70394 Major Ronald Cartland MP RA 1907-1940

Discussion in '1940' started by John West, Sep 6, 2020.

  1. John West

    John West Active Member

    Major Ronald Cartland MP, 1907-1940
    Casualty Details | CWGC

    John Ronald Hamilton Cartland was born in 1907. His father was killed in the Great War in 1918 when Ronald was eleven years old. Casualty Details | CWGC His elder sister, Barbara Cartland, was to become the famous novelist and during WW2 his younger brother James Anthony (Tony) Cartland was a Captain in the Lincolnshire Regiment.


    Ronald Cartland MP, RA

    Ronald Cartland was a bachelor and held progressive and liberal views. In 1935, he was elected the Conservative MP for Kings Norton in Birmingham and was one of the small group of Conservative MPs who opposed Prime Minster Chamberlain’s appeasement policy. The Conservative whips marked him out as a troublemaker.

    In 1937, Cartland joined the Territorial Worcestershire and Oxfordshire Yeomanry as a Lieutenant and was one of the few serving members of Parliament who went into combat during the 1939-45 conflict.

    During a debate in the House of Commons on 2nd August 1939, at a time of crisis resulting from increasing German military aggression, Neville Chamberlain’s Government (incredibly) proposed a Motion to prorogue Parliament until 3rd October 1939. Cartland spoke against his Government’s motion (much to the annoyance of his party and the Whips). In the debate he said presciently: ‘We are in the situation that within a month we may be going to fight, and we may be going to die’ (there were jeers from fellow Conservative members).

    As it turned out, Parliament had to be recalled when war was declared on 3rd September 1939.

    After the declaration of war, Ronald Cartland joined his Territorial unit in the BEF in France, even though he could have applied for exemption as a serving Member of Parliament. He was promoted to Major and commanded 209 Battery, 53rd Worcester Regiment anti-tank artillery, equipped with the 2-pounder anti-tank gun.

    Major Cartland’s 209 Battery was posted to Cassel during 25th-29th May 1940. Cartland’s unit was incorporated into the 145th Brigade commanded by Brigadier the Hon Nigel Somerset (‘Somerforce’). His Battery probably accounted for over 25 German tank losses in this area

    During the breakout from Cassel, on the early morning of 30th May 1940, Major Cartland and his second-in-command Lieutenant Robert Hutton-Squire, were leading a mixed column of more than 50 artillery and infantrymen, men of his own Regiment and several men from the 140 (5th London) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, when his column encountered three German tanks just to east of Watou in Belgium.

    As they had only small arms and rifles and their position in a roadside ditch was completely exposed as the morning mist lifted, Cartland advised his men to surrender but one of the tanks opened fire on the column with its machine gun.

    Major Cartland was killed, at the age of 33 years, along with Lt. Hutton-Squire and at least eight soldiers of the 140 Field Regiment RA, including 2nd Lieutenant Graham Cook, Lance Bombardier James Hardy, Gunner Horace Nicholls, Gunner Sydney Vangrosky, Gunner Alfred Thorpe, Gunner Edwin Strahan, Gunner William Davies and Gunner John Duffield. Private Oscar Adams of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry was also amongst the dead.

    Lieutenant Derek Woodward was in the column, survived the ambush, and later wrote an account from captivity on 4th January 1941 that is quoted in Barbara Cartland’s biography of her bother, written in wartime and entitled ‘My Brother Ronald.

    We were making our way about 2 miles east of Watou along a ditch bordering a lane, but we were not moving very fast as [the] mist was rising, and the country was getting open. Ronald called me forward. While with him we saw German tanks going into action against other troops half a mile ahead. We decided to conceal ourselves, but later three tanks converged on us and we had to get up. As Ronald rose, he was hit in the head by a bullet and [was] killed instantly. I was about five yards away with 50 men following. We were marched off [into captivity] immediately.’

    The casualties of the ambush were buried under the direction of the Mayor of Watou in a temporary burial ground that had been used for civilian casualties following Luftwaffe air raids on the town during the 24th and 25th May 1940.

    The burial ground is on the Houtkerkestraat (D17) about 200 metres to the north of Watou. Although all the British, Belgian and French casualties buried here were re-interred during the late 1940s and 1950s, the people of Watou have left the location undisturbed and it is now an very obvious site, marked by a clump of overgrown trees on the approach to Watou.


    Site of the Temporary Burial Ground at Watou

    On 22nd January 1948, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission re-interred Major Cartland, and the eight members of the 140th Regiment, Private Adams and one unknown soldier, to the CWG Cemetery at Hotton, in the Luxembourg province of Belgium. Lieutenant Robert Hutton-Squire was re-interred to the nearby CWG Cemetery at Proven.


    Grave Concentration Report Form of Soldiers re-interred from the Temporary Burial Ground at Watou to the CWG Cemetery at Hotton

    Ronald Cartland was initially listed as missing and his family did not learn of his fate until January 1941, when the family received a letter from a P.O.W. who had been with him in the column at Watou.

    Based on the various descriptions of the event, and local Flemish records, the probable location of the Cartland ambush is described in the 140 Field Regiment, RA website: The Breakout (part 1 of 2) – 140th (5th London) Army Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    It appears that the ambush took place about 2 km to the east of Watou at the intersection of the Douvieweg road from Watou to St Jan-ter-Biezen with the road from Proven to Abele.



    Probable site of the Cartland ambush, about 2 km east of Watou

    Ronald Cartland’s younger brother, Tony, who was also serving in the B.E.F at Dunkirk, had been killed nearby in Belgium resisting capture the previous day (29th May 1940) at the age of 27 years.

    Captain J.A.H. (Tony) Cartland is buried at Zuidschote in Belgium, and his grave inscription reads ‘I Will Surrender Only to God
    Casualty Details | CWGC

    Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s preface to Barbara Cartland’s ‘My Brother, Ronald’, written a year after the loss of her two brothers at Dunkirk, states:

    Those who read this book will derive from it renewed assurance that the way of life for which Ronald Cartland fought will certainly prevail and persist because of the striving and sacrifices of such men as he’ W.S.C.
    Owen, 4jonboy, dbf and 4 others like this.
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. John West

    John West Active Member

    ah thanks. I think what's new is the location of the probable site of the Cartland column ambush, which resulted in about 12 deaths and 40 POW's. Also, the fact that 50 or so BEF casualties in and around Watou during Operation Dynamo, including those ambush victims, were buried together in the Watou temporary burial ground until 1948 by the Belgian civilian authorities and were then mainly re-interred to Hotton by the CWGC- I may post that list separately.

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