- Written by A McDougall
DUNKIRK EVACUATION 1940
On the 4th September 1939,the day after war was declared on Germany, advance units of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) left for France.The RAF dropped propaganda leaflets on Germany and the first Canadian troops stepped ashore in England while Western Europe was in a strange calm for some seven months. This early period of the war was known as ‘The Phoney War’ as there were very few military operations in Continental Europe. The 7th and 8th Territorial Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment were part of the BEF. Both Battalions were in 144 Brigade of 48th (South Midlands) Division. They left England for France landing at Le Havre on 16th January 1940. They were patrolling and digging defences during this ‘Phoney War’.
The battle of France began in earnest on the 10th May 1940 with the German Army bursting through the Ardennes Region of Belgium. A second thrust by the Germans invaded and subdued the Netherlands and advanced through Belgium. As the situation worsened General Lord Gort, Commander BEF, decided to evacuate British Forces from France. From 25th May till 28th May British troops retreated 30 miles into a pocket along the French-Belgian border from Dunkirk on the coast to the Belgian town of Poperinge. The Belgian Army surrendered on 28th May followed the next day by elements of the French Army trapped outside the Dunkirk pocket.
On 27th May ‘Operation Dynamo’ began the evacuation of Allied troops from the area Dunkirk with the Allies compressed into a 5km wide coastal strip from De Panne through the Bray-Dunes to Dunkirk by 31st May. The Naval Beach Commander was Captain William Tennant, son of an Upton-on-Severn family, who organised the fleet of small boats that lifted over 300,000 Allied men and women from the beaches to larger vessels off shore. After a distinguished career, Admiral Sir William Tennant KCB, CBE, MVO, on retiring from the Navy, later became Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire until his death in 1963. The 7th and 8th Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment suffered heavy casualties in killed, wounded or taken prisoner. On return to the safety of the English countryside both Battalions were brought back to operational strength and were deployed near the South coast in preparation for the expected invasion of this country by the Germans.
The Wormhoudt Massacre 28th May 1940
Not until after the war was it known that at least six men of ‘D’ Company, the 8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment had been taken prisoners of war, stripped to the waist and their identity discs removed – they and remnants of the Warwickshire Regiment a number of Cheshire Regiment and Gunners of the Royal Artillery, making a total of some ninety men. They were marched to a point near Wormhoudt to a place known as ‘La Plaine au Bois’. This was a meadow with trees and a Barn. The men were forced into the Barn and hand grenades were tossed in, bullets were also fired into the Barn. Later those who survived were taken out of the Barn and shot (most in the back) in groups of five to ensure no survivors.
A memorial was erected near the site but did not name the Worcestershire Regiment and on Sunday the 24th May 1987, Mr A Hall (late HQ Company 8th Battalion) attended the church service and parade and laid a wreath on behalf of the Worcestershire Regiment for the first time to the men that were massacred at Wormhoudt.
Members of the Worcester Branch of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regimental Association will commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation and remember the men of the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment at a wreath laying ceremony at the Regimental Memorial Stone in Gheluvelt Park, Worcester on Wednesday 27th May 2015 commencing 11.00 hr
- Written by A McDougall
SHERWOOD FORESTERS ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
BATTLE OF AUBERS RIDGE 9 MAY 1915
Before the 1st Battalion The Sherwood Foresters had made good their 458 casualties suffered at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 they were in action again a few miles further eastwards. On 9 May they fought the Battle of Aubers Ridge attacking the German lines near Fromelles in French Flanders.
The attack was mounted in co-operation with an attack by the French further to the south. The Battalion attacked in the second wave as part of 24th Infantry Brigade of the 8th Division. After a short bombardment B and D companies of the 1st Battalion went “over the bags” at 0555 am in support of the 2nd East Lancashires. Delays were caused by the fact that our front line trenches were choked by casualties from the first attacking wave who had made little progress against a German front line on which the short bombardment had been almost completely ineffective. At least eight machine guns were firing against the attacking Foresters. Despite this heavy fire one platoon got within 40 yards of the German breastworks but found that our artillery had only blown one gap, 4 yards wide, in the German wire. The two companies fell back to the British front line to re-group.
At 0735 am the Foresters attacked again in support of the East Lancashires, this time A and C companies leading followed by the remnants of B and D companies. The attack stalled under heavy enemy machine gun and artillery fire and most of the Foresters fell or took cover in No Mans Land before retiring to the British front line at about 1.15 pm where they suffered many more casualties in the next 6 hours as the German fire systematically destroyed the British breastworks. By the time that the Foresters were relieved by the 1st Worcesters at 10 pm they had suffered a loss of 55 killed , 257 wounded and 47 missing and not one British soldier had reached the enemy front line.
During the battle, as the citation for his Victoria Cross says “For most conspicuous bravery near Rouges Bancs on the 9th May 1915. During the whole of this day Corporal Upton displayed the greatest courage in rescuing the wounded while exposed to very heavy rifle and artillery fire, going close to the enemy’s parapet, regardless of his own personal safety. One wounded man was killed by a shell while this non-commissioned officer was carrying him. When Corporal Upton was not actually carrying in the wounded, he was engaged in bandaging and dressing the serious cases in front of our parapet, exposed to the enemy’s fire”. Corporal James Upton was a 27 year old from the Meadows area of Nottingham. He had joined the 1st Battalion The Sherwood Foresters on 1906. He married in July 1915, had three children and survived the war. He died in 1949.
Corporal James Upton VC
So many British artillery shells failed to detonate at the Battle of the Aubers Ridge that an enquiry was held. Two results of this enquiry were the fall of Asquith’s government and a total re-organisation of the industrial production of munitions including the foundation of National Shell Filling Factory No 6 at Chilwell over the winter of 1915-16
Author:Maj (Retd) J H Cotterill MBE
- Written by J McDougall
BADAJOZ - APRIL 6th 1812
On March 16th 1812 a British Force some 15,000 strong with a battering train of 52 guns reached Badajoz, a strongly fortified Spanish town near the frontier with Portugal.
In 1811 Badajoz had been delivered up to Marshal Soult and although the British had made two attempts to retake it, they had failed on each occasion after heavy losses owing to the battering train being insufficient. There was nothing very remarkable about its quaint crooked streets and its massive cathedral, beyond the natural strength of its position rising some 300 feet above the marshy plain, with bastions and their connecting curtains to protect it from attack.
General of Brigade Philippon commanded in Badajoz with a force of 4,742 men and although short of powder and shell, still presented a formidable task to a besieging army. He had taken every means possible to strengthen his post: mines were laid, the arch of a bridge built up to form a dam, ditches cut and filled with water, fortifications constructed, ramparts repaired and that he should have no useless mouths to feed, the inhabitants were ordered to lay up 3 months' provisions or leave the town. Badajoz was also protected on one side by a river, 500 yards wide in places and having several outworks, notably one called the Picurina on a hill to the South East.
Such was Badajoz when Picton's 3rd Division (which included the 45th of Foot (1st Nottinghamshire Regiment)), Lowry Cole's 4th Division and the Light Division invested it. The rest of the army covered the siege and the 5th Division was on its way from Beira
On the night of 17th March; 2,000 men moved silently forward to guard the working parties who began to break ground 160 yards from the Picurina. The sentinels on the ramparts heard nothing in the howling wind and at daylight, so well had the volunteers from the 3rd Division laboured, 3,000 yards of communication and a parallel 600 yards long were revealed.
The next night, it was prolonged to the right and left and two batteries traced out. Wet and stormy weather harassed the workmen and flooded the trenches, but in spite of this the parallel was extended across the Seville Road, towards the river by the 21st March and three counter-batteries were commenced between Picurina and the river in order to open on San Roque, which covered the bridge and dam across the Rivillas as well as the Castle and the ground on the left of it.