BATTLEFIELD TOURS - FLANDERS - LEST WE FORGET

MAY 26th-28th 1940

15. HILL 60 - YPRES

"A fighting withdrawal"

Following in the footsteps of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders & others.

Half day car/walking tour;


At the end of May 1940, many units of the retreating British Expeditionary Force were fighting desperate holding actions at key locations in order to ensure the allied escape corridors to the coast (Dunkerque) were maintained. These corridors were paramount in ensuring the BEF and allies were able to reach the coast rather than be completely cut off and surrounded by the German Blitzkrieg attacks sweeping all before them.

This Blitzkrieg was often successful, however at many locations, British and allied units completely stunted the German assaults causing as well as receiving many casualties in the process. Many British battalions were simply sacrificed to save the BEF from complete destruction. They would be needed in the future to form a brand new reconstructed British Army.

As for these sacrificial battalions, the majority of soldiers were taken prisoner and returned home only on conclusion of the war, but many who fell would remain here in perpetuity, cared for by the CWGC within dedicated WW2 plots in civil cemeteries or within the already in place WW1 CWGC cemeteries.

The walking tour follows in the footsteps of a gallant fighting withdrawal which included the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, 6th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders & others.

Key action sites are visited concluding with dedicated poppy tribute placements in several cemeteries used to re-inter the fallen in 1941 after they had been recovered and re-interred by civilians in 1941.















Above left:
RSF LMG gunners and riflemen shot down many German infantrymen attempting to cross this open field as viewed from Hill 60 today.


Above right:
On Hill 60 the RSF utilised the former WW1 bunkers and strong-points to deadly affect.







 
 





Above left & right:
The post WW2 reconstructed QVR memorial & damaged Australian Tunnelers memorial.












Above left:
Henri Braem´s book reveals brutal hand to hand bayonet fighting took place immediately to the rear of Bedford House CWGC cemetery with wounded British soldiers being finished off by head and neck shots.


Above right:
Many Seaforth Highlanders fought with great gallantry at this crossroads with 8 alone being KIA and buried in the farm yard seen to the left of the Seaforth Highlanders cap badge displayed in the image.












Above left:
Many British & German were KIA and buried alongside the railway line itself.


Above right:
Bullet strikes on a nearby wall today.












Above left:
Location today of the German Regimental Aid post.

Above right:
This particular cross roads saw terrible close quarter fighting which would cost both sides many men.

Furious fighting took place around Hill 60 and Caterpillar craters, surrounding woods & villages. Enemy artillery, mortar and dedicated PAK anti-tank gun fire also targeted the bunker strong points on hill 60 itself.
This is confirmed within "The Road to Dunkirk" book by Charles More.


THE HILL 60 BUNKER:


The large 1918 bunker constructed by Australian Engineers was badly damaged by German PAK 36 anti-tank munitions and possibly by others as may be confirmed by studying pre-WW2 and post-WW2 bunker images along with further on site evidence and of course PAK 36 munitions images themselves.

During this action, the Queen Victoria's Rifles Memorial was badly damaged & required reconstruction post-WW2 whilst the Australian Tunnelers Memorial was also damaged.
*See previous image above.













Above left:
The undamaged pre-WW2 Hill 60 bunker also revealing the original Queen Victoria's Rifles Memorial rear right behind bunker.

Above right:
The scarred post-WW2 Hill 60 bunker revealing damage inflicted during the May 27th 1940 German assault on the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers who occupied the bunkers and were dug in on the hill top. German PAK 36 anti tank fire was particular accurate with several rounds going straight through the observation port as confirmed by impact craters within and on the rear wall! *The reconstructed QVR memorial is today hidden behind the trees and shrubs.













Above left:
WW2 German PAK 37mm anti tank munition penetrator embedded into the re-inforced concrete of the large OP bunker located on the crest of Hill 60.

Above right:
As a former tank gunner myself and having experienced the result of high velocity armour defeating kinetic munitions, I can confirm that this particular German anti tank crew along with their weapon were deadly. At least two impact strikes are visible on the bunker interior rear wall as well as on the outside frontal glacis of the bunker itself.
Hardly surprising the much more vulnerable QVR memorial was unable to resist the storm of anti tank, artillery and mortar strikes.





Above:
German PAK 36 anti tank gun and crew. Belgium - May 1940.














Above left & right:
PAK 36 anti tank gun. Solid shot munitions with steel/tungsten penetrators plus High Explosive with timed fuse options were available. *Compare revealed munition above right with the 37mm solid shot round embedded into the bunker glacis today.

On conclusion of the battle, fallen British soldiers were swiftly buried by civilians on the very location where they fell but were then re-interred into Bus House, Bedford House, Ypres town Cemetery Ext & other CWGC cemeteries in 1941 where they rest today.

Others who were captured, wounded and later died of wounds in hospitals elsewhere were then buried in nearby civil or other CWGC cemetery plots/cemeteries.

The German dead were also quickly buried but by their own support units following on in the wake of the fighting as they pushed the allies back towards Dunkirk. They would soon be re-interred at dedicated temporary burial locations before eventually finding a permanent resting place in the German national cemetery at Lommel on conclusion of the war.

The RSF & Seaforth Highlanders war diaries, Ypres Town archives, Henri Braem's book, "De Slag om de Spoorweg en Vaart" and the recently published book
"The Road to Dunkirk" by Charles More both reveal a far bigger story than generally known. Many properties along the action sites were destroyed or so badly damaged that many had to be completely rebuilt.













Above left & right:
British 4.5 inch Howitzers such as this example along with refurbished WW1 period 18 pounders (upgrades included the fitting of pnuematic tyres) delivered devastating counter battery & SOS fire missions onto enemy positions.
This particular gun once captured was taken back to Germany as a war trophy.
Years later it would find it's way back to Warneton town Square where it stands today.

Charles More's book reveals British artillery fired 32000 rounds over the 3 day battle period. This is comparable to the number of British artillery munitions expended during the British barrage at El Alamein, which lasted far longer.
On conclusion of this battle, farmer Emile Bonte who farmed at Mai Cornet counted over 400 artillery munitions impact craters on his farm land alone!

Henri Braem's amazing book reveals he estimates the village and locality received 10,000 artillery/mortar munitions strikes. Extracts selected from the German 18th Division's war diary also confirms that this 3 day battle was the toughest the Division had experienced in the war thus far.

Period maps and the landscape of today confirm that this battle was truly ferocious and costly to both the military and the civilian population likewise.














Above left & right:
British machine gunners put down devastating fire from this building owned by J Ide, shooting down many Germans as they exited the Vierlingen Wood area seen in the image above right.


























Above left & right:
Battle damage and relics of the period including the remains of a British Bren Gun Carrier in situ today.
















Above left & right:
Bloody hand to hand combat took place within and around the above farm house, today being the Palingbeek Golf Club house. The entrance foyer contains a tribute to the RSF.
















Above left & right:
L-R Bedford House CWGC cemetery WW2 plot to the fore & Bus House CWGC cemetery with WW2 graves to the front. The majority of RSF and Seaforth Highlanders fallen who were temporarily buried where they fell would find their way in 1941 into either of these two cemeteries along with other battalions fallen.














Above left & right:
The Battle of the Canal and Railway Memorial. May 26-28, 1940 located at nearby Comines, but representative of all who fought throughout this action.















































Above;
Chris speaks with Gillian (nee) Hardy, daughter of Guardsman Hardy MM buried in Comines CWGC cemetery plot. Gillian accompanied by husband David attended the 2016 ceremony and placed a wreath to the memory of her late father who she last saw at less than 3 years of age. Never forgotten!

Milena and Chris also placed poppy tributes on conclusion of the official ceremony.













Above left & right:
Battle damage nearby still very much in evidence today.














Above left:
The CWGC plot in Comines community burial ground contains 100 WW2 British soldiers who fell between Hollebeke and Comines during this holding action. More are buried within CWGC cemetery plots at Warneton Bas, Warneton civil cemeteries and Oosttaverne CWGC cemeteries.

Above right:
Those soldiers who have "No Known Grave" from these actions are commemorated on the "Dunkirk Memorial to the Missing"

The walking tour if requested covers a distance of approx 5 miles.
Off road walking visiting canal embankments, railway embankments, Hill 60 itself, the Caterpillar crater and areas of woodland are all visited.

Please allow 4 hours for the half day walking battlefield tour.



Half-day car/walking tour: 50.00 euro pp

Minimum 2 persons, maximum 4 persons.


....................................................................


The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment at Ypres, May 28th 1940.



The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment and its R&R connection with Poperinge and Ypres during the latter half of 1944 requires no introduction. However, on reading 
"Taming the Panzers" by Patrick Delaforce I was quite taken back to learn that
3 x 3 RTR Mk 6 light tanks motored all the way down from Calais and fought in the defence of Ypres, especially around Dickebusch on May 28th 1940.

The 3 RTR tank commanders involved were Major Reeves, Lt Williams &
Sgt Cornwall. The DSO, MC & DCM awarded in that order were well deserved indeed!















Above left:
Abandoned British military vehicles including a Vickers light tank such as also seen in the above right image littered the roads leading to Dunkerque.
















Above left:
The cost of freedom. A tragic image revealing fallen British soldiers who were KIA attempting to hold back the German onslaught with a German medic in attendance.
Clearly not all German soldiers upheld nazi ideology!


Above right:
May 1940 burials: Dickebusch Old Military CWGC cemetery:
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them......

Unlike those who managed to escape and fight another day, these gallant men did not. Today most rest in peace within military plots located in civilian cemeteries or within the dedicated CWGC cemeteries such as this one at Dickebuschnear Ypres, this being one of the locations where the 3 light tanks of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment under the command of Major Reeves DSO fought alongside others near Ypres.

Fear naught

Chris Lock: former Chieftain Main Battle Tank crewman: 3rd Royal Tank Regiment.



Website Builder mogelijk gemaakt <br/>door  Vistaprint
Website Builder
mogelijk gemaakt
door Vistaprint