After the Battle
At 13:30 the last members of the Royal Scots Fusliers surrendered. Their action had delayed the German thrust towards Dunkirk by enough time for a significant portion of the BEF to either be evacuated or to set up a better defence of the port.
Only 40 Fusiliers, mostly those of the 2nd Echelon managed to make it as a formed unit to Dunkirk.
Brigadier Stopford wrote:
"the numbers gradually mounted to 250 in the camp at Blackdown near Aldershot where the survivors were assembled—more, he says, than he had dared to hope for."
These Fusiliers had made their escapes as individuals and small groups, crossing through German lines and either escaping through Dunkirk with other units or through Le Havre.
My own Grandfather escaped the net along the canal and with a group of other soldiers made their way south and joined up with the 51st Highland division. After another desperate fight, he was captured outside St Valerie on the 6th of June when the Germans over ran a cement factory.
Foe those that didn't managed to get away the next few weeks were harsh. With little food, shelter or equipment they were marched around the countryside, almost as if the Germans were displaying them to the Belgium and French population.
Lt. Livingstone Bussell's diary tells the tale from the junior officers side:
"We now marched about 14 miles to a H.Q. near Gheluvelt carrying Corporal Hammerston, who had been shot possibly in the stomach, in a wheel barrow. He also recovered. En route we passed through our own artillery barrage and some bursts were unpleasantly close. On arrival at the H.Q. we met Capt. Holme and about 6 officers from the Northampton’s and Seaforth’s. We were given a sort of barley stew and some brown bread and then went to sleep on straw on the floor at 6.30 p.m. We were woken up at 8.30pm and rushed outside. As it was daylight I thought it was morning because I was in a semi-conscious state and only realized it was the same day when it began to get dark later on. We now marched 8 miles to Courtrai. This was the worst march I have ever done because I couldn't keep my eyes open and it was so dark it was difficult to see the man a pace or two ahead of one. Arrived at Courtrai at 5.30 a.m. and marched miles round the town before we were eventually put into a room in the station. About 12 officers and 100 men lying on top of each other.
At 1.30 p.m. when very hungry taken t the prison where we met Major Morrison, Capt. Heisch, Lieut. Robertson, 2/Lieut. Bowlby and some officers of other regiments. Saw Capt. Arkwright in the distance but he was taken to the hospital as he had been hit in the back. Colonel Tod had also been hit. We were able to buy some food from the Belgians and managed to get a wash in the prison laundry . I slept on a very small straw pelisse.
Marched 19 miles to Renaix where we were put in a very dirty building with Belgian and English troops but we managed to get a room to ourselves . The place was
an old Belgian Ordinance depot so we equipped ourselves with packs, water bottles mess tins etc . Slept on a wooden floor . 3 more officers including a doctor joined us making a party of 21 officers.
Marched 26 miles to Ninove . This was a very hard march as it was a hot day, but there was worse ones to come. In Grammont we managed to buy bread , biscuits ,chocolate etc. We were able to do this most days in Belgium by dropping out of the line of march. The Belgians, of whom there were about 4,000 had no discipline, marched all over the road and stopped to eat whenever t hey liked. Most all the time bar this once we had our own guard and were kept going but the guard usually let one or two of us off to buy food . On arriving at Ninove we were put in an orchard where we started to spend the night , but at 10 p.m. we were put in a shed with Belgian and British troops where we slept on a concrete floor absolutely on top of each other, Wherever one of us was put and however uncomfortable, one was so exhausted that one always went to sleep immediately. When we arrived I think we were given a chunk of bread and some coffee
Marched 22 miles to Halk with practically no halts. On arrival we were not allowed to sit down while we were waiting for the Belgians to be billeted before us. The Germans were very irate because we arrived singing . We were put in to a room in the top of a factory with straw on the floor. If one went outside for natural purposes, one had to barge through hundreds of Belgians
When we had fallen into march off, a German N.C.O. made Johnny hold an umbrella and said he looked like Chamberlain. Marched 21 miles to Wavre, This was the hardest march of all because we did about 6 hours without a proper halt .An N.C.O. who was a prisoner in the last war in Birmingham was in charge of us. To start off, one thing had apparently upset them because we were all crowded into a very small room, the door was locked and we were left there for about an hour. After that we were let out and put in quite a decent room but only bare boards to sleep on. The building had once been a school or some such thing. We were now given a good potato soup, bread and coffee, which was more food than we had been given before by the Germans, and were allowed to wash in a stream.
Marched 18 miles to Tierlmon and billeted in an old barracks. This was luxury because it had proper iron beds with straw palliasses. Part of the building was used as a hospital. Also for once we got a really good wash. We were given burnt baked beans and coffee for supper.
We were marched off without being given anything to eat but had only a short distance to St. Truiden.
Marched to Tongeren
Marched to Maastrict
We spent the whole day in the same placed and had a good chance to wash our clothes. We were overloaded with food from the Dutch. Sandwiches of all types, beer, cherries, milk etc.. I must admit that I overate myself in a childish manner and was heartily sick the next morning.
We were routed out fairly early in the morning. Stumpy Thompson & Johnny Vaughan managed to stay behind. The former because his feet had given out because he had marched all the way in gum boots. The latter because his knee was bad. They arrived at Oflag V11C on June 23rd after traversing a different route to ours. Major Ellis also stayed behind as his feet had given out. He eventually went to Oflag IX A. We were with him at Oflag V1 B from October to January '41/'42 until he returned to IX A with the senior officers. I felt very ill until we had marched about 8 miles when I seemed to recover. The Dutch civilians and Red Cross lined the road and showered us with food and cigarettes. After a few miles one had to refuse the food because it was impossible to carry any more. Crossed the German border at 2.05 p.m. and arrived at Palenburg at 5 pm. after a march of 18 miles. We were put into a 3rd class compartment of a train and expected to spend the night in it. However at 12 p.m. we were routed out, caught unawares with boots off etc.. Much shouted and telling one to hurry up. Eventually we collected ourselves and marched through Dortmund to a camp of huts and marquees. We spent the rest of the night in a marquee.
We spent all day in the marquee and were given two thick stews at 12 noon and 5 p.m.. We shared the tent with the Belgian and French officers. (The latrine was a long pole over a trench, all bums together, so when someone more sat down or got up one nearly fell off into the trench. Everyone had the runs!)
We were moved into a hut where we had a small room to ourselves, but washed etc. in the same places as the Belgium troops. Spent the next three days doing nothing except playing patience, reading one or two odd books we had collected or sleeping.
We were formed up outside the camp at 12 noon in pouring rain where we were given half a loaf of bread and a slice of galantine each to last for 48 hours. Marched through Dortmund and boarded a train at 2 p.m. We thought ourselves lucky to be put into a 2nd class compartment. Many others travelled for the same period in cattle trucks.
Route to Oflag VIIC on Austro-Bavarian border:
Munich (Given slices of bread and some black coffee. 6 p.m.)
Arrived Laufen at 9.30 a.m. on June 15
Oflag VIIC. June 15, 1940 to March 3, 1941.
With 17 other officers, I arrived at the prison camp at Laufen at 10 a.m. on June 15, 1940. As I marched through the gates into the yard, I realised that I might not walk out of them again for perhaps several years. As it turned out later, it was a highly inaccurate thought. The first torment we had to endure, was having to submit ourselves to having all our hair cut off. This was performed with a pair of electric clippers. I looked a particularly repulsive sight after this as my head is the exact shape of an egg. After this we were each individually searched in a building which had been erected as a garage. I seemed to have a large number of papers on me but these were mainly letters. My Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam caused slight consternation but was handed back with the remark: "Now you will have time to learn it all by heart." I never did. Particulars of place of birth, next of kin and such like were taken and then I was passed on to another German officer who took all my money which consisted of about 160 Belgian francs and a few French ones. I was given a receipt for these. I then joined the other officers at the end of the garage where we somewhat impatiently waited for some much wanted food,
But had our heads shaved and photo taken holding up my number 714 and given a metal disc to keep round ones neck.