59th (Staffordshire) Division 1939-1944

1/6 South Staffordshire : France 1940

In January 1940 the 1/6th South Staffords under Lt/Colonel W. E. (Billy) GIBBONS, were moved to Aldershot, and after special training in April were sent as part of the BEF to France, and attached to III Corps, constructing defensive positions and other work in the Bethune area.

In May 1940 when the Germans invaded the Low Countries, the Battalion moved as part of 44th Division into Belgium around Oudenarde and the River Scheldt line, where on 17th May they were attacked and retired to defences along the River Lys. On the 23rd the Battalion was in the area of Courtrai preparing bridges for demolition and Captain PEARSON of "C" Company was awarded the Military Cross for his work.

The night of the 23rd the unit was sent to Neuve Eglise to defend III Corps headquarters and the Battalion HQ was bombed causing slight casualties. On the 25th the Battalion was ordered to Ypres leaving "D" Company to defend III Corps HQ, and after this lost contact with the remainder of the Battalion. "D" took part in heavy fighting and one platoon was wiped out when overrun by German tanks, the remaining platoons made their way to the coast and evacuation.

The remainder [of the Battalion] were still around Ypres and "C" Company were involved in heavy fighting causing many enemy casualties before they [were] withdrawn after hearing news of the Belgian surrender to the enemy. The Battalion then made its way towards Dunkirk and on the 30th May was in reserve to 150 Brigade on the Dunkirk perimeter. They then moved to Bray Dunes and [finally] to Dunkirk itself, where the Battalion was evacuated at 9 pm on 2nd June, arriving in Folkstone next morning.

The South Staffordshire Regiment received the battle honour NORTHWEST EUROPE 1940 for 1/6 Battalion's participation.

1/6 S Staffs
On the beach at Dunkirk eight members of 1/6 South Staffords await evacuation. The French officer in the picture is probably an interpreter. [BBC Where I Live: Stoke and Staffordshire]


Thanks to Tony Duncombe of Willenhall (in the Black Country) for the above article. 11/2005

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http://59div.morssweb.com/?1-6_1940 - September 27, 2009
original text and graphics copyright © 2017 Robert Morss