Establishing a field hospital in normandy days after Dday
nursing british wounded in france during german invasion of june 1940 before dunkirk
Comments Charles McCain: similar to to the BEF in World War One, the British Army sent to France was poorly equipped for modern warfare. Many reserve units of the Territorials were untrained. The Army had spent little time in combined arms training. It had the makings of a disaster and it was.
Comments Charles McCain: built by Vickers Armstrong and armed only with a machine gun, these tanks were designed only to support infantry and could hardly go head to head with an a tank as we think of them. Poorly designed, underpowered, lightly armoured, this was not a tank you wanted to be in. With a gasoline powered engine they easily “brewed up” when hit.
The driver of a Matilda I of 4th Royal Tank Regiment in France during the winter of 1939–40. This shows the cramped driver’s compartment and how the hatch obstructs the gun turret. Photo courtesy Imperial War Museum.
When the British transported the British Expeditionary Force to France they also transported a massive number of vehicles of every sort from tanks to staff cars to trucks to Bren carriers to motorcycles. The official history states that more than 60,000 vehicles were destroyed in combat or left behind on the beaches. The Germans were especially keen on the Bedford trucks.
*BEF vehicle losses in France 1940 from History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series, The War in France and Flanders 1939-1940.
Troops of the 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment, 2nd Division, checking the papers of civilians at Becun on the Franco-Belgian border, 10 October 1939. Imperial War Museum.
Unfortunately, many Belgians were of German ancestry or allegiance. As they went back and forth across the border of Belgium and France they kept a keen watch on the various activities of the British and French armies. Once back home, they blabbed everything to the Germans.
During the retreat of the British Army to Dunkirk, the King of Belgium decided to surrender, which opened a gap in the lines forming the corridor British troops were using to retreat. He didn’t give the British a lot of notice. They felt a great bitterness toward the Belgians.
The late Lord Carrington, who served in the Guards Armoured Brigade in World War Two, said in his memoirs that as they went through Belgium in 1944 it was obvious “the Belgians had eaten their way through World War Two.”
Perhaps not the best use of the most elite regiment in the British Army. Typically this work was done pioneer battalions or Royal Engineers.
Corporal Bob Roberts was overseeing the surrender of dozens of enemy soldiers during the Battle of Normandy when the 7ft 6ins German loomed into his view.
Cpl Roberts, who stood two feet below him at 5ft 6ins, had the daunting job of frisking the German lance corporal for weapons before taking him prisoner.
Out of shot of the photo, Cpl Robert’s comrades and even the captured German soldiers sniggered together at the sight of the little and large encounter.
It was a moment of lightness during the grim duty of war.
For just a few minutes before the picture was taken, Cpl Roberts faced a life-or-death duel with another German soldier who pulled out a pistol as he pretended to surrender.
Luckily, he raised his gun in the nick of time and shot the enemy soldier dead.
“But my mates who were watching the rest of the men saw this giant of a guy approach me and I was aware they and the Germans were having a good laugh.
“The Germans were saying that he was the tallest man in the German army, he was 7ft 6ins tall.
“My mates took some pictures of me with him with a camera they had taken from the Germans. Luckily he didn’t give me any aggravation…”
The most decorated man in the British Army in the 20th Century or certainly close to it. Given the various medals handed out during wars, it is difficult to say who is the most decorated. But Lieutenant General Carton de Wiart is certainly in the top five most decorated soldiers of the British Army.
Says Wikipedia: “He served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War; was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a prisoner-of-war camp; and tore off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. Describing his experiences in the First World War, he wrote, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”
For most conspicuous bravery, coolness and determination during severe operations of a prolonged nature. ( La Boiselle, France ).
Adrian Carton de Wiart was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 29th November 1916.
Lieutenant Colonel Carton de Wiart was awarded the Victoria Cross for the following action: “On 2 July – 3 July 1916, at La Boisselle, France, Lieutenant-Colonel Carton de Wiart’s dauntless courage and inspiration averted what could have been a serious reverse. He displayed the utmost energy in forcing the attack home and after three other battalion commanders had become casualties, he controlled their commands and made sure that the ground was held at all costs. In organising the positions to be held, he exposed himself fearlessly to enemy fire.” Carton de Wiart was born in Belgium.
He joined the British Army and fought during the Boer War of 1899-1902, sustaining a serious chest wound. On the outbreak of the First World War, Carton de Wiart was serving with the Somaliland Camel Corps and engaged in suppressing a rebellion by Mohammed bin Abdullah’s Muslim forces. In an attack upon an enemy fort at Shimber Berris, Carton de Wiart was shot in the face, losing his left eye. He served on the Western Front from 1915, commanding three infantry battalions and a brigade. He was also seriously wounded seven times, losing his left hand in 1915.
Carton de Wiart spent the interwar years in Poland, serving with the British Military Mission between 1919 and 1921 and escaping the country as it was overrun by German and Soviet forces in 1939. He then served in Norway and was en route to take up a command in Yugoslavia when his aircraft was shot down. Carton de Wiart was taken prisoner by the Italians by whom he was released in 1943. He spent the remaining war years in the Far East, witnessing the Japanese surrender at Singapore. Carton de Wiart died in 1963.
Frightfully unqualified for anything, Mountbatten made numerous ghastly mistakes. His appointment in South East Asia did increase morale of the “Forgotten Army of Burma” since he was a member of the royal family and enjoyed massive press coverage. In fact, Mountbatten made the “forgotten army of Burma” quite famous. Very keen on publicity was Dickie Mountbatten. His HQ in Ceylon had a staff of 7,000 men and women a number of whom spent their time getting him publicity.
“…we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be…we shall never surrender.”
On the top right you will note the loading limits of the goods wagon for military purposes: 40 men or 8 horses.
*Featured image: A 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun and crew near Douai, November 1939 Courtesy Imperial War Museum