Kilts and the BEF 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by Owen, Sep 15, 2006.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    There's a nice little article in Saul Davids Sacrifice of a Division that I read today-I'll post it in the next 24hrs.
  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks for setting out the situation in detail. The CO was obviously a determined chap. I wonder if he was able to go as far as he did because 2nd Division's commander, Major General Loyd was perhaps not as strong as he might have been and was replaced as early as 16th May after appearing not to cope with the strain ?.

    Ottenburg is not far from me and I'm intending to ride my 2nd Division Norton over the Dyle and towards Poperinge where Div HQ finally abandoned most of their transport in a couple of weeks. If there are any locations around Ottenburg that you'd like photographed, give me a shout.

    Unfortunately, although much photographed during the phoney war, 2 Div hardly seem to have chanced upon a photographer once the action started so 'then and nows' are restricted There is an image of 1 RWF digging in on the Wavre - Ottenburg road but that's about it. I photographed that location a while ago.
  3. cameronlad

    cameronlad Member

    Rich, I've got a copy of QOCH's war diaries from Drew. They provide quite a bit of narrative to most of their actions/events and some adhoc location and displacement plans, particularly around the Dyle and Ottenburg. I'll scan tonight, post tomorrow. Good to give you some bearings if you're biking around the scene with your camera.

    As for their CO (Wimberely), he didn't last long after raising his head too far above the official parapet regarding the kilt. He was posted off to other things at the end of Dec 1939, to be replaced by a shoe in, Pat Rose-Millar. PRM is someone I'm still researching in relation to what happpened at Violaines/La Bassee.

    Regarding Drews last post showing the article on the 1st Btn Camerons, re roughly "some Cameron's were still wearing kilts when they went off to prison camps". Again it's not factually correct.

    I've got a list of all the POW's - posted appx three months ago. The majority were from B, C, and D coys, all trapped in or near La Bassee due to what I believe were totally bungled communications - and the sniff of a certain distrust from one officer about the nature of the retreat order he received and when from Rose-Millar.

    Those men were all infantry and all in kilts. As said in other posts, my dad was with the remnant of the only platoon to get out from La B. The rest of the men who went into the bag were probably the stragglers of A and Btn HQ coys (but not many) caught out after the scrambled withdrawal from Violaines. The only men I know of who buried their kilts were those left behind and on the run behind enemy lines after the "fall". The kilt was hardly the right civilian gear to walk around in by then.
  4. jf42

    jf42 Junior Member

    As a footnote, Lieut Col Wimberley didn't suffer too long from official disapproval of his rearguard action in defence of the kilt. In fact he was put on something of a fast track and in 1942 'resurfaced' as GOC of the 51st (Highland) Division 'redux.' As "Tartan Tam" he was renowned -notorious- for his insistence upon all things Highland in the Division.

    Arguably, "Tartan Tam's" crowning glory- apart from the small matter of leading his unblooded division through Alamein (with pipers at the head of every company) and into the long pursuit through Libya- was the victory parade in Tripoli, where - "as if from nowhere" - divisional pipes and drums in kilts appeared to accompany the 8th Army in their march past for Churchill.

    I have enjoyed reading this thread immensely as I have a personal connection to the events at St Valery and was pleased to make the last official commemoration in 2010, where strong emotions and strong drink took their toll.

    A question. If protection from gas attack was such an issue, how come Highland battalions wore the kilt throughout the Great War? It's not unlikely that mustard gas caused some unpleasant injuries ((Drawers anti-gas?) but the kilt remained standard where for thousands of soldiers. Perhaps officers who had been young men in the trenches, by the time the Second World War was looming, reflected as Staff Officers and Generals on the scurvy legs and blistered soft parts they had seen or even experienced in the trenches and thought it was time to get practical. Not that those problems were an issue for "Tartan Tam", who had served in the trenches himself. He seemed to understand that sometimes morale could be maintained not only despite of but because of embuggerance.

    Even so, as early as the 1760s and 1770s, the Black Watch and other Highland regiments in America were exchanging their fileadh begs for breeks and Indian leggings....
  5. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    "Big Tam" as he was known to the Camerons, was actually appointed GOC 51st HD from June 1941 to December 1943 after which he was appointed Commandant of the Staff college, Camberley. From July 1940 to May 1941 he was CO of 152 Highland Brigade.
    Perhaps his being CO Africa and Sicily campaigns, explains why 5th Camerons Infantry always carried their kilts with them, wearing them at every opportunity. They took great pride in the fact that they could nearly always turn out a fully kilted contingent at all various parades. They actually increased their stock of kilts once Tobruk had been re-entered, as they found some 2nd Camerons kilts there.
  6. LondonNik

    LondonNik Senior Member

    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  7. cameronlad

    cameronlad Member

    A lovely little quote from London Nik. Fills in more gaps in the episode. More please!!! (and still waiting for Mainwaring's significant letter 51st Highlander. Hope you can find it)
    Meanwhile I'm attaching some details in the follow on post from the QOCH records for Rich regarding their first move to the front line - from Aix into Belgium and the Dyle, 10th-15th May, and locations and actions after at the Escaut, 21st-22nd May 1940.
  8. cameronlad

    cameronlad Member

    Rich Payne, London Nik, et al, attachments re QOCH locations and actions in Belgium here as promised....

    Attached Files:

  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Not sure if he is 51 Highland Div or 2 Inf Div as its one of Rommels pictures taken in May or June.


    They have a dark square unit patch at the top of their left sleeve.

    Like the shot above, it looks a bit flat to be St Valery but I guess if its not La Bassee they could have been taken on the Somme.


    Just found another one on my hard drive.
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Those cottage roofs are northern France Andy. I think that you're right to pin it to La Bassee.
  11. cameronlad

    cameronlad Member

    I think these photos need more research before coming to a final decision.
    The shoulder patch determines everything, so a better definition would help, but at first glance it does look like the HD Patch.
    If the pictures were taken by one of Rommel's men, then the location could be the aftermath of St.Valery. However, the 4th Cams POW's were marched into captivity back through La Bassee after the fall of St. Valery. Problem here is by that time Rommel's Divs were at St Valery and so very unlikely to have gone back to cover the later march back though La Bassee.
    So, the only other alternative is that they could be photos taken earlier at La Bassee, ie, the round up after its capture. This would then make it the 1st Cams, either D & C companies who were marched out of the town (pics on other posts re the QOCH) or a mix of B,C,& D Coys who were trapped there. Looking at the terrain, it could be Capt Leahs B company platoon. It was surrounded and captured on the north east side of the town - but what throws me is the shape of those tall trees on the road - they look Mediterranean, but then that's France.
    So, I guess it's the patch that will finally determine who and when.
  12. cameronlad

    cameronlad Member

    I've identified the last photo posted by Drew re the location and identification of the QOCH POW's.
    Look carefully at the earthworks to the left and floor below and right where soldiers and POW's are crossing. It's a pontoon bridge - wooden decking and bogie couplings can be seen to the bottom right.
    This is one of the tank bridges thrown across the south west and south banks of the canal at La Bassee by Rommel. The same structure and assembly can be seen in another photo of the canal near the blown road bridge. I'll post that here next.
    So, perhaps the location of Drews photo from can be reasonably identified as La Bassee after all.
    I also checked my fathers photo re the shoulder patch and others taken of 1st Btn Cameron POW's in the town itself at the time. It's as close a match as it gets and can also be seen on the tunics of several men, although I hasten to add that (for reasons I'm unaware of) apparently it wasnt being worn by all officers at the time.
  13. cameronlad

    cameronlad Member

    Same structural detail of this bridge at La Bassee matches Drews photo. I'm not aware they were used at St Valery, so unless otherwise corrected I think his other photos were also taken around the capture of La Bassee/Violaines and aftermath.

    Attached Files:

  14. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I see no reason to disagree with your well-thought-out theory:)

    The trees look like young poplars which reflects the fact that there probably weren't many still standing in 1918 so these would be 20 years old at most.

    They still use the technique of trimming the lower branches with a long-handled bill hook to keep the trunks straight and free of foliage.

    It's a shame that these photographs are only now becoming widely available as there must be some very recognisable faces there but a sadly diminishing number who could identify them.
  15. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    It's a shame that these photographs are only now becoming widely available as there must be some very recognisable faces there but a sadly diminishing number who could identify them

    I've thought this myself about the wealth of 1940 photos now coming forward. If they'd come out 20 years ago we'd have been able to get many first hand stories behind the pics. Still I suppose its the fact that that generation is now sadly leaving us combined with widespread internet use thats bringing these photos out. I'm quite surprised how many photos are emerging of the French battlefields.
  16. LondonNik

    LondonNik Senior Member

    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    See post 93 Nick - are they the same tanks? They PoW's look the same.
  18. LondonNik

    LondonNik Senior Member

    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    The ones I posted are from Rommel's 7 Panzer Div. They are part of a collection at NARA that were taken by Rommel and co.
  20. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    In 1944-45. we would wear the kilt when in 'rest' areas. Although The Royal Scots were a Lowland Regiment, the Battalion I served was the 7th/9th (Highlanders) Battalion, the '9th' element originally Highlanders who had come south to live and work in Edinburgh in 1901.
    Joe Brown

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