Major-General William Augustus FitzGerald Lane FOX-PITT, DSO, MVO, MC, MiD, Welsh Guards

Discussion in 'The Brigade of Guards' started by dbf, Mar 30, 2020.

  1. dbf

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    Personal Number: -
    Rank: Major-General
    Name: William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt, DSO, MVO, MC, MiD
    Unit: Cheshire Regiment & Welsh Guards


    London Gazette : 29 January 1915
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29053/page/919/data.pdf
    The undermentioned Second Lieutenants (on probation) are confirmed in their rank:—
    3rd Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment.
    William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt.

    London Gazette : 23 June 1936
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34296/supplement/4001/data.pdf
    The KING has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of His Majesty's Birthday, to make the following promotions and appointments in the Royal Victorian Order: —
    To be Members of the Fourth Class.
    Lieutenant-Colonel William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt, M.C., Welsh Guards.

    London Gazette : 5 August 1952
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/39616/supplement/4201/data.pdf
    The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the following appointments to Her Majesty's Household:—
    Gentlemen-at-Arms.
    Gentlemen of the Corps:
    Major-General William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt, D.S.O., M.V.O., M.C.

    London Gazette : 5 February 1957
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/40994/page/815/data.pdf
    Commissions signed by Colonel The Right Honour- able Lord Digby, D.S.O., M.C., T.D., Lord Lieutenant for the County of Dorset.
    Colonel (Honorary Major-General) William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt, D.S.O., M.V.O., M.C., of Marsh Court, Sherborne.

    London Gazette : 26 April 1963
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/42979/page/3637/data.pdf
    The QUEEN has been graciously pleased, on the recommendation of the Earl St. Aldwyn, the Captain, to make the following promotions in, and appointment to, Her Majesty's Body Guard of the Honour- able Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms
    Major-General William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt, D.S.O.. M.V.O., M .C ., Standard Bearer, to be Lieutenant, in the room of Lieutenant- Colonel the Most Honourable James Arthur Norman, Marquess of Ormonde, C.V.O., M.C., retired.

    London Gazette : 1 January 1966
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/43854/supplement/5/data.pdf
    The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the following promotions in, and appointments to, the Royal Victorian Order:
    C.V.O.
    To be Commanders:
    Major-General William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane FOX-PITT, D.S.O., M.V.O., M.C.

    London Gazette : 28 January 1966
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/43886/page/1013/data.pdf
    Major-General William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane Fox-Pitt, D.S.O., M.V.O., M.C., having reached the age limit for retirement, relinquishes his appointment as Lieutenant of Her Majesty's Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2020
  2. dbf

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    Fox-Pitt, William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane (Oral history)

    Object description

    British officer served in command of 20th Bde in North West Europe, 1940. Present during defence of Boulogne, 5/1940. Evacuated from Boulogne, 5/1940

    Content description
    REEL 1 Recollections of initial period in command of 20th Bde in GB, 1940: expedition to Hook of Holland; camp at Camberley; nature of battle training; 5th Bn, Loyal North Lancashire Regt; anti-tank equipment; 2nd Bn, Irish Guards; absorption of reservists; formation of 2nd Bn, Welsh Guards; training problems; organisation of Bde Headquarters; orders to go to Boulogne, France; ignorance of situation; journey out.

    REEL 2 Recollections of operations in defence of Boulogne, 5/1940: reinforcement of anti-tank unit; briefing from General Brownrigg at Wimereux; situation; French intentions; promise of reinforcements via Calais; orders to hold Boulogne; reconnaissance and allotment of defensive sectors by map; requisition of French civilian vehicles; stragglers in dock area; disorder amongst pioneer unit; conference with battalion commanders; defence plans; use of high ground; failure of absence of reinforcements; infantry deployment and refugee problem; absence of French troops; French civilians; fifth columnists; anti tank guns; lack of air defence; digging in and lack of barbed wire; security; anti-tank positions; supplies; conditions of service.

    REEL 3 Continues: communications; liaison officers; stand to; appearance of German tanks on left flank and consequent withdrawal into town; Bde Headquarters; German nigh probes in 2nd Bn, IGs sector; German attack on 2nd Bn, WG; German shellfire; preparing houses for defence; contradictory orders; state of troops; patrols; German air attack on port area and response of RAF; withdrawal tactics; disruption of German advance from north; by support from destroyers; liaison with Royal Navy; treatment of casualties; morale; orders to evacuate; embarkation on destroyer; loss of 2 companies; lull in German attacks.

    REEL 4 Continues: shore bombardment by destroyers; voyage to Dover; re-organisation of unit; opinion of German performance; effects of fatigue; shortage of troops; use of artillery, aircraft and mortars; inadequate communications; rearguard defence of quayside; effects of orders to stand; general lessons of operations; War Office ignorance of conditions in France; supply



    His early life and WW1 service: Fox-Pitt, William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane (Oral history)
     
  3. dbf

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    General Fox-Pitt, Reel 1

    General, when did you take over the 20th Guards Brigade?

    I think it was about the 10th of May [1940]. I was then commanding a District in LONDON and at a moment’s notice I was ordered to go and take over the 20th GUARDS BRIGADE then commanded by Brigadier Oliver Leese, at CAMBERLEY. The Brigade consisted of the 2nd Battalion IRISH GUARDS and the 2nd Battalion WELSH GUARDS and the 5th Battalion of the LOYAL REGIMENT, a territorial battalion.

    They were - having been on all sorts of Public Duties, they were got together at CAMBERLEY to do some proper battle training and they were doing a fairly intensive course of training under their previous Brigadier. When I went down to CAMBERLEY, I was almost at once ordered to take the Brigade down to KENT where we had a mobilization role of - which was included in the defence of ENGLAND. Having arrived there by transport, we were billeted in various villages all round TUNBRIDGE. We then were there about 24 hours when I was given some instruction to send a battalion to the HOOK OF HOLLAND to assist in getting away the Dutch Royal family. My Brigade had been sent on long weekend Leave by my predecessor. Therefore I had not got two full battalion of Foot Guards. Howver, I decided to send the IRISH GAURDS under Colonel HAYDON with one company of the WELSH GUARDS to make it up to strength because they had more people on leave than the IRISH GUARDS. They went by sea to the HOOK OF HOLLAND and held an area around the HOOK for about 48 hours while the Dutch Royal family and all their wealth was got out of HOLLAND. During that time they were attacked quite heavily by bombers, dive bombers, but didnt ever get in contact with the Germans on the ground. They had a few casualties from bombing and managed somehow to lose quite a bit of equipment. They came back and gathered again in KENT. I was then ordered to return to CAMBERLEY and carry on with the training that this Brigade had been doing beforehand.

    General, can I ask some supplementary questions?
    Yes.

    Did you go with the IRISH GUARDS to the HOOK?
    No, I stayed in KENT. I went down to the port and saw them off and then returned to look after the rest of the Brigade, you see.

    Did you meet the Dutch Royal family when they arrived in ENGLAND?
    No.

    When you were ordered to send a Battalion to the HOOK, where did the orders come from?
    Straight from the C.I.G.S. who was General Dill who was, Field Marshal DILL as he was later.

    So they didn’t come down through District Divisional chain of command?
    I was under London District but the orders seem to come straight to me from the War Office. Although my London District Commander knew all about what was going on.

    What sort of vessel did they go to the HOOK in?
    As far as I remember they went in ordinary cross-Channel steamers. I can’t remember the name. I have the names of one of them they went in later on but I can’t remember what boat they went in. They all went in one boat.

    Did they have a naval escort?
    I should think so but I don’t really remember for certain. If so. it would be Destroyers.

    You mention that the Dutch Royal family loaded all their wealth onto the ship on which they escaped…?
    They, I think, were taken away in a British Battleship of some sort, Destroyer. I think.

    So, they weren’t on the same ship …
    No.

    … as the IRISH GUARDS?
    No.

    What sort of effect on the men did this order to the HOOK have?
    Well I think that they were quite excited and interested in doing some job on the other side of the Channel. They didn’t - we were all shot into all these expeditions very quickly so nobody had much time to explain to them what was happening. But I think they behaved extremely well when they were in HOLLAND and did their job exceptionally well. That’s all I can remember about that part.

    When they came back, what was their mood and outlook then?
    Em, well difficult to say. We all thought that we were were going to be left alone, although we all knew the battle had started in FRANCE. We thought we were going to be left alone to continue our training at CAMBERLEY which we were rather short of. The men had been very hard-worked and were going to be very hard-worked again, you see. And I don’t know really what the men, individual men thought about it but the Commanding Officers, I knew both of them very well and they quite understood what was going on. But we were supposed to go back and continue our training after this trip to HOLLAND.

    You mention you were sent back ot CAMBERLEY.
    Yes.

    And I think you said that you were in a tented camp near CAMBERLEY.
    Yes.

    Can you remember where it was?
    Yes, it was called OLD DOWN COMMON and it was very near SANDHURST.

    So you were exercising on BAROSSA COMMON?
    Yes and our tented camp on the Common there, just off the CAMBERLEY - BAGSHOT road as far as I remember.

    What sort of battle training were you doing with the Battalions?
    Well several exercises had been worked out - a good number of light exercises and quite a lot of digging positions and holding them for 24 hours and that sort of thing, with all the necessary arrangements for not coming out of your trenches until you were relieved.

    Administration of the Field?
    We also had quite a number of vehicles and we did a certain number of driving exercises to try and get the vehicles working on the roads properly but the men themselves were doing what I woud call Company and Battlaion Training.

    So there were Company defence schemes and Battalion defence schemes.
    Yes.

    Was there much emphasis on the Company or the Battalion in the attack?
    Em, I really can’t remember what the exact programme was now but I’ve no doubt that came into it. But a great deal of night work was concentrated on.

    Was there a reason for that?
    No, I think that they weren’t very good at night work and therefore they wanted more training in night work.

    Was the night work mainly small scale operations?
    Yes.

    Patrols?
    Yes, patrolling on a Battalion or Company - a Battalion or a Company holding a postion and sending out patrols. We had - the LOYAL REGIMENT were acting as enemy very often and they were also trying to catch up on their training because they’d done very little training at all and they were supposed to be a Motor Battalion. And so they did a lot of vehicle training and motor training with their carriers.

    Can we talk about each one of you battalions in turn?
    Yes.

    Starting with the the battalion of the LOYAL REGIMENT, what sort of vehicles did they have?
    Well they had trucks and carriers and they were designated a Motor Battalion. But I’ve no idea what they’d been doing since moblization because they were only - they were sent to the Brigade just before I took over and really had done very little training at all. They were very good material, very good young men and good officers, but all Territorials.

    They were also, like the other three battalions, they were given some anti-guns, and had an anti-tank platoon and that was absolutely brand new. When I took over the Brigade all the anti-tank guns were down at LYDD in KENT doing their firing and then they had to be collected. And the anti-tank guns and the LOYALS were the only ones I took later on to BOULOGNE.

    What calibre were they?
    They were a thing called a - they were a French gun and they were called a xxxxxx, I think. but I’ve rather forgotten the name. But it was a rather unsual gun it was about a 2-pounder but it wasn’t an English gun. We then had very few 2-pounder anti-tank guns of our own and this was what we were allotted for this particular period.

    Did you manage to do much live firing with small arms?
    Yes quite a bit on the Ranges at ASH and BISLEY, we took our turn on that. But you must remember I had only taken over the Brigade a week before all this happened and so I hadn’t been involved in their training at all.

    Was this Territorial Battalion up to strength?
    Yes it was pretty strong.

    And did they have a sufficient number of Officers and NCOs?
    Yes I think so. Territorials would be in with them.

    How did they get on with the guardsmen?
    Oh, very well, they all worked in very good together on these training exercises. But of course eventually we weren’t allowed to take them to BOULOGNE because they weren’t considered sufficiently well-trained.

    So, if I can sum them up: they were young, up to strength and enthusiastic but they weren’t mature soldiers?
    Yes.

    What about the IRISH GUARDS, what condition were they in?
    They were a very good Battalion, they would have been formed about three months before, from their 1st Battalion. They were perhaps not as good as the 1st Battalion but they were - because no 2nd Battalion ever is quite as good but they had a very good Commanding Officer, very able Commanding Officer and they were a very good battalion. Very well disciplined and very good Officers.

    Were they up to strength in all ranks?
    Yes because by then all the Reservists had been called up, you see. So there was both battalions, all battalions well up to strength?

    Did you have any conscripts?
    Not by then no because we hadn’t started it, had we!

    They started Conscription in Spring of 1939.
    Yeah, I should think - well, there may have been some but I’m not sure with the IRISH GUARDS how that worked but they were well up to strength.

    And the Reservists settled in?
    Yes, yes, well the Reservists had been called up about a year before, you see and so they were all well settled in, into the old battalion before they formed the 2nd.

    What about the equipment, did it have the full Establishment?
    Yes, as it was then. Ee had Bren guns and the ordinary rifle, you know, I mean some time ago now we’re talking about. We had a few anti-tank rifles which was a very new thing but not very many in each battalion. Although the one Irish Guardsman managed to knock out a German tank with an anti-tank rifle at BOULOGNE, which surprised everybody.

    And what about the WELSH GUARDS?
    WELSH GUARDS - I had a good deal of personal contact with forming that battalion because I was then commanding the Regiment and they were a very good battalion but unfortunately our 1st Battalion had been sent to GIBRALTAR. Therefore it was a little difficult to get all the right Officers and NCOs from the 1st Battalion. But they were full of very good material, a lot of Reservists and I should say about as high class a battalion as you would get. They’d unfortunately been stuck at the Tower of London since their formation and had done very little training except shooting when they went down to various ranges to shoot but they had to do ordinary Public Duties and that sort of thing in LONDON. And it was only just when this 20th GUARDS BRIGADE were formed that they got out into the country and trained at all. Same with the IRISH GUARDS.

    So they were good at basic individual skills, of shooting, but they presumably wouldnt have much idea of field craft and tactics?
    Not much no, except what they’d learnt in the past. They weren’t recruits by any means, they were all mature guardsmen.

    What was the average age of the battalion, woud they be men in their mid and late twenties?
    Well we’d had - the average age I haven’t any idea but it was a bit older than you might expect because we’d had - in the original call-up of the Reservists the Welsh policemen were not called up. By the time we went on this expedition, they’d all joined up and they were all very high-class men who’d been in the Reserve and in the Police. Although they’d done a lot of training in their service, they were obviously a bit rusty but they were all fit to be NCOs - which most of them were made the moment they’d joined.

    Were they physically fit?
    Oh yes, by the time they’d done their training at CAMBERLEY they were very fit, yes.

    I’ll tell you when I took over the Brigade - I don’t think I’ve got the names of all the people - my Brigade Major was General Sir Julian GASGOIGNE but within less than a week, I had another Brigade Major who had just come straight out of the Staff College, posted to me with a view to taking over and this was, who came after - Lord HEBE, Anthony HEBE. And for a short period, for about a week, I had two Brigade Majors but Anthony HEBE took over completely before the Battalion moved to BOULOGNE. I had a Staff Captain, HEBER-PERCY from the GRENADIERS. No, I beg your pardon, Staff Captain called LEE from the GRENADIERS and an Intelligence Officer called HEBER-PERCY from the GRENADIERS. I had two Liaison Officers one from each battalion. Otherwise I had no Brigade Staff in those days. I had a Q officer and, an unusual thing, I had a Brigade Medical Officer but otherwise he eventually was withdrawn and went to one of the Battalions but that was just a sort of temporary thing. Anything else? Well I had a Brigade Headquarters Staff and a Defence Platoon, I think, I can’t remember. I think I had a Defence Platoon and that was all I had at that moment. Also the Q staff, the RASC Q Staff and a part of a REME Staff, but very little.

    You didn’t have any heavy weapons under your direct command?
    No, not for this operation. You mean by that, you mean, Artillery don’t you?

    And heavy Mortars?
    No I had nothing like that, no. No.

    Had you done any training for gas warfare?
    No particular training, no, no. I think we carried gas masks but I don’t know, we didn’t - there was no particular training.


    When you were ordered to go to BOULOGNE, I gather it was rather a surprise?
    Yes. Well I was rung up again, direct, by the C.I.G.S. himself and he said I’ve got a very fast one for you here. You’ve got to go to BOULOGNE tonight with your whole Brigade, except the LOYAL REGIMENT who we don’t think are fit really to go fighting, you must leave them behind but you can take their anti-tank platoon. All three anti-tank platoons were then training down at LYDD so that was a separate movement to get them from LYDD to DOVER and get the whole Brigade from CAMBERLEY to DOVER. I think I’d better quote perhaps from my despatch now.

    Did he say why you’d got to hold BOULOGNE?
    Erm, yes. They told me that the whole of the GHQ Administrative Staff had withdrawn to BOULOGNE and that I was to form a force to hold BOULOGNE until they were evacuated. That’s in fact what did happen. But General BROWNRIGG was the chief administrative Officer of GHQ and he was the first man I went to see when I arrived at BOULOGNE. That’ll come into my despatch later.

    Had you got any idea of what was going on in FRANCE and BELGIUM in general terms?
    Very little, nor had the War Office. In fact any information they gave me was absolutely inaccurate. We also had no maps and they were unable to provide maps for us - or very few.

    So you were really going out in the dark without much idea of what was going ot happen?
    I had to get my Brigade to BOULOGNE and then report to General BROWNRIGG and get the latest information from him and then make my plan for holding BOULOGNE.

    So you were going to be briefed and given orders on the ground?
    Yes. I did go and see him and found out what he thought was going on, which also wasnt very accurate.

    One last thing: how did you get to DOVER from CAMBERLEY, was it by motor transport, or by train?
    Transport, motor transport.

    So you had sufficient motor vehicles to move to…?
    No, not our own. We weren’t allowed to take any vehicles abroad with us at all. We were supposed to pick up what vehicles we could on the other side, which wasn't very difficult at all because there was a mass of derelict stuff lying about. But I think it really would be better - would you like me to read on with this and then - would you like to stop this a second?

    [Stops recording; restarts]

    When you got to DOVER what ship did you embark on?
    Well I personally embarked on the destroyer WHITSHED. As I told you the Brigade embarked on three cross-Channel boats and one destroyer. Brigade Headquarters personnel and 2nd Battalion WELSH GUARDS less one company and the infantry anti-tank company in one, ss BIARRITZ. 2nd Battalion IRISH GUARDS less one company in QUEEN OF THE CHANNEL. Two companies and all remaining baggage and ammunition in MONA STAR. Destroyer VIMY took the eight anti-tank guns, that’s eight 2-pdr anti-tank guns. That was a separate force, they were …

    [end of Reel 1]
     
  4. dbf

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    General Fox-Pitt, Reel 2


    General, I think you were mentioning that the eight 2-pdr anti-tank guns were not part of your Brigade.
    No, they were posted to me for this particular operation and I’d never seen them before. They were sent in a separate Destroyer to join me at BOULOGNE.

    When did you know they were going to join you?
    I imagine before we started but I can’t remember now.

    And these were ROYAL ARTILLERY?
    ROYAL ARTILLERY, yes.

    How was the journey across the Channel, did anything happen on the passage?
    No, perfectly - very calm sea and nothing happened.

    What time did you arrive at BOULOGNE?
    Well I went ahead in WHITSHED, the destroyer, and reported to General BROWNRIGG who’d established his Headquarters at WIMEREUX.

    At what time do you think you got there?
    We reported to him at seven o’clock in the morning and he briefly explained the situation was as follows: [reading from despatch]

    Enemy
    One M.T. column had been reported at ETAPLES. Enemy A.F.Vs were also reported Area GRESSY FOREST.

    Our own Troops
    The 21st French Division was stated to be holding positions at NEUFCHATEL, SAMER and WIRWIGNES. Each of these were said to be held by approximately one Battalion. Their intention was to prolong this line as far as DESVRES. For this purpose remainder of the Division were to be moved up from the East by train.

    British Troops in BOULOGNE were situated as follows:-
    Road blocks by a few ROYAL ENGINEERS or A.A. personnel were sited on the four main roads running South-East and South from BOULOGNE. These road blocks were sited 8 - 9 miles out from BOULOGNE.

    Over 1500 personnel of the A.M.P.C. were in BOULOGNE but had not taken up any tactical positions, and were of no military value, as the Officers and N.C.O.s had no control over them, and it was found impossible to form them into a fighting force. WIMEREAUX was lightly guarded by personnel from ‘A’ Branch G.H.Q. The FORT DE LA CRECHE was held by A.A. personnel.

    General BROWNRIGG stated that one Battalion of tanks and one Battalion THE QUEEN VICTORIA RIFLES were to be landed that night at CALAIS and could be expected early the following morning.

    His instructions were that BOULOGNE was to be held.

    Only five 1” maps of BOULOGNE were obtainable for the whole Brigade, and a few small scale.

    The Brigadier, RSI and the Brigade Major returned to BOULOGNE where the Battalion were disembarking. Commanding Officers were sent for, allotted provisional sectors from the map. Forward RV were arranged for Battalions and the Brigadier left for reconnaissance with the Officer Commanding 2nd Battalion IRISH GUARDS and the Officer Commanding Anti-Tank Battery.


    So, after you’d been up to General BROWNRIGG you then went back into BOULOGNE where the troops were coming ashore?
    Yes.

    And you did a reconnaissance first by map and then followed that up by actually looking at the ground?
    Yes.

    How did you actually get up to WIMEREUX from BOULOGNE?
    Oh, I took some car that I found on the quay and the Brigade Major and I drove it. As far as I remember it only had one gear forward which worked but it did work. There were an awful lot of things lying about. We took the one that we thought would work best.

    When you got into BOULOGNE what was your first impression of the town?
    Well, the town was in perfectly good order, it hadn’t been bombed much. The quay was absolutely chocablock with personnel who had filtered down from the battle front. I met one young officer in the GRENADIERS who had been on some sniper course and he was ordered home to ENGLAND. There were also two horses there belonging to Duke of GLOUCESTER which were supposed to be embarked for ENGLAND. There was a mass of PIONEER CORPS people absolutely out of control, with no officers or NCOs taking much interest in them, just trying to get off to go back to ENGLAND.

    So they were in a state of panic were they?
    No, not at all but they were just milling round trying to find some ship to get on to, you know. And I pointed out later that it would be far better to get rid of them if we could, which they in fact did - get rid of most of them.

    Now you say they had no military value?
    No, not much. They had rifles, but they just - some of them I found just shooting off into the town occupied by our own troops. So you couldn’t rely on them to be much value.

    But presumably they hadn’t been trained as soldiers?
    No, they were sent out there to dig trenches and that sort of thing.

    So basically labourers?
    They were labourers, yes.

    Were their officers trying to get rid of them?
    Oh yes, some of them, but there were very few officers and they again were not very military-minded sort of officers.

    When you went up to WIMEREUX to meet General BROWNRIGG, what was the atmosphere at the rear GHQ like?
    Well there was very little of it but they were completely vague really as to what was out in front. And the information I’ve just given you turned out to be quite inaccurate. All they did know that the Germans were on the way but they didn’t know how close they were. General BROWNRIGG told me at the time he was then going to move his Headquarters down into BOULOGNE. In fact he did but he also departed that night for ENGLAND and so by the next morning I was alone in command of the whole thing.

    Were the Headquarters Staff basically optimistic or pessimistic in their outlook?
    I don’t think they really knew what was happening at all. I think they were told - I mean, they knew there was a general evacuation from FRANCE and they were told that they’d got to get back to ENGLAND. That’s really what the chief thing - and so the 20th GUARDS BRIGADE was to hold BOULOGNE until everything was got out.

    When you had your Conference with Battalion Commanders in BOULOGNE, how long did that planning conference take?
    Very short. The few maps we’d got, I selected on the ground where the battalions should go: roughly speaking one battalion south of the river that runs out of BOULOGNE and one battalion to the north about perhaps 3 or 4 miles outside BOULOGNE. General BROWNRIGG had wanted me to hold a Front much further out but with two battalions that was absolutely impossible. And so I decided on my own to hold a nearer line which was quite a good defensive position on the hills outside BOULOGNE. But my Conference with the Commanding Officers at the quay was not very long because I went off to do my own reconnaissance with my Brigade Major, taking the Commanding Officer of the IRISH GUARDS with me but leaving the Commanding Officer of the WELSH GUARDS to meet me at another place, which we eventually did.

    How did you conduct this reconnaissance on the ground - was that by motor vehicle?
    Well, as far as we could, and by foot, and by looking. We couldn’t naturally cover every yard of the Front but we went to certain positions and had a look at it. But we were very, very thin on the ground and we had to hold what we could.

    What sort of criteria did you use when selecting a defensive position?
    Erm, well my own criteria, one knows about defensive positions. I used - We selected defensive positions with a good field of fire because we realised our enemy had tanks and anti-tank guns. So we got ourselves out of BOULOGNE onto the hills round it, so to speak, where we could see a certain distance in all directions. That is what I went for.

    So it’s basically high ground?
    Yes outside BOULOGNE, the ground is fairly high, outside the town, very quickly. We went as far as we thought necessary out there without spreading ourselves out too much.

    Were you counting upon the reinforcement that had been promised you?
    Well, I had thought that these people were coming from CALAIS, from what I was told, but as it turned out they never appeared.

    How would you have deployed them had they arrived?
    What I think I should have done, I suppose - to have a tank battalion and one Territorial battalion, you see - I think I should have employed the Territorial battalion on the Left Flank between the WELSH GUARDS and the sea, because they didn’t cover the whole of that Front, and I should have divided the tank companies up between the two battalions, I think, in an anti-tank role.

    So they would have been local support for the infantry?
    That’s it, yes. They would have been very useful.

    How long did it take the infantry Companies to get up from the quay and into their forming-up areas?
    Well, after I'd done my reconnaissance, I went back round the whole line and by then the companies were arriving, except for the two companies who were in the ship by themselves who had to be brought on later. But they didn’t take - they marched out of their position and I think the Commanding Officers managed to pinch cars to get out and do their reconnaissance and we pinched any vehicle we could find. There were an awful lot of refugees on the road and it was very difficult to get along. I remember that particularly myself, getting the car along the road was extremely difficult.

    Presumably the refugees were in a fairly bad condition?
    Yes, they were about the end of their gasp. Suddenly in a strange way, they all disappeared. I think they moved off down the coast, down towards LE TOUQUET, that direction. They never cluttered up the Port.

    Did you have a guard on the Port, to keep them away?
    No. No, not knowingly. There were a certain number of civilians trying to get on our Destroyers at the end.

    What about French troops, were there many staying in the town?
    Very few French troops actually materialised. The instructions I’d been given about the Division in front of me - those troops never came near BOULOGNE. We saw the General and his Staff Officer and he said that his whole Brigade had been - plié as he described it, which meant ‘packed up’. I think half of them were caught on the train by the Germans and taken prisoner. But he had no troops at all. There were a few young soldiers in the Citadel at BOULOGNE but we packed them off down to the south because they were of no military value. It was a sort of Depot.

    So they were recruits in for training?
    Yes, that sort of thing. We really saw very little of the French and the the General himself and his Staff Officer decided he would try and get out down south and I never saw him again.

    What about the civil population of BOULOGNE?
    Well erm, there were a lot about but they weren’t very obvious. They sort of got into their houses and kept in their houses while the battle was going on. We thought there were a certain number of Fifth Columnists about, sniping us and that sort of thing but they were probably infiltrated Germans, we don’t know that.

    You didn’t catch any of the snipers?
    No - yes they did catch some. I think it comes in my report later on.

    Did you have any contact with the civil authorities in BOULOGNE, the Mayor?
    No, no-one, no contact with the authorites at all. No.

    What time do you think it was before you’d actually finished your reconnaissance of the line you were going to hold?
    I don’t know. By the time I’d finished my reconnaissance, it was about 10 o’clock in the morning, I should think. By the time the Commanding Officers had finished their reconnaissance and troops were beginning to move off, it must have been 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

    When the Battalion Commanders were actually sorting out their own deployments, how did they do it? Did they give discretion to Company Commanders within a certain area?
    I’m not exactly sure exactly how they did it but I think they did. They went on an allotted areas to their Company Commanders. They did it pretty thoroughly and so they knew exactly where their company’s area was and went round with the Company Commanders and told them what positions they had to hold. The only people who were rather in the air were the WELSH GUARDS who had a Company with nothing on their left between them and the sea. Quite a long way, three or four miles.

    So they had an open flank?
    An open flank, yes. But we didn’t know then - we thought that was the way that the troops from CALAIS were coming, you see.

    What about the anti-tank weapons?
    I allotted them to battlaions. We had eight guns, I allotted four to each Battalion. And then they had their own Anti-Tank Platoons as well, which were a less effective little gun, I think.

    What about the anti-aircraft troops?
    We had no anti-aircraft of our own. There were - when we arrived there were some anti-aircraft balloons flying but they very mysteriously got let off and the personnel disappeared when things got a bit hot.

    So you had no control over anti-aircraft troops?
    No, we had no anti-tank [sic] ground guns at all.

    When the troops had arrived in their positions, what happened next? Were they then told to dig in?
    They dug in as hard as they could for the whole of that afternoon and evening. And all the night.

    Was there any sign of the enemy during this?
    They weren’t, any of them. attacked till the next morning. Early next morning.

    So you had reasonably prepared positions?
    Yes I think we did. Some Companies dug much better than others.

    What sort of field works did they or positions did they dig?
    Well they were what I call Platoon areas, which they’d been taught to dig, you know, sort of a little - I forget what you used to describe them, sort of a Platoon area with Sections in each - Section trenches and Communications of Platoon Commanders and then so on.

    They didn’t dig a continuous line of entrenchment?
    No, they couldn’t possibly do that, you see.

    Did each Platoon have a Redoubt or anything of that sort?
    No, I dont’ thinks so, no. No, they only had what trenches they could dig.

    They had Section trenches. Does this mean that you would have 10 or 12 men in a single trench?
    Yes, roughly. I don’t know what a Section strength was. I don’t think it was as much as 10 men, I don’t know.

    But, em - how many Sections would there be in a Platoon? Would there be 3 or ..?
    Four Sections in a Platoon and they each must have a Bren Gun. The IRISH GUARDS were a bit short of equipment.

    Were the Sections deployed in lines or, were they staggered or in depth? What sort of pattern did the trenches form?
    They were in sort of blobs, you know. They weren’t in one straight line but they were all self-supporting and supporting each other, you see?

    With overlapping arcs?
    Yes.

    Roughly, what distance would there be between one Section and the next?
    Oh erm, perhaps 50 to 100 yards, not much more than that.

    So, you’d have a little blob with about eight or nine men in it, with a Bren and some rifles and then another little blob about a hundred yards away and they would cover the ground between them?
    Yes, that’s right. We had no wire or anything like that we could use.

    What was the soil like on these positions?
    The soil was fairly light and when you’d get up on the hill there it’s rather sort of sandy soil, quite easy to dig.

    Similar to the soil at CAMBERLEY?
    Yes, more or less, yes.

    So they could dig fairly deep, could they?
    Yes. I think they did dig in fairly deep in the time, from what I remember. When I went round the next morning, I saw quite a number of the places that were dug in.

    Could they do anything to conceal or camouflage the positions they had?
    Well within reason I suppose, they could but they’d hardly completed digging by the time they were attacked the next morning, you see.

    Did you reconnoitre positions for use in the event of a withdrawal when you did your walk?
    Not at that time, no.

    What about the local security of the troops when they were digging? Did they have patrols out during the night for instance?
    They had covering parties out, yes. But it was all a bit confusing because we’d been told tahat there were - there was a certain number of our own troops still out in front, you see. In fact they never materialised and so we - there were - practially no British troops withdrew through our line at all.

    Did you have any trouble with refugees or other stray people wandering around?
    There were the odd ones but most of them had sort of come through or disappeared by the time my Brigade had dug in.

    What sort of positions did you have for the anti-tank weapons?
    Again they were dug in according to what they were supposed to dig in but very badly most of them. They were not very well trained and particularly the gunner ones had not really been told - shown how to dig in their anti-tank guns at all, you see. They’d done very little training.

    Were they massed in groups or were they dug in ..?
    Well they were handed, allotted to the Battalion Comamanders and they were placed in certain positions. I remember one, in the case of teh WELSH GUARDS, firing straight down a road, which was quite a suitable position but they were eventually mopped up.

    But were they generally right in the front line or were they a bit behind?
    Yes, generally pretty well up in the front.

    Were they generally on their own, or did they have infantry immediately around them?
    Well they had infantry round them, yes.

    What sort of range were they supposed to have, these weapons?
    Well the 2-pdr hadn’t got a very big, powerful range. I suppose - they took on the tanks when they did come at the range of about three or four hundred yards but I should think that was about the maximum that they would have any effect on the thing.

    What about the effective range for rifle fire and Bren guns? What sort of range for the troops ..?
    Well, that’s the same as we are now. You don’t generally take on infantry targets more than about three or four hundred yards in front of you if you can avoid it. Wait till they get a bit closer.

    So, you got them dug-in, in a fairly effective line of platoon positions all the way round the town. What sort of arrangements could you make for Administration, for supply of food, water, ammunition?
    Well the Battalions had their Headquarters. There was a certain amount - a mass of rations lying about everywhere. They had plenty of supplies which you could - but we really had hardly any time to organise any proper supply. My RASC Officer did his best to collect the supplies in certain places and tell the Battalions where they could did get them from, you see ...

    So he formed a sort of central dump and then the Battalion Commanders…
    ... down on the quay really.
    …presumably they requisitioned anything that was useful to them?
    Yes.

    Did the men manage to get themselves fed and to sleep at all?
    Very little. By the time we eventually reached there, they were very tired. They’d been digging all night, more or less, and then in the early morning they began to be attacked and then later on they had to withdraw. So none of the troops had very much sleep.

    What about food, were they able to cook?
    Well they got plenty of food. The had an iron ration with them, you know and they never seemed to be short of anything to eat.

    Do you think that they used food as a substitute for sleep?
    Eh, I don’t know.
     
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