BEF motorcycles in Hasselt on 10 May 1940 - true or not?

Discussion in '1940' started by Eaw458, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. Eaw458

    Eaw458 Junior Member

    Hi,

    I have just read the personal war diary of the Belgian Major Bolland, officer commanding the "30ième Bataillion de Transmissions" or 30th Signals Battalion.

    Major Bolland spent the first day of the German invasion of Belgium at the advanced HQ of the Belgian Cavalry Corps in Hasselt. He describes how around 17h30 a number of British motorcycles with sidecars arrive, carrying a liaison officer with the rank of captain.

    Which unit would this have been?

    I am aware that detachments from French reconnaissance units penetrated to the Albert Canal and even briefly reached the north bank on the first day of the war, but I had always understood that the BEF did not push its cavalry screen much further than the area between Leuven/Louvain and Tienen/Tirlemont.

    Many thanks,

    Walter
     
  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Walter, By coincidence I've been in Hasselt today and I didn't see a single BEF sidecar outfit ! :(

    The only motorcycle combinations used by the British Army at this time were the sidecar-wheel drive Norton 'Big 4' and 4th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (who didn't reach the Dijl), were the only fully equipped motorcycle battalion and thus the only unit with a large establishment of these vehicles. However, there is other photographic and documentary evidence of Big 4s with the BEF and it relates solely to the Divisional Cavalry of 3rd Infantry Division, 15th / 19th Royal Hussars and 3rd Division's location was that closest to Hasselt.

    There is an article on the BBC's People's War site which implies the loss of one outfit forward of Leuven in liason with the French.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/25/a8810525.shtml

    The other evidence is in the form of the British Pathé film which shows vehicles retreating into Leuven. Behind the light tank marked to 3rd Division is a solo Norton and a Big 4 (with what looks to be a 3rd Division triangle marking above the '1' used by HQ functions such as the Div Cav.)


    [​IMG]

    It would seem to me quite possible that the liason officer and his escort might have accompanied an attached French liason officer to a Belgian HQ on the Albert Canal.

    Unfortunately, as we have seen in a recent post, there is no mention of this the 15th / 19th Hussar's war diary. Even worse, although there are surviving Intelligence war diaries for 1st and 2nd Divisions, there is none listed for 3rd Division and 2 Corps' Intelligence diary for the period comprises only officer returns so it looks as if any evidence of liason with the Belgians by 3rd Division has been lost.
     
  3. Blanket Stacker

    Blanket Stacker Junior Member

    I've had a good look at this piece of newsreel and although not clear, I'd say that number looks more like a '2' than a '1' which would be correct for the Div cavalry regiment. '1' was only used by Div HQ itself and units forming an integral part of the HQ.
     
  4. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    You're quite right. I lost my original post and apparently suffered brain-fade when re-composing.
     
  5. LesCM19

    LesCM19 "...lets rock!"

    Hello Walter, the war diaries you mentioned, are they in print?
     
  6. Eaw458

    Eaw458 Junior Member

    No - unfortunately not. These are all documents kept in the Belgian Forces' archives in Brussels. Most of these are diaries and accounts reconstructed by the individuals concerned during 1945-1948 upon request from the Belgian MOD in attempt to compensate for the loss of such a large proportion of original documents during the war. There is no standard format and the level of detail very much varies according to the good will and memory of the officer concerned.

    What particularly interests me in these documents are the operational touch-points between the BEF and the Belgian Army during the retreat at Louvain, the Willebroek Canal, Dendre, Scheldt and Lys.

    Walter
     
  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Keep up the good work Walter ! Does it state where the Belgian HQ in Hasselt was ?
     
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Walter just let me know any specific units and dates you need looking up ;)
     
  9. Eaw458

    Eaw458 Junior Member

    Thank you for the offer, Drew.

    I was sort of thinking in the direction of either 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars or 12th Lancers. I have seen the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars' war diary for the first two days of the invasion elsewhere on this forum and couldn't find any clues there. Do you happen to also have:
    • 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars for 12 and 13 May?
    • 12th Lancers for 10-13 May?

    Rich - I do not know yet where exactly in Hasselt the Cavalry Corps had its forward HQ on 10 & 11 May. I haven't seen the Cavalry Corps HQ's archives yet - only a handful of individual regiments.

    Many thanks,

    Walter
     
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Ha....Me and my big mouth. I think I have uncovered a lot of info for you between the regimental histories and the diaries. I'll get it all together and post the lot up. You may owe me a beer after this lot ;)
     
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    From WO 167/454 15/19 King's Royal Hussars War Diary. 10th to 14th May:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
     
  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    From 15/19 The King's Royal Hussars by Courage
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    From WO 167/452 12 Lancers War Diary. 10th to 14th May:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
     
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Part 2
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    [​IMG]


    I think that should keep you busy for a bit ;)
     
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    For some reason this map isn't showing in post 16 for me unless I click edit :unsure:

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks, Drew. It doesn't seem possible that any British unit reached Hasselt on the first day (10th May) as they only arrived very late in the evening on the Dyle line. On the 11th, it seems that 12th lancers were very far forward and they seem to have viewed the airfield at Geetbets which is the closest reference that I can find to Hasselt (20 km / 12 miles). The Hurricanes mentioned should have been at Schaffen (Diest) Were they moved or is the location wrong ?) It certainly doesn't seem impossible that a liason unit went as far as Hasselt in an attempt to contact Belgian units. At this time, they thought that they were safely behind the defended Albert canal.
     
  20. Eaw458

    Eaw458 Junior Member

    Thank you very much, Drew. I'll certainly have a good read of all of these.

    The Belgian Hurricanes were indeed stationed at Schaffen airfield and formed 2 squadron, Ier Groupe, 2e Régiment d'Aéronautique.

    This airfield was attacked by Dornier 17 bombers during the early morning of 10th May. Nine out of the eleven operation Hurricanes were destroyed in the attack.

    The last two planes were moved to Beauvechain airfield which is about halfway between Louvain and Wavre and just in front of the K.W. Line. Beauvechain was attacked on the 11th and that raid stripped the Ier Groupe of all its remaining aircraft. I very much doubt the BEF would even have known they were there... ;)

    The Belgian HQ at Lubbeek ("Lubbeck" in the text) mentioned by 15/19 KRH was the Belgian Corps de Cavalerie or Cavalry Corps, made up out of two divisions of motorcycle infantry and a brigade of motorised infantry, with a few dozen light tanks. It was this corps that fought the rearguard action at the Demer and Gette rivers on 12th and 13th May and whose formations were reported to have withdrawn through the BEF sector on 13th May and during the night of 13th/14th May.

    It was this same corps HQ that started this discussion. It seems quite plausible that either unit might have made contact with them at Hasselt on the 10th May, even though timings seem way out. If 12 Lancers got the order to move at 0930 and did not set off until midday, even a few motorcyclists would have had to push it to be in Hasselt by 1730.

    Might be a time zone difference though. Do the above war diaries use local time?

    Walter
     

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