The Defence of Hondeghem by K Battery, 5th Royal Horse Artillery

Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    After sometime I've finally decided to put a thread together on the defence of Hondeghem unfortunately only two family members of soldiers who were killed in the following action, who are also members of this forum, have contributed. One I had the pleasure of meeting in Hondeghem during the 70th anniversary of Dunkirk and the other one was close by but sadly we never got to meet-I believe she was still nursing a hangover from the night before! So thanks go to Brian Frost for pointing out the cook house to me and his assistance with the mayor and to Jane McVeigh-especially for giving me a copy of the German account of the battle. Also thanks goes to Brian (ADM199) for obtaining a copy of 5 RHA diary for May for me. Sadly the Regiment and local historian to Hondeghem never got back to me after I approached them for help. A surviving veteran did start to contribute on another thread but due to some areas not being confirmed I have decided to use the original published sources and just add a link to the veterans thread below for members to view his comments. Names and locations given are as documented in the war diary.

    Gunner Jack Johnson, L Sub Gun, K Battery, 5 RHA

    The fate of K Battery at Hondeghem started to unfold on the 24th May 1940 at 0830 hrs when the CO Lt. Col. AAM Durand MC and the regiments Adjutant, A/Capt. JR Kynaston who were in the area of Foret de Nieppe went to Force HQ Chateau at La Motte-Au-Bois where verbal orders were given for Macforce to proceed to Cassel with the objective of securing the high ground and denying it to the enemy. The CO and Adjutant returned to 5 RHA and after some confusion regarding the order of march the regiment moved off for Cassel at 1130 hrs. The route from Foret de Nieppe took them through Neuf Berquin - Vieux Berquin - Strazeele - Caestre - Cassel.

    At 1300 hrs the CO was stopped by G1 Lt. Col. Templar at Croix-Rouge and was ordered to divert one battery less two troops to Hondeghem to guard the roads around the village. Half a searchlight unit consisting of approx 75 men armed with 12 Bren Guns and Boyes A/T Rifles was also allocated to the battery for support in the infantry roll. Maj. RR Hoare, K Battery was stopped and given the task by the CO and inturn he selected F Troop with four 18 Pounder Guns under the command of Capt. B Teacher. He passed the order to of taking F Troop, K Battery to Hondeghem. In addition to F Troop and the searchlight unit Maj. RR Hoare also sent a small HQ under the command of BSM RJ Millard.

    Croix-Rouge. This shot is looking towards Caestre with Mont Cassel on the Horizon, the direction 5 RHA were traveling towards Cassel. It is here where Lt. Col. AAM Durand was stopped and where F Troop and party left for Hondeghem, almost certainly taking the road on the left.
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  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    By the evening of the 26th May the defence of Hondeghem was in place. Two 18 Pounder guns, I and J Sub-Sections were placed outside the village on the Rue de Staple. The other two guns, K and L Sub Sections were placed close to the village church, to be used as defence in depth. All guns were to be used in the anti-tank roll. The HQ location under command of BSM Millard can be seen in the sketch map below and had its communication vehicles parked to the side. The rest of the soldiers were were tasked with digging in and blocking roads. By the end of the day most were placed at strategic positions throughout the area which in the main were looking out of second floor windows armed with Bren guns and A/T Rifles.

    Sketch map showing all defensive positions
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    As most of the soldiers prepared and manned their positions scout were sent out to recce the area to their front in an attempt to establish where the enemy were and what they would be facing.
     
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Whilst the British troops were preparing defensive positions in and around Hondeghem the Germans were grouping for an assault on the area. Elements of 6th Panzer Division were seen to be grouping in a wood just east of St.Omer around five miles away. Orders were issued sometime before the advance to Captain Loewe of 3rd Panzer Company, 65th Panzer Battalion and 2nd Company, 4th Rifle Regiment plus supporting troops.

    The woods were the Germans grouped for the assault
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  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The defenders of Hondeghem spent a quiet night in the village but hardly anyone could have slept as they must have known what was coming in the morning. At 0500hrs the Germans started their advance to take Hondeghem. Leaving the forest they advanced towards Hondeghem via Staple.

    View of the woods where the Germans would have started off in the morning mist towards Hondeghem.
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  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The German account of the battle states that before reaching Hondeghem the Germans first met resistance at Staple. This was rapidly dealt with and the Germans continued their advance towards Hondeghem.

    The Approach to Staple-You can just make out Mont Cassel on the left.
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    The Church in Staple still showing the scars of fighting.
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  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    J Sub-Section Gun Action

    At 0730 hrs the HQ in Hondeghem received word from a despatch rider that J Gun was engaging the enemy. Intially J Gun along with I Gun acheived some success destroying a number of vehicles and two or three tanks. J Gun engaged the Germans as they advanced along the road from Staple.

    German view of advance towards J Gun.
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    J Guns view of the initial German advance from Staple.
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    TSM R Opie was helping crew J Gun and after scoring several kills he observed the German column break to their left into the fields. The gun then started to come under rifle and machine gun fire from the infantry following up behind the tanks. TSM R Opie ordered the men in the buildings near by to deploy and engage them with their Bren guns and A/T Rifles which they did causing casaulties amongst the Germans.

    An enemy tank closed on J Gun and opened fire on them with its machine gun killing the Number 2 on the gun. It then fired its main armament which scored a direct hit on the gun killing another member of the crew and wounding Gunner RJ Manning and TSM R Opie. Small arms fire was also directed on to the gun pit from the advancing infantry and Gunner Manning was wounded again, this time in both legs. Despite his wounds he refused to retreat and kept firing his gun. TSM R Opie dragged the dead Number 2 from his seat but found the sights were smashed. There is also written documentation to say that a Artificer White was also captured and taken away with Gunner Manning for treatment where he also died. I can find no such man on CWGC. TSM Opie survived the war a PoW and wrote a report on the battle when he was released which I will post later.

    TSM R Opie
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    Just before the enemy tank finished off J Gun it was engaged from further along the road by I Gun and the German infantry closed on J Gun and captured TSM R Opie and Gunner RJ Manning. Gunner RJ Manning was taken away in a German staff car towards St Omer to be treated in the German Field Hospital. Sadly he died there of his wounds.

    786647 Gunner Reginald John Manning, 5 Royal Horse Artillery

    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

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  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I Sub-Section Gun Action

    There is very little detail on the fate of I Gun. Sources say that I Gun put up stiff resistance, the same as J Gun, and it was destroyed around the same time as J Gun. Both guns are reported being in action for around 10 minutes before being silenced.

    I Gun location looking towards J Gun
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    The loss of two guns, half of the main defence of Hondeghem was quite a blow to the British troops defending Hondeghem and must have had an effect on morale let alone the units capability to hold the village.

    Looking at the area where the German armour flanked the two outer guns.
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    Now with all the survivors that were not killed or captured from the outer defensive positions making their way back into Hondeghem itself, German attention was soon focused on L and K Guns in the center of the village and the remainder of the defenders.

    With the outer defences defeated the Germans objective of Hondeghem was within their grasp.
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  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I quote from the Germans approaching J Gun:

    There, the leading tank suddenly drew small arms and gun fire. The gun-your fatherwas one of its crew members-hit one tank and set it on fire, but then, although very well camouflaged, it was engaged by another tank, rifles and machine guns of the accompanying infantry and was hit. The second gun, emplaced somewhat further to the rear, was neutralized almost simultaneously by a direct hit from the mortar section before it could even fire a shot. All this only lasted 10 to 15 minutes. In the course of the fighting, your father was critically injured, both by shrapnel from the armour piercing shell and by small arms fire. After he had been bandaged and stabilized by medical aidmen of the advance guard, the company commander who was at the scene-most probably Captain Lowe- decided that, because of the severity of their injuries, your father and another wounded soldier should be driven immediately to the division clearing station at St. Omer. For this purpose, he provided a jeep to ensure that the casualties received medical treatment as quickly as possible. Unfortunately , your father must have succumbed to his serious injuries shortly after arrival at the division clearing station.
     
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Whilst I and J Guns were putting up a resistance worthy of the finest traditions of the Royal Horse Artillery, BSM RJ Millard and his team at the HQ were asking via wireless for artillery support from the rest of the regiment at Cassel.

    5 RHA's war diary records that messages from F Troop were received asking for help and that they are being heavily attacked by large numbers of enemy tanks and armoured vehicles. Captain JA Norman was sent out to assess the situation and act as a forward observer if required. Although not mentioned in the diary Captain WR Holman was also sent out. Shortly after his departure a barrage was put down around Hondeghem by D Troop directed by wireless from Hondeghem HQ. As the morning developed support for Hondeghem slowly reduced as Cassel came under attack itself from enemy ground forces supported by Junekers JU 87 dive bombers. Resulting in D Troop on Mont Cassel loosing two guns during the morning.

    Report by Captain JA Norman
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    Report by Captain WR Holman
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  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    *K Sub-Section Action

    With the outer perimeter battle at an end German troops started to penetrate into the village which resulted in violent and confused hand to hand street fighting taking place for some eight hours. K Gun was brought into action straight away as some Germans attempted to advance up a road now named after K Battery itself. The range so short the crew must have been firing over open sights pumping round after round down the aptly named Rue de la Ker Battery.

    Rue de la Ker Battery
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    The view from K Gun looking towards the German advance
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    The route of the German advance towards K Gun. Taken from I Gun's location.
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    As K Gun was firing at any and every possible target the Germans tried to establish a foothold by moving into the building and firing from the upper floor windows trying to gain an advantage. K and L Gun returned fire by blasting rounds into the occupied building in an attempt to either blast or burn the Germans out. As the Germans drew closer to K Gun along the road some are believed to have moved in to a field to the left of K Gun and occupied a farm building, setting up a MG position and putting the gun under direct fire. There was some of F Troops vehicles located in the area of the building and it was not know if all of the British soldier had already vacated the building. Fearing for their own lives K Gun aimed at the building and with the first round being a direct hit, it brought the whole place down to the ground in a dense shower of dust and plaster. Another four rounds where put into the building for good measure and the MG was not heard from again. To the suprise of the K Gun crew they saw the only British soldier that was inside come out of the ruin a little worse for wear and rejoin the battery.

    Suspected farm buildings occupied by German MG.
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    * There was a mention on thios forum by a veteran of K Gun that the location given in all documentaion of this gun is wrong. To date it has not been confirmed if L and K guns were infact the other way around so for now I have left them as documented.
     
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Updated Situation Map
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  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    L Sub-Section Action

    It was not long before the crew of L Gun realised they were in the wrong location. As soon as they realised where the German advance was coming from the crew man handled the gun and its ammunition down the road to a more suitable location. Now in a better position they wasted no time in engaging the enemy. On of the crews first targets was the battery cookhouse opposite the church. The Germans had moved up through the field behind the building and occupied it by placing a MG in one of the upper windows. L Gun placed a round straight into the building destroyin gthe gun and setting the cookhouse on fire which resulted in destroying all the battey's food. There is a rumour that the German MG is now in possession of 5 RHA even today but sadly todate I have been unable to either prove or disprove this theory.

    Looking at the Cookhouse from L Gun location. The cookhouse was where the gap is.
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    Possibly after destroying the cookhouse L Gun turned its attention to their right where acccording to one souce (The New Contemtibles) they appeared to have engaged some German trucks most likely full of infantry heading towards their position. They also appear to have been swiftly dealt with and forced to ditched into a stream/pond.


    Where the infantry carrying trucks were ditched, I suspect after coming under fire from L Gun.
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  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Throughout the day the fighting in and around Hondeghem continued. Both guns were engaging the enemy at ranges of 100 metres and less over open sights, using Fuze 1. So close were the Germans the gun crews were being attacked with hand grenades. To avoid becoming a target the crews kept moving their guns by hand when necessary to try and mantain the advantage. At one point during the battle a smoke round was fired by accident and both guns increased there rate of fire using high explosive rounds to disperse the smoke before the Germans could take advantage of its cover.

    At around 1300 Hrs large numbers of German light and medium tanks could be seen heading for Cassel and Hazebrouck from the top of the church tower which was being used as a observation post. This was the last observation made from the church. The Germans realising the British troops were using it as an OP shelled the tower and after scoring 22 hits out of 27 artillery rounds fired it was totally destroyed. The repair work can still clearly be seen today from the clock face upwards.

    Hondeghem Church.
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    Memorial Bench next to the Church.
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    At this point I think that it is worth remembering that it was not only the two 18 Pounder guns and their crews in action in the village. Much good work was done by the drivers and other members of F Troop who were working in the role of infantry fighting with Bren guns and .303' sometimes hand to hand. Much of this good work allowed the guns to stay in action for so long. The utter disregard to personal safety shown by officer's, NCO's and men alike was first class.

    At approximately 1530 Hrs it was becoming apparent that the remainder of the men defending the village would not be able to hold out for much longer. Ammunition for the guns and small arms was almost expended and it was obvious there was little more they could do. With no food, it having been destroyed in the cookhouse and little reinforcements, a small detachment of Fife and Forfar Yeomanry had appeared and supported them. With the village in danger of being surrounded the order to withdraw was given at 1615 Hrs. The two 18 Pounders were limbered up to their Quads and with the wounded and the Fife and Forfars were sent off ahead of the main party to rendezvous at Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel. The remainder were to follow by a different route performing a tactical withdrawal. When Major RR Hoare was satified that both guns and the wounded had left and the rest of his men moved out of the village, he finally left himself. Most likely being the first into the village 24hrs earlier, he certainly was the last out. There was little interference from the Germans, it appeared they had chosen to withdraw at this time to consolidate their positions and re-group possibly for another attack.

    The road behind K Guns original position to Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel.
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    A short distance along the road and K Battery could see the location of the rest of their regiment at Mont Cassel off to their left.
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  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    821128 Gunner Albert Charles Adaway, 5 Royal Horse Artillery
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

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    786475 Bombardier John Robinson Lishman Turner, 5 Bty., 2 Searchlight Regt., Royal Artillery
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

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    :poppy: Memorial at Hondeghem :poppy:
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  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Sadly no diary for the month of May survived the fighting for 5 Battery in France and the last entries in the diary are recorded in April. I suspect many men from this battery are the unsung/forgotten heroes of the defence of Hondeghem. Due to no documentation exsisting-There is no record of what these men did, so much so that some sources even record the unit as 2 Battery getting confused with 2 Regiment, when looking at casualties and diaries it appears to have been 5 Battery that was fighting at Hondeghem, which was part of 2 Searchlight Regiment. These men must have been the majority of what formed the defence of the village in the role of infantry, only armed with rifles, Bren guns and A/T Rifles.

    What is known, is that when 5 Battery were preparing to fight with 5 RHA at Hondeghem on the 26th May, 2 Searchlight Regiment were making their way to Dunkirk from Moeres, departing Dunkirk for England on 27th May.
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The war units diary records the following:

    27/5/40 (Monday)

    "Y" Squadron (Capt. HH Turcan) and "X" Squadron (Capt. J Haggas) went out on patrol. "Y" Squadron went out early in the morning east to the area Terdeghem and "X" Squadron later on south to Hondeghem.

    "Y" Squadron remained out in position all day in support of a battery of artillery. In the evening the battery withdrew to Ryveld about 3 miles north of Terdeghem covered by "Y" Squadron. This squadron also withdrew and remained in support of the guns at Ryveld all night. No enemy was encountered during this period.

    "X" Squadron had a more eventful day. On their way to Hondeghem 4th Troop took a wrong turning and met some German tanks. Sergeant Lloyd and Trooper Beer were killed. As this squadron was moving to Hondeghem on the Cassel-St. Marie-Hondeghem road they encountered a good deal of of shelling from German artillery.

    On arrival at the village Captain Haggas found that the only other British troops there were a battery of RHA under the command of Major Ramsden-Hoare. The Germans were shelling the village pretty hard , particularly the church. Two of the RHA guns had been knocked out but two remained in action. Captain Haggas organised patrols in order to try and clear the village of Germans. It was found that the Germans had withdrawn leaving some dead. Later a patrol was sent out to try and locate the enemy. It was found they were advancing on Hondeghem and the force consisted of a number of heavy tanks and embussed infantry. The Germans continued to shell the village till the squadron was ordered to return to Cassel. L/Cpl Haley was wounded bringing a despatch on his M/Cycle. Just before the squadron reached Cassel at about 1800 Hrs, an anti-tank shell hit Lieutenant Dudley Logan's tank and he was killed.


    89785 Lieutenant William Dudley Logan, 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

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    7882047 Sergeant Christopher Lloyd, 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

    7899482 Trooper Wilfred Beer, 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

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  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The two guns being towed by Quads and other troop vehicles made their way with the wounded along the country lane to Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel. On arrival at the village the main road running through the village was found to be in held by the enemy equipped with medium tanks.

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    Entering Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel
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    Orders were hastily given and the British troops took up positions by the church, where they were joined by a group of some twenty men from the Royal Army Service Corps armed with rifles and Bren guns. The Germans by now were aware of the arrival of the British troops and a volley of stick grenades were thrown in their direction from behind the headstones in the graveyard. The Germans now appeared to be on right as well as to the front. The troop commander decided that the best way now to dislodge the Germans to their front was at the point of the bayonet with a charge. Orders were given the the men to fix bayonets and two parties were formed one advancing around each side of the churchyard wall. Everyman now shouting at the top of their voice in an attempt to scare the living daylights out of the enemy. The first three or four Germans encountered were shout and the fear in the rest was apparent. The remainder of the enemy in the churchyard dropped their weapons and ran away.

    Looking at where the original graveyard was and the bayonet charge took place.
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    Taking advantage of the situation both 18 pounders were un-limbered and were put into action again with F Troop finishing off what little ammunition they had left by pumping round and round into the buildings occupied by the Germans. One gun, thought to be K Sub-Section with ammunition expended was limbered back to its Quad but was almost immediately blown to pieces by two direct hits from a German gun that was firing from along the road.

    This picture is credited as being taken at Cassel but I think it could be K Sub-Section.
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    The situation started to get desperate but the gallant men continued to fight in small parties with bayonets fixed, attacking building used as strong points by the Germans. The remaining 18 pounders also continued to fire until it had run out of ammunition. With the sun setting and the enemy firing Verey lights into the sky it was decided that the Germans were signalling for reinforcements and it was time to leave. The remaining men piled into the serviceable lorries and the only surviving gun, thought to be L Sub Section, was put out of action and abandoned.

    Looking at the staggered junction across the main road.
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    Driving as fast as they could they drove passed the church graveyard across turning sharply to the left then taking an immediate right after obseving several tanks blocking their initial escape route. To make matters worse after turning right they were met with a hail of machine gun fire from a building that the Germans had turned into a strong point.

    Looking at the approach of vehicles from the last MG Strongpoint.
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    The lead vehicle was accidently ditched after attempting to negotiate the bends too fast-They had no choice but to drive hell for leather due to the amount of fire they were attracting. The first vehicle was abandoned and the occupants scrambled into the third vehicle from the column when it came around the bend. Meanwhile the second vehicle never made the bend where the car was ditched. The driver had taken the first bend so fast he decided to go straight ahead through the hedge into a grass field. Fortunately the ground was dry and the vehicle kept moving nearly running over a German in the process who was hiding in the grass. Keeping the vehicle moving the driver eventually made the road across the field. The German machine gun was still firing at any of the vehicles it could get in its sights.

    After the small convoy of vehicles had passed through the village they proceeded along the road for around a mile before coming across a party of the East Riding Yeomanry, who were surprised to see them-They had just mined the road they had driven along from Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel! Sources say that one car and one 30cwt truck was blown up by the mines by luckily all of the men escaped injury and continued their journey on foot.

    The mined escape road with the field that one of the vehicles drove through on the left.
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    The fight at Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel lasted around two and half hours and again all ranks showed the utmost bravery and coolness under fire, which one could consider all the more remarkable as they had been fighting almost continuously since 0700 Hrs and the fact they were in the main, artillery men.

    So ended an eventful day in the history of K Battery, which proved the worth of good training and strict discipline-something that would be demonstrated time and time again in the next five years. Throughout the day the men took their orders and carried them out to the best of their ability with total faith in their NCO's and Officers. Some men were singled out for individual praise and received decorations, as you will see in later posts, but all of the men that fought on that day, not only fought for the finest traditions of the British Army but for their regiment and battery. The regiment paid a heavy price in casualties, documents state that F Troop lost 45 men out of 63, but one thing that stands even today, is the bravery of those that fell and that they are still remembered annually by the regiment - especially K Battery, their families and the village of Hondeghem !
     
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

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    :poppy: :poppy: :poppy:

    7890226 Warrant Officer Class III (T.S.M.) Thomas Wyatt Arbon, 1st East Riding Yeomanry.
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    815054 Gunner Thomas Davis, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    884483 Gunner John Foster, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    932189 Gunner George Frost, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    828429 Lance Bombardier Joseph Austin Gardner, 226 Bty., 57 (1/5th Bn. The East Surrey Regt.) Anti-Tank Regt.
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    816146 Sergeant Charles Heaton, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    868198 Reginald Charles Starr Hindle, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    1045277 Gunner Edward Kemp, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    T/2567531 Driver Leslie Little, Royal Army Service Corps
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    813964 Lance Sergeant Alexander Brown McKay, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    828240 Lance Bombardier Edward McVeigh, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    7891292 Lance Corporal Herbert Ostler, 1st East Riding Yeomanry.
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    1061463 Sergeant George Harry Pallant, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    802264 Lance Sergeant Henry Chambers Parker, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    805682 Gunner George Henry Pinner, 5th Royal Horse Artillery
    CWGC :: Certificate

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    :poppy: :poppy: :poppy:
     
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    On the 26th May, 1940 "K" Battery, RHA, less 2 Troops was ordered to defend the village of Hondeghem with approximately 75 personnel of a searchlight battery.

    Major RR Hoare, MC, RHA, was in command.

    There were no infantry posts infront of the village. At approximately 0700 hrs on 27th May, 1940, German mechanised forces attacked the village in considerable strength in comparison to the armaments and personnel available for defending it. The first onslaught caused two guns and detachments to be knocked out together with at least 5 Bren guns and their crews. The remaining personnel and two guns defended half the village from 0700 hrs until 1610 hrs when ammunition began to run out, the village being almost entirely surrounded by the enemy.

    The 18 pounders were man-handled throughout the day under a hail of rifle and machine-gun fire with the purpose of firing direct on enemy posts and small trench guns. Three enemy armoured vehicles were ditched and at least 2 machine-guns were known to be completely destroyed. One machine-gun in particular was just about to sweep the village square from the cookhouse doorway, when an 18 pounder scored a direct hit at approximately 60 yards range. On another ocassion the other 18 pounder blew up the ammunition dump of a trench gun and silenced it for over three hours. Throughout the entire day all shooting was over open sights. The shooting of the supporting Troop, situated near Cassel was excellent and it was possible to bring a proper barrage (although only one gun was left for them to fire with) at approximately 50 yards from the line defended.

    At approximately 1610 hrs the Battery Commander ordered a withdrawal due to lack of ammunition for reasons already stated in this report. Two guns were withdrawn, but unfortunately the column entered a German ambush, losing both guns and a number of casualties and wounded.

    Successful Recommendations:

    Distinguished Service Order - Major RR Hoare MC, "K" Battery, RHA, for conspicuous gallantry throughout the action, for his cool conduct and the excellent example he set to all ranks.

    This officer co-ordinated the defence of the village and remained in direct command throughout the operation, himself remaining in the village until all others living had been able to withdraw. It was entirely due to his great ability in organisation and control that so many of the defenders were eventually able to return to the regiment after holding up the attack for 9 hours and inflicting severe casualties on the enemy.

    Colonel RR Hoare DSO, MC, 5 Royal Horse Artillery
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    Military Cross - Captain NBC Teacher, "K" Battery, RHA, for conspicuous gallantry throughout the day and for the splendid example he set to all ranks. He largely attributed to the cause of our being able to hold the village for so long.

    This officer was wounded during the withdrawal.

    Major NBC Teacher MC, 5 Royal Horse Artillery
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    Distinguished Conduct Medal - 1068242 BSM Millard RJ, "K" Battery, RHA, for conspicuous gallantry in man-handling guns under rifle and machine-gun fire so as to enable them to knock out enemy posts. He set a splendid example to all ranks.

    RSM R Millard DCM, 5 Royal Horse Artillery
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    Military Medal (Recommended for Distinguished Conduct Medal) - 800840 Gunner Kavanagh C, "K" Battery, RHA, For serving his gun throughout the day under fire of every description, with coolness and disregard to personal safety.

    Unsuccessful Recommendations:

    Distinguished Conduct Medal - 816416 Sergeant Heaton C, "K" Battery, RHA, postumous award for serving his gun throughout the day under fire of every description, showing a splendid example to all ranks.

    Military Medal - 934371 Gunner Lewis DJ, "K" Battery, RHA, for carrying ammunition over areas swept by rifle and machine-gun fire and for never flinching in doing his duty.

    Military Medal - 812412 Sergeant Talbot S, "K" Battery, RHA, for maintaining signal communication by wireless with great calmness throughout the day in spite of being under fire practically the whole time.

    Military Medal - 824281 Gunner Dix LE, "K" Battery, RHA, throughout the battle, through his calmness under intense enemy fire, assisted in keeping successful wireless between Hondeghem and the rear battery position. His calmness was an example to all ranks.

    Mention in Despatches - 2nd Lieutenant FDN Simon, "K" Battery, RHA, for the splendid example he set to all ranks and for the cheerful and cool manner in which he carried out his duty. This officer was wounded both during the action and again in the withdrawal.
     
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    At the end of the war when Troop Sergeant Major R Opie returned to the UK he wrote the following report.

    On the morning of May, 27th at approximately 0400 hrs I visited all gun positions in and around the village and found everything present and correct. The whole of the troop 'stood to'. On completion of my rounds, I returned to the cookhouse in the village, collected the morning 'gun fire' in a 15-cwt, and proceeded to take it around the gun and and Bren gun positions. On finishing, I reported to Captain Teacher that everything was in order. I then proceeded to clean up.

    Next, I again returned to the cookhouse to inspect breakfast, and found that the two cooks, as usual, had everything well under way. The LMG site, manned by Gunner Aspinal and another, was behind the cookhouse. I spent about 15 minutes here, talking and giving orders for improvements around the position.

    I then went into the village, met BSM R Millard and reported the whole position so far. The BSM to the best of my knowledge returned to the house, which was being used as an officers' mess.

    Immediately after I had left the BSM, a Bren carrier which had been out on patrol reported to me that German tanks in great strength were coming up the road facing J Sub-Section. I directed the Bren carrier to the officers' mess and proceeded at once to J Sub-Section. I had given orders to the carrier to report the position to Major Hoare or Captain Teacher.

    On arrival at J Sub-Section, I found everyone and the gun ready for action. The roadblock, which was about 80 yards down, was closed. The Bren guns were also ready for action.

    After a wait of about three minutes the first German tank came into sight-it was already firing at an anti-tank rifle situated about 60 yards on our right. When the whole of the tank could be seen, I gave the order to fire. The range was approximately 90 yards. The tank was put out of action.

    Immediately several enemy tanks appeared and fanned right and left of the road. I gave orders to engage the right-hand tank. This order was carried out.

    I now saw-coming up the other road on our left-more tanks, and this time infantry armed with tommy guns. I saw at once that the left flank of the position was exposed and would soon be under fire. I ordered the Bren gun to engage the infantry. This was done, inflicting casualties.

    The leading tank coming up the left-hand road now opened up with his machine gun, killing the No.2 with his first burst. Practically at the same time the gun received a direct hit from a tank. Gunner Manning was very badly wounded around the head and chest; I was wounded in the head; and another (either No.5 or 6) was killed.

    Small arms fire by this time was pouring into the gunpit from the front and left flank. Gunner Manning received heavy wounds in both legs.

    I pulled the dead No.2 out of the seat and then went to Manning, who refused to move. I was forced to push him down between the shield and his seat to get him out. I could see that he could not live for long. He still insisted he was alright and wanted to go back to his position.

    Next, I went to the No.3 position and found on inspection that the open sight, elevating and traversing wheels were all smashed.

    By this time one enemy tank had already passed the position and was being engaged by I Sub-Section. Enemy infantry were around the gunpit; we were prisoners and the position overrun.

    I have nothing but praise for the way in which the Germans looked after us all. Manning and Artificer White were taken away in a staff car to hospital. White had been badly wounded by the first tank to pass us. They both died in hospital. As for the rest of us, they dressed us all and after their own wounded had been taken from the field, took us to their CCS in St. Omer.

    I should like to say that the troops (Including AA personnel) in this small action behaved in a manner worthy of the highest traditions of the Royal Regiment. All remained cool throughout. Gunner Manning is in my humble opinion, worthy of an award, if this is possible after so long a time. I shall always consider it an honour and a privilege to have seen such courage and devotion to duty.
     
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