in the following order, HQ, D, C, B. “Anti-Tank” Rifle and Brens in pos as Batt passes us, heading towards ARRAS. I noticed small explosions in the fields behind me which turned out to be mortars fired at the Batt as it was moving back. Now Jerry was on top of us, so now for “ACTION”. I could hear the Batt in action, so I moved my 2nd Platoon forward to give what assistance I could. Owing to Mortar and M.G. fire I moved in “extended order” up to the Railway Embankment overlooking “FISHAW” Village.

Into Position I could see the Boys fighting like Hell? With Tanks all around them simply going over the men, and what a terrible sight. I opened out, giving what assistance I could, and I was quite happy, controlling my men, when a German M,G. opened out, on my left Flank, getting enfilade Fire? On us, did he do his stuff. He simply raked us with M.G. Fire? and to complete his work, 2 Tanks came up behind us and positioned themselves about 20 yards away. They opened out with their 2lb shells and simply blasted us out of the Embankment.

We were at last surrounded and within a minute or two I had 14 killed and 16 wounded. To hear those lads moaning made me feel rather sick. I myself didn’t feel too grand, having been hit myself in the foot. When hit I rolled down the Bank and just missed being Blown to Hell? By a Tank Shell, it bursted just where I had been lying. “Thank God” for that.

What was left of us were signalled by the German Tank Commander, to group together in the Field. Sergt Rutherford carried me over on his back and after cutting off my Boot, Laid me down among the rest of the Boys. Lt Noble gave me a drink of Rum and then Jerry searched us, going through our pockets and taking all he fancied from us. We were told to sit close together and really we expected to be wiped out. Lt Colt who could speak German had a conversation with the Tank Commander. Result – we were then told to stand up, excepting those wounded, Sgt Bailes (badly wounded) Sgt Brockelbank and myself were put on the Front of a Tank and taken away. I assure you this Jerry didn’t have any feelings. He went “Hell for Leather” giving us a hectic time. It took all our strength to Keep on this Tank, to fall off would mean certain Death.

Down the road he went towards “FISHAW VILLAGE” and it was a very sad sight, seeing our Dead Comrades lying all over the field, on each side of the road. “What a Sacrifice”, but we did our best to stop the Hun. We passed a Barn, in was an inferno, “Blazing like Hell”, and some of our Boys are inside. Burn’t to Death, we saw at least 2 bodies, half in and Half out, of the Barn Door burnt black. “God what a sight”.)

Tuesday 21st May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

The main body eventually arrived at the FORET DE CLAIRMARAIS at 05:00 hours, very tired, most of them not having had any sleep since before 03:00 hours on the morning of Sunday 19th May, a period of more than 50 hours, and having had only three light meals during that time. After resting and having had a good meal, stock was taken of the situation.

The party was found to consist of Captain Burr, Lt McGregor, 2/Lt Calderwood, M.J. Guerin, R.S.M. Williams, R.Q.M.S. Greenwell, C.S.M. Moore, C.Q.M.S. Hooper, C.Q.M.S. Hanson, Sgt Snowley, Sgt Myers, Sgt Waggott, Corporals Holmes, Shannon, Lapsley, Ramsay and Wood, in all, three Officers, the Liaison Officer, and 73 Other Ranks. (It transpired later that this party reported back for duty in England after the evacuation from DUNKIRK). The day was spent in checking up and cleaning arms and equipment and in trying to make contact either with Brigade or Division H.Q.

Captain Craig’s Party

Captain Craig and his party arrived at an unknown British H.Q. at St. POL at 05:00 hours where they were ordered to leave those of the men who were wounded and to proceed to a Rest Camp at BISSEZEELE.

(CSM Baggs' Diary states....

The Tank stopped just on the edge of “FISHAW” and dumped us off among some other wounded Boys. Sgt Bailes and Thompson Died early morning 21st. (Poor Tommy was a good NCO and will be missed by those of us, who survive). “My God”, when will somone attend to the wounded, we’re just dumped here with no grub, and no-one to dress the wounded. 3 days in this dump, then Piper Ross, Piper Eadie and Sgt Bob Henderson DLI came with their dressings and attend to all of us. 3 more comrades Die, belonging to the 11th DLI, and if we don’t get moved soon, I’m afraid more will go.)

Wednesday 22nd May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

The whole of this day was spent by the party at CLAIRMARAIS in resting and hiding during the several air raids. An attempt was made by the Officers to get in touch with Divisional H.Q. which was stated to be at STRAZEELE, some 10 miles away. A Despatch Rider was sent there with a message, but the Headquarters were not those of 23rd Division. A message did, however, come back, ordering the party to proceed as soon as possible to MERVILLE for aerodrome duties. As the Despatch Rider was much delayed through a succession of air raids in returning, the message did not arrive in time for any action to be taken that night owing to transport difficulties. The following morning, the position had so changed that such a move became too hazardous for Major Leggett to allow us the use of the transport required. At 23:00 hours the party was warned to be prepared to move at dawn.

Captain Craig’s Party

Captain Craig had learned that part of the Battalion was attempting to reach BOULOGNE and he set out for the same place with his party. They had scarcely arrived when, at 18:00 hours, they came under heavy shell-fire. The Padre and Private Nelson were ordered to establish a Regimental Aid Post for the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps. This was done.

Thursday 23rd May 1940

Captain Craig’s Party

This morning the Padre’s party went on to CALAIS with the last of the A.M.P.C. and two wounded men. The remainder of the men from the Padre’s truck were evacuated during the afternoon from BOULOGNE. The Padre continued to work at CALAIS with Private Nelson until evacuated at 09:00 hours on Sunday, 26th May. For his services at CALAIS, Captain Craig was awarded the Military Cross. The official citation of the award in the Gazette read as follows:-

“He voluntarily established an aid post, and, without a Medical Officer, for three days organised the dressing and evacuation of some 300 wounded. Learning that six badly wounded men were lying on the dunes, under enemy sniping fire, he called for volunteers and rescued them all”.

Captain Burr’s Party

At 06:00 hours Captain Burr’s party left the FORET DE CLAIRMARAIS for PROVEN by way of CASSEL and POPERINGHE. It was not possible to find sufficient cover from view from the air at PROVEN so the convoy was ordered back into France by way of OOST - CAPPEL to REXPOEDE. At the frontier the convoy halted and took up a defensive position beside the fortified zone which had been built by the B.E.F. during the early months of the War, because of an urgent message that many vehicles were approaching.

After a pause, a car appeared and it was 2/Lt R.W. Scott of the Tyneside Scottish, attached to 23rd Division as a Cypher Officer. Immediately behind came a second car in which rode Colonel Gullen, G.S.O. 1 of 23rd Division. From Colonel Gullen it was learned that the Division H.Q. was moving to SECLIN. Captain Burr decided to take his party on to REXPOEDE as they would there get a much-needed hot meal. Having fed, a truck was borrowed from the R.A.S.C. and, bidding farewell to Major Leggett, with sincere thanks for his many kindnesses, the convoy, of Tyneside Scottish only, left REXPOEDE at 5:00 hours. The route lay along the road to OOST - CAPPEL, POPERINGHE, KEMMEL, NEUVE-EGLISE, NIEPPE, ARMENTIERES and LILLE to SECLIN.

On leaving LILLE the convoy ran into an air raid and one of the trucks, that borrowed from the R.A.S.C., crashed into an estaminet, much to the anger of the proprietor, who, however, responded manfully to the excuse “c’est la guerre”. The truck was rendered useless as the whole of the front was stove in, but luckily nothing else but superficial injuries to the men, and a broken rifle, was the result.

The men from this truck were called for later by sending back one of the trucks after they had finally reached SECLIN at 19:00 hours. The men were fed liberally from a deserted R.A.S.C. store. Captain Burr reported to Colonel Gullen and was later received by General Herbert. This was the first meeting the Divisional Commander had had with any representative of the Tyneside Scottish since the early morning of 20th May. His pleasure at seeing them was made tangible by a gift to the Officers of a most excellent bottle of champagne. A good night was spent by all in spite of several air raids and much troop movement throughout the hours of darkness.

Friday 24th May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

At an early morning conference at Divisional Headquarters, Captain Burr was ordered to take his detachment by M.T. to GONDECOURT and to report to Lt. Col. Marley.

This was done at 11:30 hours and the party was absorbed into what became known as Marley’s Force which consisted of the remains of 70th Infantry Brigade. (The Officers were not then aware of the separate group from the Brigade under the command of Brigadier Kirkup). The Tyneside Scottish was at the beginning part of X Company, but later in the day became a Company of their own, to be known as P Company and were spilt up into three Platoons which were christened “Pip”, “Squeak” and “Wilfred”.

During the afternoon there was a “Gas” scare, the one and only alarm of this kind experienced throughout the campaign. It was later discovered that a drum of heavy oil had fallen from a truck and had burst, covering the road with a pool of liquid which, by the wishful thinking of an English Soldier, was made out to be Mustard Gas!

(CSM Baggs' Diary states....

On the 4th Day a German Staff Officer with his Staff comes across from the road to have a look at us and with them is a moving Camera and they take a picture of us. I told him how long we had been here and with no food. He promised to do what he could and sure enough two Jerrys brought us hot Coffee and a sandwich each. Talk about hungry, we simply devoured it and all the time, they were taking a Picture of us. I suppose it would be shown to the German people, as propaganda, we did look down in the dumps, but let us hope that OUR-DAY will come, we will take it on the chin.

Saturday 25th May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

The morning was spent at GONDECOURT in organising the newly formed Company and general cleaning of arms and equipment and in collecting some mail from Divisional H.Q. How this appeared is not known, but everyone received either letters or parcels from home and were greatly cheered by such an unexpected pleasure.

During the morning an enemy plane released a quantity of pamphlets, but the breeze carried them away from the party and they were unable to find out what their message was.

Late in the afternoon the “Town Crier” announced that bread would be on sale at 18:00 hours and some was procured for the men. Later a “Flying Column” was sent out on yet another parachutist scare, the alarm having been raised by a small French boy who came dashing up on a bicycle.

At 23:00 hours the party was warned to stand-to in readiness to mover off at five minutes notice.

2/Lt Dunn’s Party

For services rendered on this day, 2/Lt J.K. Dunn, who was with Brigade Headquarters, was awarded the Military Cross. The official notification in the Gazette stated that:-

“At FORET DE NIEPPE on May 25th this Officer displayed courage and devotion to duty which was an inspiration and example to all ranks. Throughout the day the troops under his command, who were holding a position, were subjected to almost continual heavy air attacks, with bombing and machine-gun fire. This Officer, though suffering from considerable fatigue, was always cheerful and constantly among his men, moving them into alternative positions preparatory to repelling any enemy land attack which appeared imminent. That this position was held and consolidated until relieved by another Division was largely due to the splendid example set by this Officer”.

Friday 26th May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

P Company left GONDECOURT at 01:30 hours with the rest of Marley’s Force, marching at Light Infantry pace to their discomfort. After about an hour’s marching, just as dawn was breaking, the men of DLI Battalion, marching ahead of P Company, suddenly broke and scattered to the right of the road. P Company followed this example and it was not for some time that the men were restored to order on the road.

A few of the Tyneside Scottish were missing and it was later discovered that they had sought shelter in a wood about half a mile away. Here they lost their sense of direction and it was not until two days later that they rejoined P Company, having swum two canals fully clothed to do so. The cause of the stampede was found to be nothing more than a lorry parked on the roadside while the drivers slept. It had, in the half-light, been mistaken for a fleet of enemy tanks!

Towards the middle of the day the Force arrived at BEAUCAMPS and rested in the grounds of a chateau outside the village. One of the trucks, with Corporals Holmes and Collins, went on to ARMENTIERES as it had been suggested that rations could be obtained from the R.A.S.C. there. After considerable delay they returned without any rations and the men had only sardines, biscuits and tea. At 20:00 hours Marley’s Force left BEAUCAMPS and marched Northwesternwards through the night.

Captain Craig’s Party

The Padre and Private Nelson were evacuated from CALAIS at 09:00 on this day.

Monday 27th May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

During the early morning the Force arrived at LE PETIT MORTIER and Companies were rested in farm buildings around the village. Through an error of judgment the remaining transport was left closely packed on the roadside without being hidden in any way. Shortly after 09:00 hours 27 Dornier bombers visited the village and smashed every house in it and then dropped apparently the last two bombs on the convoy, wrecking the ration truck completely, but fortunately killing nobody.

The Dorniers then machine-gunned the farm buildings, again inflicting no casualties. After this visit it was decided to move on with all speed.

At 12:00 hours Marley’s Force left LE PETIT MORTIER for the outskirts of POPERINGHE. The route lay through METEREN and RENINGHELST. While at the former place, there was more severe bombing, the objective apparently being an R.A.S.C. ammunition supply column, beside which Marley’s Force halted for a rest. It was during this halt that it was reported that the enemy were only some two kilometres away so it was decided to push on. Less than half an hour later the ammunition column was bombed. This incident took place at about 16:30 hours.

Marley’s Force finally settled down for the night in the woods to the North of POPERINGHE after a very long and nerve-wracking march.

Medical Officer’s Party

On this day the Medical Officer and four Other Ranks of the Tyneside Scottish – the last of the Brigade Party – left DUNKIRK at 23:00 hours on board H.M. Minesweeper “Lydd”.

Tuesday 28th May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

After resting the men and cleaning all arms the men had a good meal and then prepared to move Northwards, an earlier promise of transport for very tired men having failed to materialise. The Force marched Northwards and finally arrived at STAVEELE at about 16:00 hours in drenching rain.

Food was now scarce, but it was learned that there was a butcher among the men. The necessary knives having been produced, Captain Wilkinson of the DLI proceeded to engage a bullock with his revolver and laid the beast low at the fifth attempt. Thus all were satisfied and everyone slept well, in spite of the rain which poured through the damaged roofs of the barns and houses.

Lt McGregor’s Party

It was while at STAVEELE that Lt McGregor and twenty Other Ranks were chosen to form part of Captain Shipley’s Force which was to be prepared to go to the aid of the 50th Division. This Force was not called upon that night, however.

Medical Officer’s Party

On this day the Medical Officer and his party disembarked from the “Lydd” at RAMSGATE, having picked up, en voyage, many survivors from H.M.S. Wakefield and having sunk an enemy M.T.B. by gun and L.M.G. fire.

One of the crew of the “Lydd” was killed during this engagement. Lieut Forrester – the Medical Officer – then reported to CHISELDON CAMP, SWINDON, and was sent to the holding Battalion at CHESTER-LE-STREET.

An award to Private NELSON is recorded here;

The Citation for the award of the Military Medal to 7264102 Pte John Alexander NELSON, 1st Tyneside Scottish, appeared in the London Gazette on 11th July 1940, and can be found in The National Archives under file reference WO 373/15 piece number 7959, image reference 342/910.

The recommendation was made by The Reverend R.L. CRAIG, RAChD attached to 1st Tyneside Scottish, and endorsed by Brigadier Kirkup, Commanding 70th Infantry Brigade.

The Citation reads as follows:-

For courage and devotion to duty in the period of six days from 20th May to 28th May 1940 during which he attended to wounded at MONCHY, BOULOGNE and CALAIS.

Although not a Medical Orderly he utilised knowledge gained in civilian life and cared for, and helped to evacuate, over 100 wounded.

On 25th May, while at CALAIS, he volunteered to assist in bringing in six wounded who were in the open under heavy shell fire. His disregard for his own safety undoubtedly saved their lives.

I have investigated and verified the above facts. Signed, Brigadier Kirkup, Commander 70th Infantry Brigade.

Wednesday 29th May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

As there appeared to be imminent danger of an attack, Marley’s Force stood-to at dawn and was then broken up into Companies and sent out into the neighbouring fields to take cover and watch for any sign of the enemy. Actually nothing more than numerous individual enemy planes were seen. From subsequent happenings it is likely that these were spotting machines for the enemy artillery.

At 11:00 hour P Company were ordered to head the advance Northwards from STAVEELE to KILLEM-LIND. It was during this march, while passing through BEVEREN, that the Force came under shell-fire for the first time. Also much discarded transport was passed, the convoys having apparently been bombed the previous day.

At KILLEM-LIND which we reached at about 14:00 hours the whole of the 23rd Divisional and Brigade transport was dumped and later destroyed by fire. As everything but the barest necessities was ordered to be left behind there was much “looting”. Every man in the Tyneside Scottish had as much to eat as he could manage and 100 cigarettes.

At 18:00 hours the whole of Marley’s Force left KILLEM-LIND and passed through HENDECHOOTE where complete and utter confusion reigned. Soldiers of every nationality and every arm were passing through this town and were greatly hampered by French and Belgian refugees on foot, and enemy shell-fire and bombing.

It is worthy of record that, in spite of all this, the men of Marley’s Force remained extraordinarily well disciplined and behaved. They marched through this large town in perfect formation and with unbroken step, encouraged and cheered, no doubt, at the inspiring sight of Captain Wilkinson riding astride an enormous white horse.

So, onwards to BULSCAMP and Westwards to FURNES, and to some fields four miles beyond, where the night was made lurid and horrible by the glare from fires blazing all around. Unknown to the Tyneside Scottish, they lay down in a field only a few hundred yards in front of some English Artillery, the guns from whose Battery opened fire during the night so that sleep was hardly possible.

Thursday 30th May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

Spent most of the day resting and taking up some fresh positions by a stinking ditch where other troops had been previously. Some food was found in discarded R.A.S.C. trucks nearby.

Lt McGregor’s Party

At 21:00 hours Lt McGregor and his twenty men were ordered to join Captain Shipley’s Force who were sent that night to relieve part of 50th Division. This Officer and his men returned safely to England via DUNKIRK later on, without having incurred any casualties. At 23:00 hours Captain Burr was warned to have his Company, less, of course, Mr McGregor’s party, ready to move off later that night.

Friday 31st May 1940

Captain Burr’s Party

Marley’s Force moved off at 02:00 hours on what was later to prove their last march in France. By a round-about route, owing to the fact that practically all the bridges over the canals had been demolished, the Force marched towards the coast and finally arrived on the sands at BRAY DUNES at 06:00.

The morning was a cold one with a fresh wind blowing against the tide, which made the sea very choppy. It is estimated that there must have been at least 20,000 troops, French and English, on the sands, all of whom could not hope that day, under such adverse weather conditions, to reach the many destroyers and other ships lying close inshore.

While waiting, some men were killed by enemy shell-fire and others were drowned while trying to get small boats away from the shore.

The soft sand was at least half-covered with pools of heavy oil released from ships sunk off the coast. In view of such conditions it was decided that the 23rd Division would march the seven miles along the sands to DUNKIRK and set off at 08:00 hours, arriving on the pier at 11:00 hours.

The S.S. Malines was alongside and took on board all the original members of Captain Burr’s party, except those who were with Mr McGregor, the Liaison Officer and one private soldier whose “looting” a few days before had provided him with some refreshment which had got the better of him. This man reappeared miraculously in England later on.

The crossing to FOLKESTONE was eventful only for the relief all felt in having escaped. FOLKESTONE was left on a special train at 16:00 hours and came to the end of its journey at PERHAM DOWN, TIDWORTH. Along the line the troops were given a wonderful reception by one and all and at every station where the train stopped gifts of food, drink and tobacco were showered into the carriages.

The second major document covering the events can be found here Narrative of 1st Tyneside Scottish Black Watch 17 - 20 May 1940.

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