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- Leonard Deacon
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- 16 February 2004
This is a transcript of my diary written while serving in France prior, during and after Dunkirk.
I enlisted on 25 January 1937 with the Royal Engineers and transferred to the Coldstream Guards on 20 July 1939.
Sun 31 Dec 1939
Café Coniac, Roubaix (Franco/Belgian frontier). Dance Permission finishes 10 o’clock (back at Chateau Boutemie, Lannoy, by 10pm).
Mon 01 Jan 1940
Digging and wiring (barbed wire in front of trenches) as usual.
My first leave from France in the war
Delayed at Boulogne for today, owing to the fog.
Arrived in England, met Marj, had a lovely time at Writtle. Marj very happy.
Went to Chelmsford to see Marj's mother and again in the evening to see Uncle and Grandad. Had a drink with Uncle.
Marj and I came home to Maidwell to see all at home. Very tiring journey.
Had days’ rest at home. A memorable week for me.
Went with Marj to Draughton Church. Very good service.
Went to Northampton with Marj. Bought rings, got engaged, lovely time.
Went to see Aunt Polly. Stayed at home in the morning.
Went to Wellingboro’ with Marj and Mother to see Allen and May, had photo taken.
Stayed at home. Went to see Boccer and Gladys’ house. At night Dad and I had a drink or two.
Left home for London with Marj to visit Kath, Marg. and Jack. Dad came a little way with us (Dreadful winter, roads frozen over, Father took rifle and kitbag on toboggan). Arrived in London ok. Had a lovely day.
Kath, Marj and Margaret came to Victoria to say Goodbye on my return to France. Marj was very upset. l was too. Arrived in France at 11.30pm. Very good leave but I'm very disappointed and fed up. Hoping for next leave.
Went to church. Wrote to Marj and Mother. Cinema evening.
Visit Marguirite and Madam Beghien and Mme Brackement, very good to see them again.
Digging as usual. Wrote to Marj and Kath. Cinema in the evening.
Wrote to Margaret and Jack, Allen and May and Mrs Warner. R.E. Fatigue
R.E. Fatigue. Visit Madam Beghien with David.
Digging in the morning, exercise in the afternoon. Pay at night and cleaning up for CO’s parade tomorrow, not for it (not required for CO’s parade).
R.E. Fatigue. Bath in the morning (at Lannoy). Had a lovely long letter from Marjorie, very pleased. Also had a nice letter from Sis and paper from Mother.
Church in the morning. Wrote to Marjorie. Went to Roubaix.
Digging as usual. Visit Ms and Mme Beghien.
Wiring in the morning. German planes drop pamphlets over us. Guard at night Billet. Sergeant’s Mess Waiter. (Pillboxes had some slits sabotaged — firing to side instead of front).
Visit Roubaix. Wrote to Marj. Also had letter from Marj.
Visit Mme Beghien with David.
Cinema Carioca, Lannoy. Wrote to Sis and Aunt Emma.
Guard tonight, Billet.
Went to Roubaix. Heard from Mother and Kath.
Visit Mme Mauguirite, Mme Brackement, Ms and Mme Beghien. Wrote to Marj and Mother.
Wrote to Kath and Rube. Went to Cinema ‘Rosalee’, Very good film indeed.
Went on stunt at 11pm. Glad when it’s over.
Slept in the morning. In trenches at night, very cold.
Finished stunt at 2 o’clock in afternoon, marched 5 miles to trucks, arrived back at 9.30. Letter from Marj.
Quiet day. Baths. Paper from home. Roubaix at night.
Quiet day. Guard at night Billet. Air raid twice.
Coal fatigue Seclin. Letter from Marj
Digging. Letter from Rube.
Digging got wet through. Stunt at night. Marched 13 miles. More snow. Letter from Allen and May.
Finished stunt 4.30am. Pay. Digging in the afternoon. Guard at night.
Quiet day. Baths. Letter from Mrs Warner. Wrote to Marj [green envelope]. Busy week.
Had a lovely letter from Marj. Church in the morning, Roubaix at night. Rube came to see me. Leave cancelled T.F.O.(till further orders).
Digging as usual. Letter from Jess and paper.
Pioneer fatigue. T.F.O. Leave commences
Pioneer fatigue. Roubaix at night. Wrote to Marjorie.
Route march at Cart, 15 miles. Drill before Kit (inspection), Guns Rifle and Platoon Kit Inspections, finished at 7 o’clock at night. Very tired. No letters.
Work as usual, half day today, finish at 2.30. Very poor opinion of half day. Went to company orders about transfer to C.M.P (Corps of Military Police).
Work morning. Baths. Football match afternoon. Roubaix at night with Jim. Billet guard.
Letter from Sis and Maureen. Parcel from Margaret and Jack. Wrote to Marjorie. Roubaix at night.
Work as usual. Letter from Marjorie. Paper from Mother, parcel to follow. Tobacco from Miss Raines. Wrote to Mother.
Started again in Sgts Mess, easy day. Wrote to Sis and Maureen. Parcel from Mother.
Wrote to Marjorie. Stunt at night.
Work as usual
Work as usual.
Letter from Marj
Work as usual. Wrote to Marj.
Stunt. Letter from Marj.
Stunt and guard.
Work as usual. Letter from Marj and her little cousin.
Work as usual. Letter from Mother and Kath.
Work. Roubaix at night. Dance at Frenoy.
Work as usual. Guard at night. Letter from Marj. Wrote to Marj.
Wrote to Mother at home.
Work. Heard from Marj, Mrs BarIow, Boccer. C.O. orders (had to attend). Wrote to Marj.
Work. Roubaix at night. Missed last train ran back from Roubaix.
New job. Officers’ Mess servant. Guard Frontier.
Crisis. Standing by to move off at 4 hours’ notice
Standing by 12 hours’ notice.
Still standing by.
Marched into Belgium. Good welcome. Wrote to Marj and Mother.
Took up positions along the canal at Louvain. Enemy 3 miles away.
Consolidated our positions, made contact with the enemy at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, enemy in large numbers, terrific shelling on both sides.
We continue to hold our positions with the loss of only a few men. Continuation of artillery bombardment on both sides, many Germans killed on the other side of Canal.
Still holding our positions after heavy attacks. I received 2 letters from Marj and one from Mother. They cheered me up a lot.
In the morning the enemy inflicted losses to our troops with their trench mortar but we replied with grenades and shelling and we drove them back 12 miles (Single men forward. Bren gun from hip, bayonets fixed).
The Germans came forward again and with their trench mortars nearly finished us all, we had no reinforcements and our C.O. orders were last round last man. We were forced to withdraw in the end.
We passed through Brussels and took up positions the other side and we weren't long before we once more took contact with the enemy.
Wrote to Marjorie and Mother but doubt if they received them. Rather quiet day.
We had to withdraw once again as the enemy had broken through at Arras and we were in danger of being cut off.
We arrived on the banks of another canal, we should have been in reserve but F and B got heavily shelled and we had to hold their position until they got organised.
We withdrew to Wattrelos on the French border and again we made contact with the enemy, they had quietened down considerably.
We held them for today in fact we took a patrol into the German lines and they didn't do anything about it.
We held them again today, more patrols.
Still holding them. We did some looting and managed to get a few wireless sets to hear the King’s speech and progress of the war.
We were relieved by the Grenadiers at midnight and we marched back to be in reserve at Tourcoing.
We arrived at Tourcoing at 4 a.m. they made us blanco our equipment, wash and shave before going to bed
We were rushed up into positions again and we had to hold the Germans for a while, we got a terrific shelling but we had no casualties.
We withdraw and were told we were coming back to England. We marched 12 miles without a stop to the trucks near Lille, then another terrific shelling.
We made for Dunkirk but on arrival within 4 miles of it, all plans were changed.
We were told we had to hold the enemy until all the B.E.F. had withdrawn, not too good a position for us, but no more than expected of the Guards.
We were only a very small number and we were bombed and shelled until very few of us left. We had to abandon our positions and run for the boats. On arrival we were shelled and bombed. 2 ships were sunk and no Air Force to stop the German raiders. We were very lucky to get out of there. But we landed at Folkestone safe after 4 bombs had dropped each side of our ship.
We arrived here at Tidworth 6 o’clock in the morning. A wonderful welcome. All the train journey now for a rest and some clean clothes.
Telegram to Marj and Mother. Went to the Cinema at night at Andover.
Wrote to Marj and Mother.
Nothing of importance.
Wrote to Marj
Fri 07 Jun 1940
Pay 10/-. Went for a walk in the evening.
I was one of the 200 who survived intact of 750 in the battalion. My war service continued until 31 December 1945 during which time I transferred to the Corps of Military Police in 30 May 1941. I married Marjorie on 12 January 1942.
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