- Contributed by
- robert beesley
- People in story:
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General Evans, General Ironside, General Fortune, Field Marshall Alanbrooke
- Location of story:
- France and England
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 29 June 2005
The Evacuation of part of the British Expeditionary Forces between 30 May 1940 to 4 June 1940 at Dunkirk in France has been well known and documented over the years. Also the statement that had been made by the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. This statement was that, the last of the British Expeditionary Forces had left France and that now France stands alone!
This statement, by the Prime Minister was not true. The truth had been suppressed from the British people by the Prime Minister. In fact, there was approximately 200,000 Officers and other ranks fighting a rear guard action in France. There was also the 1st Armoured Division, which was under the command of General Evans. This Division had landed at Cherbourg, without it's Infantry, which had been sent to take the pressure off the Evacuation at Dunkirk in France between May 1940 and June 1940.
There was also the 52 Canadian Armoured Division, which had also arrived in France in June 1940. Also there were other Battalions of Troops that had landed at Cherbourg, to be used as a second British Expeditionary Force.
The 51st Highland Division and the 1st Armoured Division, with Infantry Battalions were fighting a rear guard action. These were Labour Battalions but now they had become fighting Battalions.
They went into action with out dated weapons, such as rifles from 1914-1918 War. They did the job that they were supposed to do, when fired. They killed the enemy. The Bren gun and the anti tank rifle, which was useless. They had no mortars or hand grenades. There was a shortage of everything, such as spare parts for the anti tank rifles.
It was on 10 June 1940, when what had remained of the 51st Highland Division and other Battalions had arrived at St Valery in France with parts of the French Army. Hoping to be evacuated back to England but once the Germans had gained the Heights over looking the harbour at St Valery in France, the evacuation was impossible.
There was a shortage of food and arms, everything that was needed to hold the Germans. Some of the men had not eaten for two days or so.
It was on 12 June 1940, when the French Army, who were in command of the British Expeditionary Force, hoisted the White flag but the British soon took it down. But then the French Commanding Officer ordered the British to surrender. Had we fought on, it would have ended in a blood bath for all concerned.
General Fortune, the Commander of what had remained of the British Expeditionary Force, who had been trapped at St Valery in France, handed over the surrender of the British Expeditionary Forces in that area to Field Marshall Rommel. The German soldiers quickly took any jewellery, rings and any money that you had.
It was, as the French soldier had said "France finished, Tommy run away at Dunkirk". But we knew that this was not true!
We had now all been taken as Prisoners of War, some men had been killed or wounded.
Those of the British Expeditionary Forces, that had been fighting this rear guard action was not the only story that had not be told by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill on 17 June 1940.
There was also the bombing and sinking of the Troop ship, the Lancastria, off the Port of St Nazaire in France. This had been sunk by a German Junker 88, from the German Air Force.
As I have said, all of this had happened 65 years ago, but one can now understand why this was all suppressed in 1940,with all that was going on at that time. It did look as if Germany were winning the War, it is now History but not good propaganda. There is no secret about it, so why have not the British Government bothered to bring this to the attention of the British people if there had been nothing to hide!
Field Marshall Alanbrooke states in his Diaries 1939 /1943, that he knew that those, that had been trapped at St Valery between 10 June 1940 and 12 June 1940 such as the 51st Highland Division and others, were not going to be evacuated from St Valery. He was returning to take command of the second British Expeditionary Force, which was being set up. This was being assembled in France, but in fact, he ordered the Divisions back to England. I will add, that the Heroism, courage and sacrifice, that these men, of the British Expeditionary Force had made for their Country has never been allowed to be told.
They gave General Ironside time to build the defences, which had been needed, should the German Army had invaded Britain.
Had it not been for the Royal Air Force, the story would have been far different.
In my opinion, and also others I know that I had served with, that the British Government had insulted these Officers and other ranks of the British Expeditionary Force. They issued War Medals, we received the 1939/1945 War medal, which any Tom, Dick or Harry was eligible to receive, by just only serving one day in a War zone. The value of these war medals was only 6d(in old money).
The men that had been given these War medals threw them away or just put them in the dustbin. The British Expeditionary Force received nothing for their service to their Country. Some men were so disgusted with the treatment that they had received, that they sold up and moved to other parts of the World such as Canada with their families.
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