Royal Irish Fusiliers Dunkirk

Discussion in '1940' started by Montyjw, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. Montyjw

    Montyjw Member

    My late father was with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers from 1938 to 1946. He told me that during the Dunkirk retreat they fought as part of the rearguard action. He never said much about where they fought but he did get home to continue fighting later in North Africa and Italy. I have true to find out more about the rearguard action they were involved in and read they were at the La Busee Canal. When I look for info on this nothing seems to come to light. I wondered if anybody could give me information on this and how they got home. I'm sure he said they were evacuated by the Royal Navy but can't be sure. Also where were they evacuated and how did they manage to escape what seemed a hopeless situation. Any other information regarding the 1st Battalion RIF during WW2 would be of great interest. My father was Sergeant John Montgomery 6978614( no relation to the General)
  2. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    The Faughs were indeed at Dunkirk and evacuated on the night of 29/30 May (I think) taking 15hrs to get to Ramsgate..(edit see further detail below)

    obviously there's the war diaries, but two books to look out for

    Lt-Col Guy Gough - "30 Days to Dunkirk."
    Major John Horsfall - "Say Not the Struggle." (covering D Coy).

    I've got the latter book in front of me and, like the follow up two books about the Faughs in Tunisia during 1942/43 and the Irish Rifles/Faughs in Italy during 1944, is a remarkable account of an infantry battalion in action.

    I suppose that your father's rank of Sergeant was for a later period - was he a Fusilier in France ?

  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    The Faughs were at Gorre in defensive positions on the north side of La Bassee Canal from 21st May onwards as part of the 25th Infantry Brigade (in 50th Division), along with 7th Queens and 2nd Essex, before being relieved there on the 26th by 4th Brigade (in 2nd Division), and thence moving northwards to the coast.

    Attached Files:

  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    From CAB 106/245 A 117 page document by Gough on the battalion.

    The Battalion left France on the 30th May. A third of the battalion including the CO embarked on a unknown destroyer from the Mole at Dunkirk and arrived at Dover without incident. The remainder of the battalion is recorded as landing at Ramsgate. They would have travelled over on smaller craft (the little ships) as no Destroyers were allowed to disembark troops at Ramsgate, they all went to Dover.
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the clarification,

    According to Horsfall, who was their OC, D Company went to Ramsgate on three "drifters" (I assume small trawlers).

    He quotes Capt Murphy-Palmer, the Faughs' adjutant, as saying that most of HQ Coy and B Coy were on the "open beaches" .. Later Murphy-Palmer said "Then HM sloop Kingfisher sent in her boats and took us off.."

  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Bexley84

    Found this which might interest you:

    Saturday 1st June 1940
    Patrol sloop KINGFISHER was damaged by the near miss of German air bombs at Dunkirk

    Part of Operation Dynamo
    Patrol sloops - GUILLEMOT, 2nd Anti-Submarine Striking Force (Lt Cdr H M Darell-Brown), KINGFISHER, Experimental Ship (Lt Cdr G A M V Harrison), MALLARD, 1st Anti-Submarine Striking Force (Cdr The Hon V Wyndham-Quinn), SHEARWATER, 2nd Anti-Submarine Striking Force (Lt Cdr C F Powlett), SHELDRAKE, 1st Anti-Submarine Striking Force (Lt Cdr A E T Christie), WIDGEON, 2nd Anti-Submarine Striking Force (Lt Cdr R Frederick),

    Be interesting to know what the 'experimental' bit was
  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Hopefully Monty comes back on to learn more about what his father was facing...

    Good info about Kingfisher - i'm not an expert on the comings and goings at Dunkirk, but I suppose that Kingfisher had just come "straight back" to France after dropping the Faughs off at Dover.
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    In short: Kingfisher was a Corvette. She did four runs to Dunkirk her last resulted in her being rammed after taking French troops off the West Pier. As she was taking on water the troops were transferred to the undamaged French ship and Kingfisher limped back to England at 7 Knots.
  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    A slight typo there. 4 Bde were 2nd Division and most of them didn't get away. 1 Royal Scots, 2nd Norfolks and 1/8 Lancs Fusiliers were pretty well anihilated on the La Bassee canal.
  10. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    thanks, ignorance rather than typo..
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I have the Bn's war diary and a personal account by Gough covering the whole of May. Drop me a Private message if you want a copy as there's too many pages to post on here. It may be an idea contacting the BBC as I believe a certain forum member did a documentary with Dan Snow about this battalions retreat for BBC Northern Ireland to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the evacuation in 2010. Ps It was one of his better TV programmes but I would say that ;)

  12. Montyjw

    Montyjw Member

    Thanks for all this info I didn't realise people would have so much at hand. Andy I would be interested and will contact you privately when I work out how. I'm new to this. My father was a Fusilier in France. He was 20 years old in 1940 though he lied about his age on enlisting in 1938 so according to military records he was born in 1919 not 1920 his real birth year. Not sure when he became Sergeant but I know he was such in Italy. He was with A company. I think I need to get hold of the war diaries. Why when they were evacuated in 1940 was it so long before they saw action again? From what I understand they were sent to North Africa in 1942. What were they doing during the time in between? Interestingly I have a small diary that my father carried, though he didn't tend to use it as a diary generally but just for making odd notes. There is one entry saying " arrived in Tunis" I think on May 8 1943 ( don't have it in front of me at the moment). I believe this was the day after Tunis fell to the allies. There is also an entry for Feb 14 1943 saying " left hospital" I know he was wounded in Italy by mortar fire and carried a wound on his back for the rest of his life. I believe he was on a patrol at the time. I often wonder how close to enemy lines were they at any given time.

  13. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Good stuff....the reason that I asked about rank was that there is a roll of officers / NCOs included at the back of the Horsfall book and your Dad isn't included therein as a sergeant in the listing as of 10th May 1940.

    The Faughs left Liverpool for North Africa on 22 Nov 1942, but their ship collided with another one so they had to go in for repair at Gibraltar and turned up "late" at Algiers on 10th December 1942 - the Brigadier (a Faugh himself) wasn't impressed as the Skins and Irish Rifles had arrived three weeks before.

    If you're really keen, here's a link to the war diaries of the Faughs from Nov 1942 onwards - some of the main sheets are transcribed.

    38 (Irish) Brigade were the first marching troops to come into Tunis on 8th May 1943

    14 Feb 1943 suggests that he might have been "wounded" north of Bou Arada - the Faughs were involved in significant action on 18th Jan 1943, and then again on 19/20 January..the mainland Italy campaign, of course, started in Sept 1943 - the Faughs arriving in Taranto at the end of that month.

  14. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The Faughs were a well-recorded unit. John Horsfall wrote two books about his experiences with the 1st Battalion, Gough wrote about 1940, and in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in Irish units of the British Army.

    Having read Gough, Horsfall, and the war diary, I believe that the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers was one of the finest battalions in the BEF in 1940. The unit performed outstandingly in action, and kept its order and discipline in the retreat. Your father could take some pride in being a member of such a fine battalion.
  15. Montyjw

    Montyjw Member

    Thanks for the info I will follow it up. I will be working in Northern Ireland in January for a few days. Would a visit to the museum in Armagh be helpful to me? I still wonder what the battalion were doing between the evacuation at Dunkirk and shipment to North Africa in 1942. TTH thanks for those words. It does indeed make me feel proud reading your comments
  16. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    38 (Irish) Brigade was created in December 1941 (under advice from WSC) and the Faughs had joined up with the London Irish Rifles and the Skins in the Didlington area of Norfolk in early 1942 - the Irish Brigade became the Lorried Infantry Brigade of 6th Divisional Division when they moved to Cumnock in June 1942 and were in Scotland until they left for Algiers in November 1942.

    In 1941, the Faughs had been moving around East Anglia, and then stationed on the south coast during in mid 1941 and then moved to Goole.

    (Slightly repeating here) Strongly encourage you to read Horsfall, who although doesn't mention your father, describes both the Dunkirk and Tunisia campaigns in detail.

    Armagh - indeed visit. I suggest making contact beforehand if there is something specific that might need to be pulled out of the archives.

    If you want a blow by blow on the June 1940 to December 1941 period, here's the National Archive file ref.

    WO 166/4553


    INFANTRY: 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's).

    1940 June - 1941 Dec.
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Here's a list of all the Battalion war diaries

    WO 166/4553 INFANTRY: 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's). 1940 June - 1941 Dec.
    WO 166/8875 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) 1942 Jan.-Oct.
    WO 167/757 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) 1939 Sept.-1940 June
    WO 169/10235 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) 1943 July- Dec.
    WO 170/1406 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) 1944 Jan.- Dec.
    WO 170/8005 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) 1946 Jan.- June
    WO 175/506 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) 1942 Nov.- 1943 June
  18. Montyjw

    Montyjw Member

    Thanks Bexley,I will do as you advise and get a copy of Horsfall thanks drew for the list of wast diaries. You are both most helpful and informative glad I posted now
  19. Montyjw

    Montyjw Member

    I've just been onto National Archives requesting war diarist WO 167/757 which covers 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers September 1939 to June 1940. However just reading Brigadier Gough, 30 days to Dunkirk and he says the war diaries were destroyed during the evacuation. So what am I actually requesting?
  20. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Probably not including May 1940, sadly.. I've had other monthly omissions for other battalions during other campaigns (Anzio for example). I would suggest that Horsfall/Gough are as good as you can get for that month.

    The quote from TNA, no doubt, will be pretty sky high and suggest that Andy (Drew5233) may be a better bet if you do want to see what's what during the 1939 - 42 period. I've got the Nov 1942 to May 1945 war diaries for 1 RIrF (or at least the dailies. That being said, war diaries covering training periods aren't usually the most riveting read, but there may be exceptions.

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