366 & 367 Btys, 140th Field Rgt RA - Cassel & Dunkirk

Discussion in '1940' started by S C, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. S C

    S C Member

    My Grandfather, Alfred James Sheppard, joined the TA in 1938 and was a Sergeant in 366 Battery, 140th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery as they sailed to France March 1940.

    After engaging the Germans in Belgium, 366 Bty managed to get to Dunkirk and off the beaches almost intact. 367 Bty, however, fought rearguard at Cassel, and almost the entire battery was killed or captured - though a handful did get away.

    However here's where I have a problem. My Grandfather's account of that time to me, absolutely matches that of 367 Battery. He remained through the rest of his life quite bitter at having drawn the short-straw, to defend Cassel and the route to Dunkirk, losing so many of his battery mates. “We were never meant to escape” he said, telling me his unit had been selected to hold up the Germans, allowing the rest of the BEF to be evacuated. But escape, he did. He didn't make the beach for the evacuation, he told me. he evaded capture by the Germans, and hid in the basement of a house with two other soldiers. They remained hidden there for three days, then under cover of night, the three soldiers dodged German patrols and crept to the beach carrying a one-person collapsible canoe that they'd found in the basement. They paddled into the English Channel, days after the Dunkirk evacuation was over, and luckily were picked up by a fishing boat. My Grandmother told me that he was involved in "saving a town" but that he wouldn't talk about it.

    For those familiar with Cassel, I am sure you will agree that this description both doesn't match that of 366's experience, and also closely aligns with that of 367. So I am left to wonder, did he get separated from 366 somehow during the retreat? There's no mention of anything like this in any writings I can find. Or, having lost 3 guns in 366 before Cassel, and being a comparatively seasoned Sergeant, is it possible he'd been temporarily assigned to 367 in the field for some reason?

    I must thank John West, John Bradbury and Martin Felstead for all their help in pinning down the details of my Grandfather's war (after Dunkirk, he joined 504 battery when 140th rebuilt, fighting with them in Tunisia, and 504/75 Hvy in Italy, before being wounded in action at the Gothic Line). John West's site about 140th especially is wonderful: 140th (5th London) Army Field Regiment, Royal Artillery – Their story between the 10th and 31st May 1940

    I'd be grateful for any recollections, photos, documents around this, too (believe me I've already scoured the site - thank you to everyone who has contributed already). Attached is a photo during pre-war training, when he was a Lance Bombardier. On the back it says with a "Mr Walton" or "Walson" - I'm guessing also 366 Bty.

    Thanks,

    Simon
     

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