Ww1 veterans in the BEF/French army

Discussion in '1940' started by Rogerio8, Jan 30, 2018.

  1. Rogerio8

    Rogerio8 New Member

    Hello all I'm new to the forum but really like the early period of the war and particularly the fall of France.

    I was wondering how much evidence is there of British soldiers in the BEF having been ww1 veterans. Obviously were looking at more senior soldiers here such as Sgt majors and warrant officers etc maybe sergeants at a push (I know a few in my mob still sergeants after over 20 years) it just always interested me that these men faced the prospect of returning to old battlefields to face the horrors again. It occurred to me even more so when watching the old movie Dunkirk and the Sgt major clearly has plenty of decorations on his shirt and possibly some of them from the great war?

    Also I wondered how French veterans felt about the capitulation after their generation had sacrificed over a million men to secure France as a free nation.
    Lindele likes this.
  2. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Welcome to the forum. Very interesting question.
  3. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    I think that there must have been quite a number of soldiers,including officers who fought in both world wars.B.L. Montgomery being a notable officer who served in the Great War and also the BEF as a Divisional Commander.

    Having looked round Pornic CWGC Cemetery a number of times,I always thought that Arthur Turpin MM,WO Class 11 of the Pioneer Corps may have served in the Great War and his MM may have came from that conflict.

    WO Turpin was a victim of the sinking of the Lancastria off St Nazaire on 17 June 1940.


    As regards the defeat of France in 1940 and the feeling of the whole population,the subject is very complex across the spectrum of the politics of the individuals....broadly speaking the situation developed into the two Frances.....Vichy, headed by Petain and the opposition in "exile", the Free French headed by CDG.

    It's a very interesting question as noted by Stefan but fortunately there is an abundance of publications available which give a good insight to the two Frances.
    Darren Turpin and Rogerio8 like this.
  4. Rogerio8

    Rogerio8 New Member

    It's mainly the veterans thing I want to talk about but I went on a bit of a tangent about the French issue as it was on my mind.
  5. Incredibledisc

    Incredibledisc Well-Known Member

    For what it’s worth two of my great grandfather’s served in both conflicts. One was a Marine who joined up in 1912 and was in the engagement at Heligoland Bight early in the War before switching to Defensively Armed Merchant Ships tasked with searching for blockade runners and disguised warships. From his records I think he spent WW2 ashore in the UK.

    The other one was conscripted in 1917 and served in France. Joined the TA in 1936 and ended up back there again with the 7th Argylls in 1939-40. He was captured during the battle at Franleu on June 6th and spent the rest of the war as a POW.
  6. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    There were quite a few WW1 veterans in the BEF of 1939-40. Most of the senior officers had WW1 service. Gort, Brooke - as did senior WOs Most of these were pushed aside during the war in favour of a younger generation.
    However, there were still WW1 veterans in the BLA of 1944-45. In the breakout from Normandy the Guards Armoured Dvision spent a night on the Somme where the Guards had fought in 1916 and 1918. On that evening visits were made to the graves of old Comrades and relatives. As you will know, serving in the British Army can be a family tradition. I joined the dame regiment that my father served in , and my great uncle before him.

    The Arras counter attack 21 may 1940 took place over one of the major WW1 battlefields. 6 DLI's advance took them past the war cemetery at Neuville st Vaast and within a mile of where the same TA battalion had served in 1917. One young officer Peter Vaux noted that forming up at Vimy Ridge was like playing cricket at Lords.

    French attitudes to defeat in 1940 are complicated and have been the subject of much soul searching over the past 75 years.
  7. Markyboy

    Markyboy Member

    I read a lot of RAF memoirs and there's been several mentions of RAF groundcrew who were stationed in France in the same areas in both wars. One I read recently said a Sergeant was billeted in the same barn!
  8. Rogerio8

    Rogerio8 New Member

    These are all brilliant thanks for the input! It's incredible that men would go through the hell of fighting a world war twice!
  9. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Can you not search CWGC WW2 deaths for anyone born 1900 (thereabouts) or before, then theres a good chance any/all of those would have served in WW1 as well.
    However if they survived both world wars, finding them would be like hens teeth I would think

    Incredibledisc likes this.
  10. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Your question about attitudes in France to the capitulation and occupation - this was the 3rd time in 70 years that France was occupied by Germany.
    The first being the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.
    So the population must have been sick of it - not to mention the massive loss of life leading to much reduced male population.
    Incredibledisc likes this.
  11. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Patron Patron

    A celebrity example of service in both wars is Arnold Ridley (Pte Godfrey in Dad's Army). As I understand it he volunteered for service in the Somerset Light Infantry in 1915, was wounded near Arras in Spring 1916, and then again in hand to hand fighting at Delville Wood on the Somme in August the same year; he was discharged as a result of his wounds. In WW2 he volunteered again, despite being in his 40s, and went to France with the BEF as an intelligence officer. Unfortunately landing in France triggered a recurrence of shellshock, and after evacuation from Dunkirk he was discharged again (and indeed, he then joined the LDV).

    I expect there were many professional NCOs like my grandfather who were recalled to the colours 1939-40 to help train the expanded army, and thus served in both World Wars. However, as TD says, men with active service in both and who survived must be considerably rarer.

    Cheers, Pat.
  12. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  13. Rogerio8

    Rogerio8 New Member

  14. Darren Turpin

    Darren Turpin New Member

    Arthur Turpin is my great grandad , he won the mm in the first world war , we still hold the medal in our family and will be passed down through the family and comes with some great tales of the war
    Harry Ree likes this.
  15. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    My grandfather served in WW1 in two battalions of the South Staffs, shot and gassed at different times, won MM. interwar, TA, and then as a volunteer, rejoined early 1940 as a concreter in 702 Gen Construction Company RE. Sent to Peronne area (on Somme) to buiild airfield defences. Escaped via St Nazaire to build airfield defences at Turnhouse, Bottisham, then Fan Bay gun battery, tunnels and Winnie and Clemmie at Dover. Invalided out 1942. Probably PTSD as back on the Somme a second time. Had an exemplary army record, but died a broken alcoholic hated by his family for his violence. It was not until I researched him that I began to understand what he could have gone through.
    We should all remember the burden that people can carry in their minds as well as physical hurt in their bodies from serving their country.
    Harry Ree and Tricky Dicky like this.
  16. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    There was a Briton who fought as a drummer in the Matebele War, an Intelligence Officer in the South African War, an Observer in the RFC in WW1 and an RAF Coastal Command station commander in WW2. In the last case he sometimes still accompanied crews on operational flights - Wg Cdr Lionel M Cohen DSO MC DFC
  17. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    That's wonderful feedback Darren.As said. I passed his grave and stopped to think about his background, being from down the road from Leeds.

    Did your Great Grandfather remain in service continuously from the end of the Great War?

    Pornic Military Cemetery is an interesting cemetery to visit with the resting places of many involved in the St Naizaire tragedy.... wreaths are always laid each 17 June on the anniversary of the tragedy.

    There are also two SOE agents buried at Pornic whose remains were transferred from the Sologne when the cemetery was created after the war.
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    Most Frenchman over 55 in 1940 would have fought in both world wars

    Lets start with the senior officers

    Petain was a senior commander in WW1 while Gamelin and Wegand held senior staff appointments.

    De Gaulle, Darlan, Daladier, Lattre de Tassigny and Juin all held junior appointments in WW1.

    One of the best written accounts is by Marc Bloch, who was executed by the Germans in 1944. He served in WW1 and as a staff officer in 1940. An accomplished medieval historian he joined the staff of the University of Rennes rather than going into captivity. Its called Strange Defeat.
  19. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Most? I would have thought very few Frenchmen over 55 would be serving in 1940. Marc Bloch actually avoided going into captivity by evading capture and returning home in civilian clothes. At one time he was staying in the same hotel as the newly arrived German staff. It was his age that kept him from being suspected as a fugitive French officer. He was an early joiner of the resistance and later captured before being shot. His book was one of the first attempts to explain the French defeat. There were actually two versions as the first contained many errors which he later revised after discussions with other French officers and it is this one that is usually read.However later historians have still detected a number of incorrect assumptions in it especially in ascribing material superiority in a number of areas to the Germans when France might actually have had a numerical advantage.
  20. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The American war correspondent A.J.Liebling in The Road back to Paris describes how, during the phoney war period, some hot head would bang on the bar room table and demand action but a WW1 veteran would murmmer Nivelle and everyone would fall silent

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