May 27th, 1940. Informal dispatch from Captain Lewis-Stokes from 4th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.
Look Sean look! Jerry is retreating, the Germans are retreating! We have gave them a bloody nose!.
All started this morning….
First an aerial view from our recce plane to better follow the account:
This is another river line to defend. Two bridges, one ford. They told us it would be the last one. Our forces are a motley mix of any kind of troops we can gather. Guards, regular army, terrtorials and AMPC personnel. Our positons look very thin, but we must resist and win time for the lads at Dunkirk to start the evacuation.
We know the germans would come from both roads. Both bridges and the barn must be defended to the bitter end. We cannot allow for them to capture any of those two, nor cross the river in any strength.
One of our main assets is the support of our loyal & trusted 3¨inch mortars. They always respond, they are always there to support us. The artillery lads are not so trustworthy, but we can try to call them anyway if in need.
Some signal guys are also with us. They would come handy when trying to contact division or Corps for some heavy arty . We have also a bleeding truck just if in need of towing something.
We have with us a section of two 2pdr guns. It is very uncomfortable to know we have only AP shells for them. We could feel much more confident if they have given us some HE shell if only to boost morale. But some moron in London thought that we won´t need them. The guns are dug in, well crewed and with good fields of fire. A lone 0.303 Vickers from the Cheshires is dug in nearby in some ruins also.
A lone cruiser tank is helping us, maybe some refugee from Calais. It´s of a newer type, without those clumsy turrets. A10 they call it. We have enormous confidence in it. And soon it proved so, when he dispatches the lone 8-rad recce car the Germans threw in past our roadblock of heavy logs.
Also a lone 18/25 pdr gun arrived last night, survivor from some past disaster, with an enlarged and pictoresque crew lead by 2nd Lt. A.Barton. They are eager to help.
The Germans start with utter alacrity on our left flank, dashing for the railway bridge. Our 2 pdr AT gun there was blown to smithereens by a direct hit from some uber-heavy shell from a howitzer just 400 yards away. So, our only AT defense was in the form of an AT rifle and a 2inch light mortar. And it was private James Birch, on the second floor of that café, that alone with his assistant repelled the most menacing threat. Firing repeatedly with his AT rifle, he made the crew of the biggest enemy tank by the bridge to abandon the vehicle. He would certainly be named in dispatches at least.
The road bridge was covered by a sniper team and a section of infantry. The barn ahead was heavily defended by two more sections and a Vickers HMG. The british infantry and snipers repelled all german initial attacks, routing a full enemy cavlary patrol. The german tanks that came after them were subjected to several stonks from all of our available guns, and stopped on their tracks also. This flank, and it´s important barn remains secure in BEF´s hands by now.
On the other hand, what happened next on our left flank (railway bridge) can only by told by wounded survivors. Our left flank just crumbled. They come full speed and guns blazing, crossing the river in a minute. The germans overran us with their tanks and killed or wounded almost everyone there with their autocannons. Only 2nd Lt David Muirhead was still standing in his artillery observation post, directing stonks all over the battlefield. I heard he will be awarded the DSO for that (and surviving!).
Our morale takes a big hit (lots of BR counters taken by losses, objectives and german AFV´s on our side of the river) , and all the BEF hesitates. The troops wavered…. can we resist the urge to run??
Just when everything seemed lost…. Help comes. A9 platoon, carrier section, dingoes. 1st Armoured to the rescue!
Our 3 inch mortars cheer the passing reinforcements. CS9, lorried infantry and Vickers MKVI Light tanks
They made good use of the embankment road to speed up ahead
The lorried infantry quickly reinforce the windmill where our bold commander, Lt. Colonel Burnett-Brown stands fast directing the battle. Being also an objective, it feels wise to protect the CO.
Debuss ladz! Debuss! To the windmill!
The Morrs CS9, a lone survivor from the 9th lancers, dash to the roadbridge
On our right flank, things are easier. The germans are dancing and collecting potatoes over our pre-registered artillery targets. A throng of shells came raining down on them as we feel really supported by our artillery. The germans are dazed by the storm of shells, not knowing what to do. Those who are not with their faces to the ground, start to fire at us instead of moving. But our cover is good, and our shells plenty.
Our carrier section dash to the rescue of the few survivors of the left flank. But they are too late. Only Lt. Muirhead is still alive, and he is too far behind enemy lines now, beyond our help. A 2 inch mortar debuss from the first carrier and finds a position in the café orchard to take some shots at the incoming panzers. Or at least block their vision with some smoke rounds.
Two of the A9´s come behind the carrier at full speed. The enemy panzers must be dealt with.
With similar quickness, the remaining A9 of the platoon and the light Vickers MkVI platoon sped up to the road bridge.
and are cheered by our lads there
Repositon that 2 pounder people!! Me and my crew are taking over this side! Fire at those panzers by the railbridge!
Back on our left flank, the leading A9 comes full speed to support the mortar team, but ends up dangerously close to a PzII by the orchard.
And the bugger destroys our tank! Our crew tries to run to safety but are mercilessly machine-gunned.
Full speed ahead boys! avenge our RTR pals! The other A9 standing on the railway enbankment loads a round in the chamber and takes aim….
and misses!! But a split second after that, the enemy crew bail out!! What happened?? A loud cheer from the orchard signals that it was our trusty 2inch mortar who did the job. Good work lads!
Hope and morale restored, our reinforcements advance all along the front now
Our last 2inch mortar dies bravely to autocannon fire. It´s carrier transport goes frenzy by seen this and moves recklessly ahead. Also brave sergeant Andy Taylor continues to advance with his A9 to confront the remainng PzII´s.
Sergeant Andy Taylor wants revenge!
Our counterattack is making progress despite a deluge of enemy mortar shells raining on our side of the river. Mortar bombs are raining when suddenly the top part of the windmill explodes and comes crashing down, taking with it the whole HQ including the dead body of our CO, lt. colonel Burnett-Brown. This is it, our morale is broken (we have reached our BR limit) and the railway bridge is still in german hands. The germans just need to take the barn on our right flank to win. But they are stopped by the stalwart defense of the Barn by Lt Peter Walker and our stubborn & stingy artillery.
Lt. Walker stood valiantly against the german tanks all battle. And a final stonk of combined 3inch mortars, 25pdr and 4,5¨howitzers makes the germans pay dearly for their habit of inhabiting PRT´s.
The enemy tries a last attempt at reorganizing and mounitng a final attack, but their commander could not make his officers obey. The germans have had enough, they desist on the attack and withdraw.
Victory for the BEF! Another day gained for our troops to escape.
A good and hard pounding sir! Heavy stonking never fails.