Fighting withdrawal to St.Valery-en-Caux

Discussion in '1940' started by John Lawson, Nov 9, 2010.

  1. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    I wonder if anyone out there can help me? I am trying to trace what happened to my grandfather, L/Sgt John 'Jack' Lawson and his unit, 7th Bn Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, during the 51st Highland Divisions' actions from the Maginot Line to their end at St.Valery-en-Caen. One of the major problems is that they were a Machine Gun Bn, which meant they would be dispersed in amongst the Bdes of the 51st, been attached and detached as the tactical situation changed. I can find a considerable amount of information about the actions of the Bdes of the 51st but little on the supporting units. Any information or pointers would be gratefully received. Having read Dunkirk - the men they left behind and Churchills Sacrifice of the Highland Division, I wonder why Dunkirk sticks in our memory of all that is great about our forces and people - Dunkirk spirit - when at the same time as the evacuation, Britain was still sending troops to France, Calais etc and the indomitable 51st Highland Division, with all of its' attached units was making its' fighting withdrawal to the coast, a most difficult and complex operation.
     
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Welcome to the forum.
    I hope the members can help with your search.
     
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    John - can only agree with you that St Valery en - caux was not at all popular as it was a surrender of the 51st and thus not to be talked about in the same way as Dunkirk - El Alamein - Cassino or even D Day....blame the media for that..and the war time history lessons of to-day's so called education..
    Cheers
     
  4. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Cheers for that Tom.
    I await info from Andy (RS), who is looking into the Regtl war diaries WO 167/801 7RNF Apr-May 1940 with regard, perhaps to info regarding my grandfather 4272326 L/Sgt John "Jack" Lawson, who was captured at St. Valery and spent the rest of the war, as a prisoner (19055) in Stalag 9C. I was 22years in the REME (don't know if that counts as been a soldier) and served with many famous Regts
     
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    ADM 199 may be able to help - He's quite a PoW expert and there is a file series that covers missing soldiers. I'll check to see if there is one for his Regt.

    The hard part will be trying to ID what Company he was in becuase as you say, the MG Bn's were split up on numerous occasions to support different battalions.
     
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Here you go:

    WO 161/49 British Expeditionary Force, France: The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers; missing men
     
  7. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    It's possible that he was in either C (Amble) Coy or HQ (Alnwick) Coy as he came from Hampeth, which is close to both. However, I believe that both A (Morpeth) and C Coys took such a hammering they became amalgamated. B (Ashington) and D (Berwick/Wooler) Coys were also present.
     
  8. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Thanks for that Drew
     
  9. Niccar

    Niccar WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    John

    first your army record it more than makes you a soldier
    its an exceptional record well done now the last battle of the 51st Highland division was called Ark force the machine gun batt that supported them was 1st battalion Kensington regt and as you say only the main Infantry units are mentioned although they were infantry units themselves hardly mentioned I can only assume the 7th Northumberlands were in reserve but close enough to be taken POW

    regards niccar
     
  10. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    There were some Northumberland Fusiliers with 4th Camerons, 3rd June 1940. Does not state which battalion though. Will scan relevant pages and post asap.
     
  11. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Thanks for the info Niccar and 51 Highland, all info is useful and like any case all the little bits buid up to the full story. Having been a soldier ('75 - '97) I often found thatth regulars looked down on and often treat the TA with distain. My brother was in 4th (V) Bn Parachute Regt and they wereas good as the regualrs. Considering that most of the British regular army was posted around the world at the outbreak of WWII it is credit to the TA that they rose to the occassion with rudimentary training and a woeful lack of equipment (hmmm, sounds familiar). I really would like to get to know my late grandfather through his unit and Regtl activity. It must have been hell, carrying out the most complex opertion of a fighting withdrawal against a mobile/mechanised/armoured enemy, who, lets not forget had had previous experience in Poland. Once again thanks for all info, which I will pass on to Mr Chester Potts who is compsing a book on the exploits of the 7RNF
     
  12. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Attached pages from 4th Camerons regimental history for 3rd June 1940. It says that the fusiliers were in A Company area. A company area is to top right of sketch map.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Thanks very much 51 Highland
     
  14. chesterflyer

    chesterflyer Member

    This was B Company (Ashington) 7RNF under Captain CRI Besley. Not sure which platoon it was but I have a picture of the Chateau at Huchenville taken this year when we visited the attack of the 4th Camerons
     
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  16. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    4th Camerons HQ June 1940, the Huchenneville Chateau.
     

    Attached Files:

  17. jainso31

    jainso31 jainso31

    7th RNF were m/c gunners to the 51st Highland Div.in the BEF, GOC Gen. Victor Fortune.When he saw the prospect of the likely outcome; he decided to detach a rump Brigade plus ALL support units (ARKFORCE), which included 7th RNF, to fight their way to Le Havre.They got away in the nick of time ,not to UK ;but to Cherburg to assist the 2nd BEF! After this debacle they got away to England.They served in Home Forces Units until deployed to 59th Div. in France,until that unit was disbanded at end of Aug.44 along with the 50th TT Div.which went home-I have no further info. on 7th RNF.
    My uncle Cpl george Mark who came from Amble (NTHLD) was also 7th RNF

    jainso31
     
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    7th RNF were m/c gunners to the 51st Highland Div.in the BEF, GOC Gen. Victor Fortune.When he saw the prospect of the likely outcome; he decided to detach a rump Brigade plus ALL support units (ARKFORCE), which included 7th RNF, to fight their way to Le Havre.They got away in the nick of time ,not to UK ;but to Cherburg to assist the 2nd BEF! After this debacle they got away to England.They served in Home Forces Units until deployed to 59th Div. in France,until that unit was disbanded at end of Aug.44 along with the 50th TT Div.which went home-I have no further info. on 7th RNF.
    My uncle Cpl george Mark who came from Amble (NTHLD) was also 7th RNF

    jainso31

    Hi Jainso31,

    Can I ask what the source of the info is?

    Looking through Alan Philson's BEF Orbat Vol.5 he lists the following units in Ark Force with no mention of 7 RNF:

    HQ 154th Bde and Anti-Tank Coy, Signal Section and LAD,4th Black Watch, 7th and 8th Argyles, 2 Machine Companies of 1st Kensingtons, 154th Field Ambulance, 10th Army Field Workshops. A section each from the divisional supply, petrol and ammunition companies

    HQ 'A' Bde, 4th Buffs, 4th Borders, 1/5th Foresters, 6th RSF, 17th and 75th Field Regiments, 51st Med Regt (less guns), 204th Anti-Tank Battery, 213th, 236th, 237th Field Companies and 239th Field Park Company.

    Ark Force made its way to and was evacuated via Le Harve not Cherbourg.

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  19. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Sorry Andy but Ark Force left Le Havre and went to Cherbourg, think you mis-read it.

    ARK force comprised the following:
    4th Battalion, The Black Watch
    7th Battalion, The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
    8th Battalion, The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
    6th Battalion, The Royal Scots Fusiliers (Pioneers)
    4th Battalion, the Boarder Regiment - "A" Brigade
    5th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters - "A" Brigade
    4th Battalion, The Buffs - "A" Brigade
    1st Battalion, Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment (less two companies)
    17th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
    75th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
    51st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (204 battery)
    236th Field Company, Royal Engineers
    237th Field Company, Royal Engineers
    239th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
    213th Army Field Company, Royal Engineers
    154th Field Ambulance
    Detachments from 525, 526 and 527 Companies RASC
     
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Mmmm I have on 13th June:

    During the night at Le Havre, Ark Force and the remaining garrision and French troops were evacuated without difficulty.

    I'll do some cross checking. Either way we both agree 7 RNF wasn't in Ark Force mate.
     

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