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My Father's First Time in Action: French/Belgian Border 1940icon for Recommended story

by charliepsbrown

Contributed by 
charliepsbrown
People in story: 
Philip William Spence Brown
Location of story: 
Belguim / French Border
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A2310733
Contributed on: 
18 February 2004

This is a story about my father, Lance Sergeant Philip William Spence Brown (906166).

1939

My father's unit 237 battery (TA) 60th Field Regiment Royal Artillery was assigned to the BEF in 1939. He and his gun were stationed - along with another 18-pounder from the battery - in a farmyard on the French-Belgium border when the Germans invaded.

His unit was tasked with providing covering fire for the retreating British troops as the Germans rapidly advanced.

Once the German forces had been identified both 18-pounders opened fire. Now their position was known to the Germans who returned artillery fire. Suddenly, a German shell landed very close to my father’s position. The force of the blast blew him and the rest of the gun crew from their posts, killing several and injuring the remainder, including my father.

Shrapnel injury

Everybody took cover in their slit trenches until an officer ordered them back to their posts. My father got out of the trench and returned to his gun alone. He loaded, aimed and fired the gun with one arm as he had lost the use of his other arm, which had a piece of shrapnel lodged in it.

By this time British troops were withdrawing through his position. My father continued to fire the gun on his own; he was then joined by another member of the battery, who helped him load and fire.

The Germans were now so close that my father was engaging them over open sights. Once he and his helper were out of ammunition, they disabled the gun by removing the firing pin, then they withdraw towards Dunkirk. Only then did my father realise how badly wounded he was and he passed out.

Evacuated

My father and the remainder of the unit were eventually evacuated from Dunkirk. For his actions he was awarded the Military Medal. He was just 22 years old.

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