2 Northamptonshire Regiment at Dunkirk

Discussion in '1940' started by Timwetherall, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. Timwetherall

    Timwetherall Junior Member

    I've just joined having stumbled across the site while trying to access the battle records and diaries, as well as service record, of my Uncle, Lt.-Col Rule Maxwell Glasse Wetherall. He was in the Northamptonshire Regiment, 2nd Battalion, and died in action on 28th May 1940 near St Eloi, Belgium during the retreat to Dunkirk. His service number was 15089. I have found that he was buried in the Wijtschate Military Cemetery, Belgium and have a photograph (from the web) of his headstone. However, I have had no luck at all in accessing his military record, the Regiment's Battle Diaries or any other details. It's all out there somewhere, and if anyone can point me in the right direction I would be very grateful! Thank you! Tim

    P.S. Having read some wonderful accounts of experiences on this site, notably 225 REME, and seen mention of National Archives, I would appreciate guidance as to access to their archives. I live in Portugal now, so a personal visit would be difficult. Thank you!
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    WO 166/4474 is the file for 2 Northants - I'm sure that the 1940 & Dunkirk experts will be able to offer more help.

    I should be at Kew in January so am willing to copy files for you.

    Here is the link to TNA at Kew The National Archives

    I would also suggest contacting the Regimental Museum if there is one

    Welcome to the Forum

  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Welcome to the forum.
    I've given a heads up to a member whose Grandad was in the same unit.
    I've also moved this from the Royal Engineers section to this Research section of the forum.
    Have you applied for his service records from the MoD ?
    Have a look on the London Gazette website for him too.
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    However, I have had no luck at all in accessing his military record,

    Just checking - do you mean that you applied to MOD for a copy and were unsuccessful?

    Ministry of Defence | Contact us | Service Records Enquiries

    :poppy: Lieutenant Colonel RULE MAXWELL GRANT WETHERALL 15089, Cdg. 2nd Bn., Northamptonshire Regiment who died age 39 on 28 May 1940
    Son of Henry Rule Wetherall and Rita Cecilia Glasse Wetherall; husband of Margaret Evelyn Wetherall, of Moor Park, Surrey.
    Remembered with honour OOSTTAVERNE WOOD CEMETERY
    Grave/Memorial Reference: II. F. 4.
    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    CROONAERT Ipsissimus

    here's the War Diary for the day (though the Battle of Wijtschaete 1940 is a bit of a sore point for me at the moment!!!) ...

    Attached Files:

    • 1.jpg
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    CROONAERT Ipsissimus

    ...and a HUGE photo of his grave in Oostaverne Wood cemetery (all those who were originally buried by the Germans in Wijtschaete in 1940 were relocated to here in 1954...for reasons unknown - even to the CWGC!!!) I took a couple of years ago...

    Attached Files:


    CROONAERT Ipsissimus

    17 Bde Diary for the day...

    28th May 1940


    (Farm north of Wytschaete)

    Brig and Brigade I.O. left Brigade H.Q. to visit battalions and to impress the C.O.’s that there must be no withdrawal from the positions now held as Brig had been informed by G.O.C that 5 Div MUST hang on in order to protect the northern flank of the remainder of the B.E.F. which was beginning a withdrawal to the coast.

    Brig first visited 6 Seaforths who had their Bn H.Q. in the northern outskirts of St. Eloi. Reid and Neill, adjt, both appeared to be somewhat shaken. Brig gave verbal orders regarding reorganising and holding the reserve position.

    2 Northamptons were next visited. Bn. H.Q. in a farm a short distance S.E. of St. Eloi on the St. Eloi – Warneton road. Maj R.M.G. Wetherall (sic), who was in command, appeared to have a good grasp of the situation and was unruffled. Brig discussed the arrangements to be made for sending out patrols across the Ypres-Comines canal which was now the forward defensive line. Capt. Heisch and some stragglers from 2RSF were at H.Q. 2 Northamptons and the Brig gave orders for them to rejoin their Bn, explaining the route which they were to move.

    Brig and Brigade I.O. then went on to 2RSF whose Bn H.Q. had been moved since the afternoon and was now in small isolated farmhouse near the original Brigade H.Q. Lt. Col. Tod, Maj. Morrison and Capt. Arkwright were awake and in good heart, but very tired. Capt. Thomson, commander of the carrier platoon and Lt. Knight Sigs Officer were also at Bn H.Q. but were asleep. Lt. Col. Tod assured the brig that the Bn would not retire whatever happened, and plans were discussed for sending out strong patrols to clear up the situation in certain localities which had been lost during the day.


    Brig left 2 RSF to return to Brigade H.Q. via St. Eloi. During this tour all Bn commanders had been told of the necessity for holding on to their positions.


    Enemy resumed attack under heavy shelling, small arms and mortar fire. Reports received that he had broken through between 2RSF and 13 Brigade and were approaching Brigade H.Q. All personnel of Brigade H.Q. turned out to man their battle positions, but the enemy did not actually arrive.


    Elements of D.C.L.I (10 Bde) began to appear in 17 Brigade area. No notification of their arrival had been given and in some cases, troops thought they were being relieved and began to fall back.

    Brig & Brigade I.O. collected several dozen stragglers of all Battalions on the St. Eloi – Wytschaete road and sent them back to their units.


    Owing to the proximity of the enemy Brigade H.Q. and HQ of 13 Brigade moved to an estaminet in Wytschaete. Regiment HQ 91 field Regiment had moved shortly before on receipt of orders from C.R.A. this combined H.Q. during the two days fighting proved to be invaluable as it enabled all plans and movements to be co-ordinated and information interchanged without delay.


    Brig. Barker, 10 Brigade came to Brigade H.Q. to say that the line had been reinforced and secured by his Brigade in the neighbourhood of St. Eloi. About this time, communications with Battalions broke down altogether and contact could only be maintained with L.O. NcNeill Cooke (L.O. 2 RSF) made repeated efforts to get through to H.Q. 2RSF in a carrier with Sgt. Thomson, the carrier platoon sgt, but was unable to do so owing to enemy fire; their carrier was hit repeatedly and they had to return to Brigade H.Q.


    Brig and Brigade I.O. went out from Brigade H.Q. to try to locate Brigade Antitank Coy, all of whose guns had been knocked out, which had been sent to occupy a reserve position as a rifle coy on the left flank to stop enemy infiltration which was reported from several sources to be taking place west of the St. Eloi – Wyschaete road. The coy could not be found as it afterwards transpired that it had taken up a position further to the west that the Brig had intended. A party of about 25 stragglers of the 2 Northamptons and 6 Seaforths with two officers, Maj. D Smith, 6 Seaforths and 2/Lt. Reddy (slightly wounded) 2 Northamptons, was however encountered at about 10:15hrs moving back towards Wyschaete. Brig collected these and gave orders to Maj. Smith to take command of the party; he was to redistribute their arms and ammunition and then take them to a farm a few hundred yards away, where British troops could be seen to get more ammunition. After this the party was to occupy a position on a hill which was pointed out 600 yards further on whence it could cover the St. Eloi – Wyschaete road until further orders were received.

    Contact was then made with some machine gunners of 4 div which were also covering the approaches to Wyschaete. Heavy small arms and M.G. fire heard to the east.


    Maj. Watts, Capt Houchin and 2/Lt Roche, 2 Northamptons, arrived at Brigade H.Q. with 20 men of the 2 Northamptons. This was all that could be collected of the Bn, the remainder having either become casualties or stragglers.


    Brig and Brigade I.O. returned to Brigade H.Q. where Lt. Col. Reid and Maj. Neill, 6 Seaforths had arrived shortly before. Brig ordered Lt.Col. Reid to collect all available stragglers including Maj. Smith’s party and remnants of the 2 Northamptons and take up a position on the St. Eloi road about .75 of a mile north of Wyschaete, facing east. From here they could support 13 Brigade and possibly get in touch with 10 Brigade which was believed to be moving round the outer (N.W.) flank of the remnants of 17 Bde.

    Heavy shelling and bombing of Wytschaete and Grand Bois, a few hundred yards in front of Brigade H.Q. all the morning.


    B.M. summoned to Div H.Q. at Ploegsteert to receive orders fro the future movements of the Bde.

    Enemy attacks slowed down during the afternoon which was fortunate as 17 Brigade had become very weak and only about 70 men of the three battalions could be collected under the few officers who had not become casualties


    Capt. Makin, Commander A coy 9 Manchesters, reported his M.G.s in position at cross roads 586545, the Inniskillings of 13 Brigade being in front of him on the road St. Eloi – Nuyten Farm. He was not in contact with enemy or with our own troops on his flanks.


    Capt. Butterfield, L.O. from 5 Div, arrived at Brigade H.Q. with orders that the Div was to withdraw N.W. tonight, clearing the Wyschaete area by 21:30hrs; troops were to be carried in unit M.T; unnecessary baggage was to be dumped so as to make room for personnel; kits, etc thrown away were not to be brunt in order to avoid lighting up the countryside fro hostile aircraft during the night.

    The necessary orders were issued verbally to commands 2 Northamptons (Maj. Watts), 6 Seaforths (Lt. Col. Reid), Antitank Coy (Capt. Goldie), A coy 9 Manchester (Capt. Maken), and 207 Antitank Bty (Major Birt). Capt. McNeil Cooke had taken charge of such stragglers of the 2RSF as had been collected. Brigade I.O. sent to give orders to Brigade T.O with B echelon transport at La Clytte and to organise small dumps of petrol to be placed along the road to starting point so that vehicles could fill up as they went past.


    Brig and B.M. went down to starting point to see the column moving off. Many fires burning, but with enemy shelling slackening.


    Bde H.Q. closed at Wyschaete and the whole column was on the move by this hour.

    Night 28/29th May

    Route for the column lay through Poperinghe – Hoogestade – Drieridders; about 25 miles. Roads were very congested and Poperingue being shelled at regular intervals. Enemy aircraft active dropping flares and occasional bombs.
  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hello Tim, I think that Owen means me.

    I have copies of the battalion war diary for May 1940 and also both of the regimental histories - Wallis and Jervois. As you can see from Croonaert's post, the war diary includes little information. I'll have a look and see if there are any earlier references to your uncle.

    I wonder if you might be able to confirm something for me.

    Prior to 23rd may 1940, the Commanding Officer was Lieut. Col J.W. Hinchcliffe and his second in command was Major J.R. Wetherall. Your uncle, Major R.M.G. Weatherall was listed as Officer Comanding, H.Q. Company. Were the two Wetheralls related ? They were clearly not brothers.

    "A History of the 58th" is clearly based on the war diary and gives no additional information. However, the broader "History of the Northamptonshire Regiment 1934 - 1948" does give us a little more.

    The 58th (2nd Northamptons) had their first action on 22nd / 23rd May at Mont St. Eloy.

    "In the course of the day the 58th had lost some of their most important members. Lieut. Col. Hinchcliffe, Capt. Green, the Adjutant and R.S.M. Goodall had been wounded by shellfire at Battalion H.Q. ; the second in command, Major J.R. Wetherall, in command for a matter of hours, had been hit when going to see if 'C' Company had got out. Major R.M.G. Wetherall took over command, with Major Watts as Second-in-Command...

    The next mention of Major R.M.G. Wetherall is on 27th May...."The C.O. and Major Watts set a fine example, walking about in the open and rallying groups of men of various units to strengthen the forward defence of Battalion H.Q."

    "...At 06.00 hours Major Watts was sent to try to locate the 10th Brigade but all he could find was one company of the D.C.L.I. An hour later the C.O. went out, alone, to visit the right flank of the Battalion. He was never seen again and it was not until some months had passed that it was known that he had been killed. His steadying influence, during a most trying time, had been great. Command now devolved upon Major Watts..."
  9. Timwetherall

    Timwetherall Junior Member

    Thank you all very much indeed for your helpful and informative responses. I was transfixed reading Crooneart's messages and contents, it brought what I have been looking for very much alive, a big thank you to you. To Rich Payne, no I don't think the two Wetherall's were related, I've traced our family tree back to the 1600's and unless they were distant cousins (there were very many male offspring over the generations) I have nothing on J R Wetherall. But John was a traditional Wetherall Christian name, if J.R. was a John. But I'll delve into the family tree and see if one of the more obscure branches (from our line, I mean) turns up a J R Wetherall. My Uncle attended Sandhurst, I've yet to delve into that side of it and if this J R Wetherall surfaces there I'll pass on what I find. Many thanks Rich for passing on the extract, it means a lot to me. To Steven - Jedbergh22 - I'll continue my searches so I won't take up your offer this time to copy files for me from Kew. I want to continue by trying to get hold of my Uncle's War Record so for now thank you ALL again for tracing such treasure trove for me. tIM
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    WO 166/4474 is the file for 2 Northants

    Those are Home Foreces diaries from when the Bn was in the UK. The BEF diaries from France are WO 167/796
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  12. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I came across a photograph of the then Captain R.M.G. Wetherall taken with a battalion boxing squad in Northern Ireland during 1937. He is on the left beside Lt. Col. O.K. Parker, MC who retired during July 1939.

    I can't recognise him in any other pre-war photographs of squads from the 58th.

    Jameson and Drew5233 like this.
  13. Jameson

    Jameson New Member

    Hi Rich, just came across this site and these posts and ask if it would be possible to show the whole boxing squad in the photo above. I ask as my father was in the 2nd Battalion from 1936 and from what I remember he had boxing certificates so may have been in the squad.
    He died in 1974 and I have very little information about his army life. he was captured in May 1940 spent 5 years as a POW then stayed in Austria working for the Allied commission, returning to the UK in 1950
  14. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I have a number of sports teams photos dating from the early 1930s but this particular one is on the Northampton Museum Flikr page :-


    My grandfather boxed for the battalion through much of the 1930s and was a PSM when war broke out.

    Was your father's surname Jameson ? If so, I can't find him in the BEF 'Missing Men' files for 2nd Battalion but most who were captured had been reported via the Red Cross prior to enquiries being made.
  15. Jameson

    Jameson New Member

    Hi Rich,
    Thanks for posting the link but as you confirmed he was not there
    Yes father's name was Leonard Jameson. From the small amount of paperwork I have I know he enlisted in Dec 1935, captured either 26th or 27th May 1940 and from a small card / letter I have somewhere the place was noted as Messines.
    I was sent an extract of the regimental diaries from the museum at Abington Park on for this time period as I was trying to find out what Company he was in at the time of capture, but no success with this.
    As I mentioned he then spent 5 years in various Stalags finally being liberated at Stalag 383 in 1945.
    Kind Regards,
  16. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Did your father join the battalion at Ballykinler in December '35 ? Apart from those you have seen, the only photograph that I have which is definitely identified as there rather than earlier at Aldershot is of the members of the Sergeants' Mess dated 1936 - but of course a new recruit would not have appeared in that.

    He should be in this image of the Battalion at Aldershot in October 1939 after they returned from Ireland prior to joining the BEF. It is variously captioned as Oudenarde Barracks or Blenheim Barracks, Aldershot.


    Copies are available from Hampshire Museums Service or whatever its current name is...


    Interestingly there is a less cropped view on the Northamptonshire Museum site which appears to show sound recording equipment in the foreground. I'm not aware that there is any surviving sound record.


    Prior to leaving Aldershot in November 1935, The 2nd Northamptions had been part of 1st Infantry Division and ironically, 1st Div sustained fewer casualties in France. In September 1939 they were brought back from Ireland and allocated to 5th Division which was in GHQ Reserve in May 1940 resulting in their being used to plug gaps where needed.
    Owen likes this.

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