Lt Col Tod's journey back to his battalion (10th - 24th May 1940)

Discussion in '1940' started by skimmod, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. skimmod

    skimmod Senior Member

    Hello all,
    finally got around to deciphering and typing up a letter from Lt Col Tod MC OBE describing his journey from London where he was on leave, back to the 2nd Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers, when the Germans invaded.
    thought I might share it with you all. (his handwriting is amazingly difficult to read and so a few words are missing, also attached his sketch of the mtb)

    As I sat down to breakfast, the head waiter came and told me that the Germans had started their offensive. I of course went to the war office for instructions and was told to finish my leave until I heard to the contrary.

    I did not hear from the war office again so at the end of my leave and after I got away I was shipped over to Cherbourg. At Cherbourg, there were hundreds of officers and men of different units, amongst them was the acting CO of the Cameronians, a very fat gentleman, whose name I think was Pop Gilmour, and the 2i/c of the Wiltshire. We were all told that the troops at Cherbourg were to remain there and that there was no rail or any transport. Naturally we three senior regimental officers felt we could not remain in Cherbourg while our battalions were in action somewhere in Belgium. So, we went to the commandant to explain the situation. The commandant, a retired general was…. He was charming about it and said trust….. he would try to help us.

    About an hour later he sent for us and told us that an MTB had just arrived from England with instructions to take a load of troops to Dunkirk if and we got the skipper to take us with him, the commandant would not interject. The skipper of the MTB was very willing to take us and the next morning we set off going all out on a dead calm sea. As we passed Calais we were fired on from a battery on the shore but the fall was a long way behind us.

    A we got near Dunkirk, the sea was covered with wreckage of all kinds and I assumed bombed out ships, some of which were still burning. The skipper of the MTB searched around a bit in case there were any survivors to pick up, but we saw nothing. As it was getting dark a German plane came over us and dropped two bombs, one very close. The skipper of the MTB shut off his engines till his wake subsided and this plane after searching round for a little went off, obviously not able to spot us.

    Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) of the type that transported Tod from Cherbourg to Dunkirk

    At Dunkirk, we found things chaotic. The harbour had been pretty heavily bombed. French and Belgian soldiers were pouring in from all directions and there was a mass of rumours but little or no information.

    It was soon quite obvious that if we wanted to get to our units, we would have to do it without…. To find some sort of transport….

    There was no difficulty in finding cars, there were…of… up on the quay. The cars belonged to diplomats and staff officers who probably had been ordered to England and who had abandoned their cars and many of their drivers as well.

    We had considerable difficulty in getting a driver to get us on our way, but in the end we got one, a splendid ….. chap ready for anything. He had filled his car up with gallons of petrol and off we went on the Dunkirk - Ypres road. The motoring along was quite without adventure.

    The only thing of interest was about 10 miles from Dunkirk, the road was heavy with refugees and Belgian soldiers without arms but carrying suitcases and household goods of all sorts. I found this a bit depressing and not like the Belgian forces of the first war.

    The other thing was that at Paradis crossroads we found civilians by way of directing traffic and shouting out that the Germans were just a few miles behind.

    Actually, there were no Germans for miles, though their planes were bombing machine gunning the town. Thinking of afterwards I believe that those traffic directors were 5h Column making everything doubly confused. None of the three of us had of course any knowledge of where our battalions were, so that when we got to near Ypres, it was a case of going from village to village asking for information. By chance in a small village I ran into Butterfield, 5th Division liaison officer. He was particularly cool and collected and told me all about my battalion and explained that they had just come out of action west of Arras and were now in some billets and lines well south of Lille. I located my battalion on the evening of the 24th of May in Seclin and was able to give my two companions a whisky and soda as well as some information as to where their own battalions were.

    That ends the story of a not really very thrilling journey

    Attached Files:

  2. Vintage Wargaming

    Vintage Wargaming Well-Known Member

    I think he is the same Col Tod who was SBO at Colditz
  3. skimmod

    skimmod Senior Member

    he is indeed! that is what he got his OBE for.

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