Reading a War DiaryPosted: March 19, 2016
Whilst I was at the National Archives I took the opportunity to read the War Diary of the unit with which my maternal grandfather served during the early part of the Second World War. He was a member of the Territorial Army before the war, and in 1939 his unit – 366th Field Battery, Royal Artillery – was mobilised. Along with the 367th Battery it formed the 140th Army Field Artillery Regiment, which was armed with 18-pounder Field Guns, an example of which can be seen below:
The Regiment was not attached to a Division as was the case with most Field Artillery Regiments, but controlled by GHQ and allotted to provide extra firepower to formations that required it.
In March 1940 the Regiment was sent to France to form part of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force), and the first two months of the War Diary are taken up with movement orders, personnel returns, and reports on various inspections and manoeuvres that the Regiment took part in. The May section of the War Diary tells a very different story … and at some point I hope to transcribe the interview with the Regiment’s second-in-command as this explains events from his point of view.
Simply put, the 140th Army Field Artillery regiment was destroyed during the course of fighting in and around Wannehain (on the River Escaut (in French)/Scheldt (in Flemish)) and then Cassel. On 27th May 1940 they were surrounded by advancing German forces, but continued fighting until the evening, by which time the situation was hopeless. At that point the Commanding Officer ordered the destruction of the remaining guns and his men to try to break out. By the 30th May almost half of them had been killed or captured, but 14 officers and 287 men (out of approximately 700) did manage to make it back to England via Dunkirk. Despite having been seriously wounded, my grandfather was one of the lucky ones who did make it back.