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The Forgotten Heroes of World War 2

by robert beesley

Contributed by 
robert beesley
People in story: 
51st Highland Division,2/6 Battalion East Surrey Regiment, The Border Regiment, The 1st Armoured Division,Sir Richard Attenborough, Tony Blair, Prime Minister,Tony Blair, The B.B.C., General Fortune, Field Marshall Rommel, The Ministry of Defence and The German hoards.
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Contributed on: 
18 January 2005

This is a picture of myself at the age of 21 years old. it was taken at my sister's wedding at 20 West Road, Mortlake in Surrey in August 1939.

I will tell you a story, which took place about 64 years ago. It is a story about the Officers and other Ranks, that were written off and forgotten by an ungrateful Government, also the B.B.C. and the National Press.

The brave and bold Officers and other Ranks had courage and heroism but were forgotten. The sacrifice that they made for their King and their Country will unfold.

They helped to keep the Nazi jack boot from our shores and they fought for freedom for us all. But to this day, they still remain forgotten, all of those years ago. Some of the men were killed, others died, but the memories will live on for the rest of our lives. They died fighting on for many days but then became trapped, with no way out and they were then ordered to surrender, by the French. So come what may, the Germans had a catch, of what had remained of the British Expeditionary Forces. The men that was once so great were now Prisoners-of-War. They were treated worse than trash, by you know who?. They had been starved of food from 12 June 1940 and did not receive anything to eat until they reached the Hook of Holland on 2 July 1940, when they were just given 1 slice of bread to eat.

This story begun after the evacuation at Dunkirk in France in June 1940. It had been stated that was the end of the British Expeditionary Forces in France and then, France stood alone. But this was not true because there were some 200,000 Officers and other Ranks that were fighting a rear guard action, along side of the French Army.

One could see the French soldier filling his pack with food and then said that the Tommies were running away. They also said "Bosch come, France finished".
But what had remained of the British Expeditionary Forces in France, they did the best that they could do, but the men were being killed and wounded and others had been taken as Prisoners-of-War.

The rear guard action carried on and one did hear of some Army Units being ambushed by the Germans. The 2/6 Battalion East Surrey Regiment were ambushed, men were killed, there were vehicles on fire and you could smell the burning flesh, you tried to return fire but then the order was given to retreat.

The following day, there was a re- group of the 2/6 Battalion East Surrey Regiment and they found themselves with the 51 st Highland Division, the Border Regiment and the 1 st Armoured Division. The battle was on, the French and the British Expeditioanry Forces tried to push or to hold the German hoards, but it was an impossible task. We were then ordered to retreat.

The French then fell into the trap at St Valery. On 11 June 1940, one could have escaped, but then the Germans gained the Heights, overlooking the harbour.

Now on the 12 June 1940, the French ordered the men of the British Expeditionary Forces, that was trapped with the 51 st Highland Division to surrender. The Commander of the Division was General Fortune. It was Field Marshall Rommel that took the surrender of the British Forces at St Valery in France on 12 June 1940.

These proud service men were now Prisoners-of-War, but many of their comrades had been killed or badly wounded. Now, these men were beginning on the long march to Germany, to the camps.

These Officers and the other Ranks were written off by an ungrateful Government and also the Ministry of Defence and buried very deep and forgotten.

You may believe what has been written down in the history book by the very prominent Historians of that time, but it was not true, I can testify that this did happen as I told it because I was one of those service men, that was taken as one of the Prisoners-of-War.

I have written to the B B C,after I looked at the showing, on television of "The Evacuation of Dunkirk". At the end of this film, the Presenter tells you that this was the last of the British Expeditionary Forces in France and that France now stood alone. I have told the TRUTH, but they have turned a blind eye and they believe the lies that was said.

I have also written to the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, M P and I did receive a reply from the Ministry of Defence, telling me to get in contact with the television channel, all I can say about that is that they are a lot of idiots and you are wasting your time.

I have also brought it to the attention of Sir Richard Attenborough, at his home in Richmond in Surrey. He did write about the courage, heroism and the sacrifice, that these men had shown. But he also told me that he was much too busy on other work to be concerned about this. Probably wasting Government money on making flops at the cinema.

Now the Historians, that write our history, are saying that this never happened because it was not good propaganda. These men gave their blood, sweat and tears. A lot more gave their lives to defend their Country. If the Nazi jack boots had landed in this Country, we would not be enjoying the freedom, that we enjoy today.

I say to hell with the Historians and all of their lies, you want to speak to the men that actually lived these times and then you would get the true account of the facts. But you will regret it in years to come, because years later, the British will say the same as the French soldiers had said, that the Tommies had run away. This was not so, these men fought the best that they could and a lot of men died to defend their Country against Germany.

We, the men that was left after serving as Prisoners-of-War, I myself served 5 years in the hands of the Germans. We had been starved, treated worse than cattle, denied medical attention and if you said one word to the Germans, you could and some were shot for just doing this. The Geneva Conventions meant nothing to the Germans. I still today, have nightmares of those years and I wake up in a cold sweat, those images will never leave me and they do not get any more distant, as the years pass by.

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Message 1 - The forgotten Heroes of WW2

Posted on: 19 January 2005 by Tom the Pom

I know exactly how you feel owd mate.
But there is not a lot us peasants can do about it.
When sitting quiet and reading a book then hearing someone levering open your bedroom window you would naturally put down the book and grab a rolling pin and race to confront the villain who is trying to gain unlawful entry to your home.

Enter the Beast.

When Hitler's mob went walkies over the borders of Krautland no one gave a hoot, so Hitler got the, "Go ahead" from there.

Even a rat will peer outside it's hole to make sure the way is clear before venturing abroad.

Then the house holder sets a trap and catches the rat before it can multiply and become a pest.

What I cannot understand is the fact that Hitler began re-arming Germany while every one else just sat on their duff and smiled at the camera and let him get on with it while they made sand castles by the sea.
Then not only did Hitler multiply but he became a monster who bombed,poisened,and murdered millions of helpless women and children.
He also killed many of his own people
to make sure he was un-apposed.
Any others who could have had other ideas that did not fit with Hitler's ideas kept shtumm because they too had a zest for life, even under the foot of the Beast.


Posted on: 18 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Robert

Regarding the BEF after Dunkirk, you say again that "Now the Historians, that write our history, are saying that this never happened because it was not good propaganda."

I have repeatedly tried to explain to you that that is not the case. What happened in France to the BEF is extremely well documented and set out almost hour by hour, unit by unit, down to company and platoon level in many cases. The book that details all this is the first volume in the official Military Histories of WW2: "The War In France And Flanders 1939 -1940" by Major L. F. Ellis, the official War Office historian, published in 1953 by Her Majesty's Stationary Office. This book also includes all the official situation maps of the entire campaign.

What happened after Dunkirk is also fully set out in Winston Churchill's "The Second World War". Also in meticulous detail in "The War Diaries 1939-1945" of Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. A huge volume "Blitzkrieg in the West - Then and Now" by Jean Paul Pullard, published by After the Battle, 1991, still available but expensive, also sets out every detail on a daily basis until the very end. Some fine regimental histories also cover this period as do the official Orders of Battle (British, French, and German) for the campaign.

All reputable military historians British, French, and German are fully aware of what happened to the BEF and the French Army after Dunkirk. I have cited just a very few of the best known works, but there is a vast dependable literature on this period dating back to the late 1940s; it is all well documented. I do not know of any historian who has said of the BEF in France after Dunkirk 'this never happened'.





Posted on: 19 January 2005 by Harold Pollins

I was at school at the time of Dunkirk and the fall of France but I'm sure that either then or fairly soon afterwards I knew all about the 51st Highland Division with others and their stand at St Valery.
Surely the incident was very well known.

Harold Pollins



Posted on: 19 January 2005 by robert beesley

Hello Peter.

Was nice to hear from you again and many thanks for your comments on my account of the Forgotten Heroes.

Thankyou for the list of books but I did read, and when I have found the article that I had read, where the Historians had said that it had never happened and put their fingers in their ears, so when I go through all of my documents, you will be the first person that I will notify with this.

I was shown a document yesterday, that the 51 st Highland Division had escaped from St Valery and would live to fight another day. Whoever wrote that lot of bull, needs his arse kicking!

You can have all of the relevant documentation that you like, but as long as you hear, what the B B C states, that had happened after Dunkirk. France stands alone. I have even been told to my face, that the
B E F had run away at Dunkirk and left the Frogs on their own.

Oldham press, the Victory Book goes up to Dunkirk, France stands alone and then goes into France. It may be Churchill's Biography, there is no mention of it in the 100 Year Chronicle, none of the press reported it when they had reported in the last 100 years.

In 1990, men that had fought at St Valery, were invited back there. We visited the War Graves, we were entertained. The French Armed Forces were there, there was a march past, French radio and television covered the story, but where was the B B C World news?

For 64 years, this has been kept hidden from the British public, no British Government or the M O D have had the guts to bring it from the depth, where it had been buried.

During the War, so I am told, the soldier wanted to go on leave, could always get a lift from the motorist, but when the War had ended, it was a different remark, "Tommy, the War is finished". We were then back to square one, the public always called the soldiers crap, they would always sing a different tune,when you put your life on the line, so that they could be safely tucked up in bed!

From the treatment that I had received as a Prisoner-of-War, was disgusting, and some of the treatment, that I have received since the War has been just as bad, because of that little words, "France now stands alone".

I do not know but did you know that at Kew Records office in Surrey are murals that had been done by Italian Prisoners-of-War.

Enjoy your self at trying to scratch for the truth, it is there somewhere.!!!

Bye for now .





Posted on: 19 January 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

You suffered much and you paid a heavy price for Britain's unpreparedness. But do believe me historians are aware of all the facts.

You mention "The Hundred Year's Chronicle" and have done before. But this popular compilation of newspaper headlines cannot even remotely be taken as serious history. It's only value is that it records what appeared in some selected newspapers on a particular day, and in that it does have some limited value.

The 51st Highland division surrendered on the 12th of June 1940 at St Valéry-en-caux, but even that wasn't the end of the BEF in France. Fighting still continued and on the next day, 13 June, 11,000 Allied troops were evacuated from Le Havre. Then between 15-18 June 30,000 were evacuated from Cherbourg; between 16-17 June 21,000 from St Malo and 33,000 from Brest. Between 16-19 June 57,000 from St Nazaire; and finally, on 19 June, 190,000 French and Polish troops were evacuated from St Jean-de-Luz, near the Spanish border. These were fighting evacuations with the Royal Navy in full support.




Posted on: 29 June 2005 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Having read your ongoing argument with Peter allow me to add this.
A lot of the men with the 51st Highland Div came from our area. Those who managed to get home from various French ports told the story so it was no secret from anyone.
In a catchment area like ours in the North East the government could not have kept secrets like that from us, we knew the story well.
One problem was the French 31st division had mainly horse drawn transport and could not move quickly.
On the night of June 9th 10th nine destroyers and transports arrived off Le Havre, it is possible the bulk of the Highland Div could have withdrawn and been taken off.
General Fortune refused to abandon the French 31st Div so the oportunity was lost.
I give you some more reading on the matter with an almost hour by hour account of that time.
"Monty's Highlanders" Patrick delaforce.
"51st Highland Div at War" Roderick Grant.
"51st Highland Div 1940-41" Eric Linklater.
"History 51st Highland Div" J.B.Salmond.
There are many more and I can assure you they are not forgotten hero's in this area, too many memories.
Regards Frank.

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