6283331 Corporal Francis Clark SHILLING, 2 Bn The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by Tony Shilling, Nov 15, 2018.

  1. Tony Shilling

    Tony Shilling Member

    I am trying to find out more about my uncle Cpl Francis Clark Shilling, 6283331, and his military service, particularly that in WW2 in which he died.

    To date my research confirms that he was regular in the 2nd Bn The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) and that he died on 23 May 1940 and is buried in White House Cemetery, St Jean-Les-Ypres.

    At the time of his death the Battalion was deployed in the defensive line at Petegem facing the German across the River Escaut.

    I'm trying to find out what Company he was in, its location and deployment at the time of the battle, his role in the Company, and whether he was killed on 23 May, or was wounded at an earlier date subsequently died on that date.

    I also want to follow the Battalions retreat to Dunkirk following the Battle.

    Tony Shilling
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

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  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

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  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Forum member Andy will be the best point of call plus he will be able to get the war diaries copied for you at a reasonable cost.
    I have sent him a private message

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  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    By the 23rd the Battalion was down to 7 officers and 320 other ranks. On the 23rd the diary records them as being shelled all day at Courtrai.
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  6. Tony Shilling

    Tony Shilling Member

    Hi Clive
    Thanks for your suggestion and the photo of my uncle's headstone. I'm awaiting a copy of his service record and Andy has been in contact.
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  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Just for information and hopefully interest

    England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995
    Name: Clark Francis Shilling
    Death Date: 23 May 1940
    Death Place: Kent, England
    Probate Date: 2 Aug 1940
    Registry: London, England

    England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
    Name: Clark Francis Shilling
    Registration Year: 1908
    Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar
    Registration district: East Ashford
    Parishes for this Registration District: View Ecclesiastical Parishes associated with this Registration District
    Inferred County: Kent
    Volume: 2a
    Page: 987

    UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
    Name: Franceise Shilling
    Given Initials: F C
    Rank: Corporal
    Death Date: 23 May 1940
    Number: 6283331
    Birth Place: Kent
    Residence: Kent
    Regiment at Enlistment: Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
    Branch at Enlistment: Infantry
    Theatre of War: France and Belgium Campaign, 1939/40
    Regiment at Death: Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
    Branch at Death: Infantry

    1911 England Census
    Name: Clark Shilling
    Age in 1911: 3
    Estimated Birth Year: abt 1908
    Relation to Head: Son
    Gender: Male
    Birth Place: South Willesbrough, Kent
    Civil Parish: Willesborough
    Search Photos: Search for 'Willesborough' in the UK City, Town and Village Photos collection
    County/Island: Kent
    Country: England
    Street address: 6 Aylesford Green, Spring Cottages, South Willesborough, Ashford, Kent
    Marital Status: Single
    Registration district: East Ashford
    Registration District Number: 56
    Sub-registration district: Brabourne
    ED, institution, or vessel: 13
    Household schedule number: 201
    Piece: 4284
    Household Members:
    Name Age
    Alfred Shilling 36
    Agnes Shilling 28
    Harold Shilling 6
    Agnes Shilling 5
    Clark Shilling 3
    Charley Hayward 33

    The records seem to change his forenames around from Clark Francis to Francis Clark ??

    There are also 3 family trees that include him on Ancestry - however 2 of them state:
    Birth: January 1908 (Jan 1908) - Kent, Ontario, Canada - why that is I have no idea espacially as the detailed tree for the same creator shows :
    Clark Francis Shilling
    BIRTH JANUARY 1908 • South Willesbrough, Kent
    DEATH 23 MAY 1940 • Dunkirk, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France

    Ah well
  8. Tony Shilling

    Tony Shilling Member

    Thanks for the information about my uncle. I had already gathered much of the information but what you have provided is more detailed and most helpful.

    The reversal of his forenames made things a little difficult, but that was resolved through the CWGC website where I found he was buried in the White House Cemetery, St Jean-Les-Ypres, Belgium. The associated information gave the names of his farther, mother, and wife. I'd also seen the Canadian entry you refer to, but that is clearly coincidence.

    Thank you again for your help

  9. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Hi Tony,
    My grandfather was with 139 (Army) Field Regiment, which was a GHQ asset deployed in support of 2 Buffs and 1/6 Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment around Petegem. I'll share the research and analysis I've done on the fight at this area of the Escaut here in case it's of any help.

    Here's the situation around Petegem in a sketch map from 2 Buffs (if Andy is getting you the war diary you'll find this at the end of May's entries):


    Here's a clearer map, which comes from The History of The Queen's Royal Regiment Vol VIII 1924-1948 (my annotations plonked on top):


    2 Buffs and 1/6 Queens had prepared positions along the north bank of the winding river/canal line and around the villages of Petegem and Elsegem. 139 Field was dug just behind them on the ridge of (relatively) high ground running between Anzegem and Knok, with five guns forward as an anti-tank screen. As a Second Line TA unit equipped with WW1-vintage 18 pounders they had been obliged to take up a vulnerable position on the forward slopes, overlooked by high ground from across the river; the artillery regiments with heavier (and more modern) guns and howitzers were able to dig in on the reverse slopes as their higher trajectory would allow them to lob shells over the ridge.
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  10. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    First Contact: 19 & 20 May

    The first contact came at 10 a.m. on 19 May when Stukas attacked the railway station and British vehicles crossing the bridges at Eine and Oudenaarde, about two miles east of 139 Field's position. The last bridges were demolished by the engineers later that morning and the infantry sank all boats and barges along the canal to prevent their use by the enemy. At around midday on 20 May the first German ground units in the area were spotted: cyclists moving down the steep wooded hill into Melden. These were at first thought to be refugees but were subsequently identified as enemy troops, and the guns of 139 Field were brought into their first action of the war to engage them: the 1/6 Queen's War Diary reports that 'Artillery engaged with apparently good effect'.

    At 3.30 p.m. German infantry moved forward from Melden and Meersche and made an attempted crossing at the canal loop (to the north-west of Melden on the map); this was repulsed by ‘D’ Company of 1/6 Queen’s but the Germans maintained pressure and a number of the company's forward posts were destroyed by mortar fire. 1/6 Queens brought up their reserves and 2 Buffs sent two platoons of their own reserve (half of ‘B’ Company) to assist; this would later prove to be a mistake by The Buffs, as their reserves were to be badly needed at their own positions around Petegem a few hours later.

    Throughout the evening and into the night, according to the 1/6 Queen’s Diary, concentrated barrages of heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire came in, followed up by further attempts by infantry to cross the canal. 139 Field's Diary notes vigorous attempted crossings at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. with the guns of the Regiment being called upon to fire on their SOS tasks.

    Meanwhile, to the east at Petegem, the situation for 2 Buffs deteriorated rapidly. At around 8 p.m. the Germans attacked in force, driving the forward companies of the Buffs from their positions. At midnight the Buffs attempted to counter-attack but suffered severe losses as the enemy had already brought up machine-guns to defend the ground that they had taken. Another counter-attack was attempted at 3 a.m. this time with artillery support, but this too failed. With dawn breaking, and much of Petegem demolished and burning fiercely, the Germans began pushing west into Château Wood towards Elsegem, cutting off and driving back more platoons of The Buffs. As the enemy approached the railway line, less than 500 yards from 139 Field’s 362 Battery position and apparently unstoppable, the Battery Commander sought permission to start withdrawing the guns from their cramped and awkward location before they were overrun. The situation rapidly swung back in favour of the British forces before permission could be granted; the determined action of a few platoons and sections, acting independently, managed to stabilise the line, and Captain Pearson of 139 Field went forward to take part in one of these actions with the carrier platoon from 1/5 Queen’s reinforcing from the west, relaying fire requests and information back to the Regiment’s guns. By 9 a.m. the German advance had been stopped, but sporadic infantry fighting and artillery and mortar fire continued.
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  11. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Breakthrough & Withdrawal: 21 May

    During this lull, 139 Field received orders to pull back towards Courtrai to set up a defence of the bridges over the Roulers Canal and River Lys. As they made preparations to move in the early afternoon, however, the pace of the German attack gathered once again. At around 1.30 p.m. the Regiment’s unfortunate positions on the forward slope were to prove fatal; German artillery observers had located 139 Field’s gun pits and now called in accurate counter-battery fire against them. During this bombardment Captain Campbell was hit and killed at 364 Battery’s ‘E’ Troop gun position, Second-Lieutenant Dalton was wounded at 362’s ‘A’ Troop position, and Captain Sutherland (the Medical Officer attached to the Regiment from the R.A.M.C.) was mortally wounded while moving up to treat the casualties, his sergeant-orderly being killed instantly by the same shell. 139 Field completed the withdrawal under intense shellfire, suffering two more casualties from the signals section, abandoning five of the guns at the awkward 362 Battery position and losing a signals truck and two of the Quads from 364 Battery. The rest of the guns, vehicles and stores were got away successfully.

    Meanwhile, at around 3 p.m. the 1/6 Queen’s Diary reports the advance of a strong German force around Elsegem. The position for 2 Buffs, running short of men and ammunition, was now impossible; the battalion managed to evacuate most of its substantial casualties, loading them onto Bren Carriers, and withdrew under heavy machine-gun fire, with the last elements of the Headquarters Company leaving at 8.45 p.m.

    1/6 Queen’s, having lost communication to Division in the rear, continued the fight. A counter-attack by a force composed mostly of signals clerks and other staff from Battalion H.Q. cleared the Château grounds, and the posts there were re-occupied by reinforcements arriving from their sister battalion, 1/5 Queen’s. They were now outflanked and almost surrounded, however. By 8 p.m. the Germans had taken Elsegem and had also crossed the Escaut further west of their position. The remnants of the battalion were ordered to fight their way back northwards across the railway line at 9.15 p.m. towards the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, which had been rushed in to fill the gap. 139 Field, meanwhile, was on its way to take up the next defensive line at the Roulers Canal, and by 9 o’clock on the morning of 22 May had all of its remaining guns in position to cover the bridges over which the British Expeditionary Force was to retreat.
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  12. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    2 Buffs 139 Ex2.jpg

    Excerpt from 139th (Army) Field Regiment R.A. War Diary, May 1940 describing the fighting in Petegem during the morning of 21 May

    1 Queens 21st.jpg

    Excerpt from 1/6th Battalion The Queen’s Royal Regiment War Diary, May 1940 describing the withdrawal of the Battalion on the evening of 21 May

    The personal account of Ernest Edlmann, MC (2 Buffs' Intelligence Officer) can be found at this link.
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  13. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Regarding the retreat of 2 Buffs to Dunkirk, a bit of extra info can be gleaned from the diary of 1/6 Queens in which 2 Buffs are mentioned a couple of times:

    Q1.jpg Q2.jpg Q3.jpg Q4.jpg
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  14. Tony Shilling

    Tony Shilling Member

    Hi PR
    Thank you for the information, I found it totally absorbing.
    The artillery involvement struck a chord as 58 years ago I joined 297 Light AA Reg't Kent Yeomanry(Duke of Connaught's Own) based at Ashford, Kent. During WWII it was 386 Battery 97 Field Reg't, with whom another uncle served.
    I'm going through the process of obtaining my uncle's service record and i'll keep you posted as my research develops.
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  15. GaryW

    GaryW New Member

    I have just come across this stream by accident, whilst I was researching the military past of my great grandfather, Alfred Harold Staples Shilling. I did spend a great deal of 2017 researching the action at Petegem involving my great uncle. Cpl Francis Clark Shilling. He was the brother of my grandfather Albert Shilling. I have read the war diary of the Buffs and studied various books on the actions around the Escault. I have my own theory on what happened but did you come to any conclusions yourself ?
    Gary Washbrook
  16. Tony Shilling

    Tony Shilling Member

    Hi Gary
    Thanks for making contact. My farther, Walter Shilling was Albert,s brother, so that makes us 2nd cousins.
    My research into Francis has had to take a back seat due to other priorities. However, I did make contact with his son Robert Shilling and have meet up with him a couple of time since. As a result of our meeting I was able to get a copy of Francis' service record.
    I'd always assumed that Francis was serving with the infantry when he was killed, but when I first met Robert, he told me that his farther was a gunner at the time he was killed. I thought this strange until his service record came through, wherein I found that he'd been attached to 53 Anti-tank Battery RA from 22 January to 12 February 1940. However, I've not been able to find out anything about that battery and from there on the trail goes cold.
    I though I'd posted a copy of my research on the site, but I don't see it, so I've a copy.
  17. Tony Shilling

    Tony Shilling Member

    Hi Gary
    Thanks for getting in touch.
    My father, Walter was Albert's brother and up until about 1948 both our families lived in Crayford.
    My research into Francis Clark Shilling led me to his sole surviving child, Robert Shilling, and with his help I was able to get hold a complete copy of Francis' service record.
    I've met up with Robert a couple of times and learned a lot more about the Shilling side of the family. He also told me that Francis was serving with the artillery at the time he was killed. I was surprised at this until I read in his service record that he had been attached to 53 Anti-tank Battery RA from 22/1 to 12/2/1940. From there on there is nothing to say where he was serving other than he was still on the strength of 2 Buffs,
    Attached is a copy of what I have found out so far.

    Attached Files:

  18. GaryW

    GaryW New Member

    Thank you so much for sharing your research, really interesting. My mother recalls that you also lived in Green Walk, Crayford, as she did until I was about 6 months old (born in 1957). Its a small world.
    I have attached my account of the Battle of the Escault, centred around the Buffs (created in 2017, so it will now need amending).
    On reviewing our research you can't rule out that Clark was serving as a gunner at the time but I think there is strong evidence that he was fighting with the Buffs, with the main points as follows:
    • The service record indicates he went back to the Buffs after the RA attachment
    • The promotion is really interesting as it falls into line with a notation on the map featured above. It is not clear on this map but what could be L/S Shilling is written underneath 2/Lt Pearson and 8 platoon. Having copied another similar map from the war diary, it is much clearer. That section from the second map I have enlarged on my attachment.
    • The action that 8 platoon were involved with was quite intense with many casualties from A Company, Was Clark injured during that initial onslaught ?
    • Clark is buried at the St Jean Cemetery together with 4 others from the Royal West Kents, Queens and Sussexes, all showing the same date of death as 23rd May. Had they all been badly injured and died on the hasty retreat or whilst being cared for at the same aid post or hospital ?
    • Although the cause of Clark's death is not recorded, if he was attached to an artillery unit, it is less likely he would have been shot.
    In whatever scenario Clark faced I can only imagine the real horror of war and of those early frenetic days of the Germans invading France and Belgium. My utmost respect goes out to all those who fought.

    If you should have contact with Robert again please pass on my regards to him and my immense sense of pride I have in the sacrifice he made for all of us.

    Stay safe

    Attached Files:

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  19. Tony Shilling

    Tony Shilling Member

    Hi Gary
    I plan to meet up again with Robert at some once all the trouble with Covid19 has abated.
    I'm sure he'd like to hear from you and I think it would come as a very pleasant surprise if you dropped him an email and with a copy of your research to introduce your self.
    Rather than deal with family matters on WWII Talk, drop me and email (tonyshilling1@gmail.com) and I'll pass his contact details on to you.
    It's amazing how our research into Francis death is bringing his family together.
    I thoroughly enjoyed you paper.
    Thank you

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