1st (British) Infantry Division BEF 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by Uncle Target, Jul 4, 2021.

  1. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Inspired by Rich Payne's From the Dyle to the Sea. Where can I find specific records of the movement and actions of the 1st Infantry Division Artillery who were tasked with defending the beaches at Dunkirk.
    I have a few links which give personal accounts, are there any official ones or is it a case of looking at the Divisions War Diary.

    BOOKS: Belt, Boots and Spurs BY JONATHAN RABAN

    Dunkirk (vandwdestroyerassociation.org.uk)

    BBC - WW2 People's War - Dunkirk 1940 – Major T Averill T.D. R.A. (Army No 93869)
    Article ID: A2444168

    Remembering the Dunkirk Evacuations – Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service

    I am seeking a task for the coming "campaign season" if I am to progress with WW2.
    Perhaps this will be suitable.
    I have prepared a hand drawn sketch of where I believe the Artillery were dug in, based on a sketch by Major Tom Averill.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 4, 2021
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Have a word with Drew5233 - Andy should be able to furnish copies of the relevant war diaries.

    There is also Farndale's RA history The Years of Defeat that covers the campaign.
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  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    THere may be some untapped sources if someone wants to dig into the RA Archives now at Larkhill.

    In 1981, as the battery history officer for 129 battery, I interviewed an officer who was a subaltern in 51/54 Dragon battery in the 1940 campaign. He gave me a copy of the essay he had been told to write afterr Dunkirk about his experiences. He said it was a sort of COs essay. Hois ran to 30 pages of handwritten notes and comments. Brilliant material about that campaign. He also handed in a copy to Firepower. I suspect his CO cannot have been then only one to ask his officers to write up their individual experiences. It seems an obvious thing to do.

    I wonder what other gems might lurk in some dusty box in the RA archives waiting for someone.....
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  4. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    I have in the past been researching for myself and others but this is different. My aim is to encourage and allow the activity of others.
    For a year and a quarter I have been locked up and isolated due to Covid with only the internet and telephone to communicate with others.
    My car disintegrated so I could not go out and in any case there was nowhere that I could go. Not even to visit my granddaughter.

    I appreciate the use of his forum to help people keep their sanity by allowing them to use their brains and achieve goals.
    I now have a car again but am limited as to how far I can travel due to both the restrictions and cost.

    I am trying to devise a task that others can share without creating a nuisance to those serious students/authors or collectors.

    I feel that this might be such a task, as others can submit articles, links or family photos.
    I am not writing a book on this, much the reverse. I have written a few books which will never be published for several reasons but mainly cost.
    They have been for bespoke family histories using their private resources, provided free of charge as a hobby.
    They may be published some day but unlikely in their current format as they are written for people with little no Military experience, children grand children etc.

    Having established that many regard these threads as a story line, should we not pool our resources and string them together to make a story or historical record on line where it can be read by all.
    It would be relatively easy to end this thread by posting a detailed War Diary or Story Line about the 1st Division with the BEF but would it not be of more value to both members and potential visitors to put together personal experiences from individuals who were there at the time thereby satisfying both expert and general interest.

    Your advice and reaction will be gratefully accepted.
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  5. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Thank you Sheldrake, I was advidsed by Larkhill to contact my local TA Centre regarding their records. They do indeed carry some, mostly I found the records of reunions etc.

    However here is my transcribed excerpt from what appears to be part of a report by Lt Col Hobson OC 67th Field Regt. it was on a carbon copy of one page with no heading, name, or date found in a family collection. Redacted and simplified for ease of their understanding.

    Lt Col Hobson MC went around the lines to see that everyone was clear and with Wrighton his batman, arrived at the port in a Baby Austin. They went along the Mole and got on the destroyer HMS Worcester. She had one propeller and half a rudder, a mile from Dunkirk she was attacked by nine bombers. Fortunately due to the excellent seamanship of the Lt Commander the large ones missed but several small ones hit. We were then machine gunned. About 24 were killed and 100 wounded out of 450.
    The Ship successfully negotiated the treacherous Goodwin Sands, towards the end, the journey became tedious, so to give us a thrill, we collided with another ship.
    We stood up at such an angle that the dead fell into the sea, a lot of the live ones had to be got out too.
    Five tugs arrived to help us into port where we arrived more dead than alive.
    We got to Aldershot washed, shaved and slept and are now for Leeds.
    We lost all our kit, guns and vehicles, all of which we did in. The loss was awful.
    We were out manoeuvred completely but never out fought.
    Our orders from the French were to occupy the Dyle Line at Louvain, we never had a chance when the French gave in on our right.
    We were lucky to be in 1 Division. We were the only show to retire in order and came to the end with all our guns (1 Div I mean and the 50th Div Artillery).
    I don’t know my losses but very inconsiderable really, considering we fought the whole time.
    My Infantry Brigadier (Hudson VC 2nd Infantry Brigade) was a gem. Three days before the end he decided to attack with one company at 3pm under 67th Fire. He did and took eleven prisoners (two officers) losses nil. We caught three battalions in the open and wiped them out”.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2021
  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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  7. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Thank you TD I have never seen this. It seems to provide a good overview of the campaign. I will spend some time reading it.
    I am trying to take my time as I have a nasty habit of overdoing things. I was in my day, a sprinter and if not careful will dash hither and thither tiring myself out.
    I also want to give others a chance to contribute, you never know what might turn up.
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    How about combining this with some of the online work instittued by the RAHS and RA Archive? I think the idea of a collaborative project is brilliant.

    The trouble with online resources is that without some institutional support the project is at great risk when the volunteer driving the project dies or becomes incapacitated. For E.G Nigel Evan's excellent artillery website. (Now being supported by the Gunners ) The good thing about books is that they last. Online resources require constant maintenance to cope with changes to operatign systems, browsers etc. It would be a shame for all the work to e lost to the future. It would be worth thinking about collaboratign with an institution that falued the research and willing to maintain it.

    The Gunner side is largely neglected in histiography, and I know who to talk to, but I suspect the NAM might be supportive.
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  9. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    I feel that a collaborative project is the only recourse for the moment. Larkhill have seemingly gone through a lot of trauma with little resources. As far as I am aware their records are still twixt the NA and Larkhill.

    I am changing my "axis of advance" from one Regiment to a whole Division in order to hopefully attract a larger audience but probably need to explain in layman's terms who was in the Division so that they can understand whether Grandpa was part of it and see an opportunity to join in.

    1st Division was of course Commanded by General Alexander in its BEF role (at Anzio the Artillery regarded themselves as "Alexanders Nut Crackers" but that was much later).
    There were three Field Artillery Regiments: 2nd 19th and 67th. I think the 81st Anti Tank came later. They were at that time made up with two batteries. The 67th were 265 (Worcester) an 266 (Malvern). I have no details on the 2nd or 19th.
    I am not sure quite which Infantry Divisions were in the thee Brigades in the BEF.
    1 IB were Guards, 2 IB the Loyal's, 2nd North Staffs and 6th Gordons. 3IB DWR, 2nd Foresters and possibly KSLI.
    Need some help on this so I will stand aside to let someone else jump in for a while.
    The idea is after all to share the thread with others but keep it rolling.
  10. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    1st Infantry Division (United Kingdom)


    Battle of France
    Order of Battle, France 1940[24]
    General Officer Commanding: Maj-Gen Hon. H.R.L.G. Alexander
    1st Guards Brigade Brig M.B. Beckwith-Smith
    3rd Bn Grenadier Guards
    2nd Bn Coldstream Guards
    2nd Bn Hampshire Regiment
    2nd Infantry Brigade Brig C.E. Hudson
    1st Bn The Loyal Regiment
    2nd Bn North Staffordshire Regiment
    6th Bn Gordon Highlanders
    3rd Infantry Brigade Brig T.N.F. Wilson
    1st Bn The Duke of Wellington's Regiment
    2nd Bn The Sherwood Foresters
    1st Bn The King's Shropshire Light Infantry
    Divisional Troops - Royal Artillery[24][25]
    2nd Field Regt (35, 42, 53 & 87 Batteries)[26]
    19th Field Regt (29, 39, 96 & 97 Batteries)[27]
    67th (South Midland) Field Regt (265 (Worcester) & 266 (Worcester) Batteries)[28]
    21st Anti-Tank Regt (Q, Y, Z & BB Batteries)[29]
    Divisional Troops - Royal Engineers[24]
    23rd, 238th, 248th Field Companies
    6th Field Park Company
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  11. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

  12. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Some changes to the artillery units above. The information was taken from my old site which was either out of date or incorrectly quoted. I have edited the page to bring it up to date. The changes are:
    2 Field Regt (35/87 & 42/53 Batteries)
    19 Field Regt (29/97 & 39/96 Batteries)
    67 Field Regt (265 (Worcester) & 266 (Malvern) Batteries)
  13. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    To kick start the story of the 1st Division in the BEF I will occasionally post excerpts from letters etc There arn't many as life was initially slow but once things warmed up there was little time to write home. Hopefully others might have stories to add so that this thread becomes a record of the Division not just of a few people in one unit. There are of course notes, historical facts and even possible photos of the campaign sitting in suitcases under beds awaiting a new dawn.
    Your comments are eagerly awaited.

    The Division sailed to France in January 1940 and began settling in to life in France and Belgium.
    The pace of life and the differences to England were immediately noticeable.

    Transcribed by myself from letters courtesy of the Shepherd Family.
    Lt David Shepherd 265/67 BEF 4.2.40

    My word doesnt everyone crowd around for letters. You cant imagine how much we appreciate having letters from home.
    I have censored dozens of letters every day. I see the same thing in every letter.
    Everyone is homesick. Waiting here with plenty of time for thought makes it worse.
    It is essential to have a rich family background, which I have, in order to live on ones memories of it.

    We are in a very small village in a very large farm where most of the men are.
    My billett is a tiny cottage with a comfy bed and fire. I am able to air all my damp clothes which get damp training.
    Lots of quaint peasants live in the village and are very friendly. In the last war they had Germans billeted on them!
    Instead of a morning cup of tea I have a bowl of black coffee. I went in to talk with them this morning, had a bowl of soup and a croissant.
    My French is getting quite good. Yesterday I went to buy coal, 10 tons from a pithead.
    Last night some of us went to a dinner in a neighbouring town.
  14. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    I wonder if we can work the magic of WW2t and locate where the unit was based at this time. There were two Batteries of the 67th 265/67 and 266/67.
    Can we locate where the other units i.e. Infantry Battalions were billeted and the Divisional HQ.

    (temporarily lost track of this thread was it due to moderator(s) by any chance? Continued in next posting)
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2021
  15. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Perhaps it would be possible to locate where the rest of the 1st Div were billeted at this time.
    Having read the Hyper War link it seems that later some infantry battalions were transferred else where to make up for casualty losses.
    At which point it might be possible to identify where they went and how they got home.
    It would be useful to identify the key dates during the campaign the changes of locations should anyone join the thread wanting to locate relatives.
    The Division had a rendezvous on at least one occasion during their withdrawal. from memory circa 17/18 May when Capt Jimmy Styles disappeared.
  16. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    In February 2nd Infantry Brigade 1st Loyals, 2nd North Staffs and 6th Gordons supported by the 67th FR moved to the area of La Cocquerie,north of Douai where they proceeded to dig in.
    The Artillery stayed here for three months before moving for firing practice for all the BEF on the old battlefields of the Somme.
    After two days, on May 10th, they were ordered to the River Dyle positions. 67th Field took up position in Leefdaal on 12th May.
  17. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    I find it odd that we can find contacts regarding the 67th a TA Regiment and occassionally get visits to this site from relatives but it seems nothing from the two Regular Regiments the 2nd and 19th Field.
    There is one book written about the 2nd Field by Arthur Cheetham MC but he didnt join until 1941. Someone must have bought a book or two.
    I have never come across anyone from the 19th with the exception of one possibly two REME guys attached to them. Both seemed to evaporate quite quickly from another site.
    Even my neighbours who served in the 19th post war have never been in touch with old comrades. They didnt know each other until I mentioned it.
    It seems that the policy of manning Regiments with men from various parts of the country meant that the camaraderie experienced in the war was lost after demob, particularly in the Regular Regiments whereas the Territorials still met old mates either at work or socialising.
    One Gunner from the 67th did a vehicle mechanic course then was transferred to the 2nd just as the fighting started. After the war he became a Publican in Malvern and Reverted to his previous mates. Two Officers in the 67th were posted to the 19th only one kept in touch and joined the Dunkirk Veterans. Being a High Court Judge he held Assizes in Worcester on occasions. Perhaps he went to Cliff Willis' pub in Worcester where they all seem to have hung out.
    (Cliff Willis appears in Tom Averills Peoples War link #1).
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2021
  18. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    On 10th May the BEF received a sudden jolt, the Phoney War ended when Plan D was instigated.
    The Germans invaded the Low Countries, the Division moved at top speed back to their forward positions
    to occupy the area around Leefdaal on the River Dyle.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2021
  19. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    On the 15th May 67 Field Regt were ordered to withdraw to Brussells . From here the race to Dunkirk was really on.
    On the 17th May, 1st Division were to concentrate at Aspelare

    This was a nightmare move. All the Divison was using the same road, traffic conditions were appalling.
    Exhausted drivers were falling asleep over the wheels of their trucks.
    It was during this time that Captain Jimmy Styles Commanding A Troop went missing.
    He was last seen by his driver advancing towards the enemy armed with a revolver.
    He lies in Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. His date of death is given as 17th May 1940.

    On the 18th with the Regiment complete, they were ordered to move to Voorde.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
  20. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    If my post above was correct and all of 1 Div assembled in the Aspelare area we need to confirm that ALL the Division was actually there.
    Hyperwar tells us that at some point some of the infantry battalions were sent to reinforce positions elsewhere. Does anyone have information to confirm or dispute this? We need to establish if there were any other Rendezvous Points prior to reaching the De Panne area.

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