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France Norway 1940:

Boulogne and Calais

Aside from the main battles involving the British Expeditionary Force, two other battle took place in May 1940 that illustrate the confusion of that period, yet the fighting ability of the British soldier. These took place at two of the Channel ports, namely Boulogne and Calais.

At Boulogne, the 20 Guards Brigade was landed on 22 May 1940 under the command of Brigadier (Temporary) William Augustus Fitzgerald Lane FIX-PITT, M.V.O., M.C.. The brigade fought at Boulogne for twenty-four hours before being evacuated back to the United Kingdom.

An interview conducted by the Imperial War Museum with Brigadier (later Major General) FOX-PITT can be found at: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80009741

The Battle for Calais took place from 22 May until 26 May, when the garrison surrendered. Troops from an anti-aircraft searchlight unit were in the Calais area, where they were joined by the 3 Royal Tank Regiment and the 1 Battalion, The Queen Victoria’s Rifles (a Territorial Army unit). The headquarters of the 30 Infantry Brigade under Brigadier NICHOLSON landed on 22 May, with the 2 Bn. The King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the 1 Bn. The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own) under command. These were pre-war Regular Army battalions.

A series of fierce encounters took place over the next few days as the German armoured units pressed their attack in order to capture Calais. Controversially, the Prime Minister Winston CHURCHILL, decided not to evacuate the men from Calais, so they fought on valiantly until exhausted and out of ammunition, the survivors surrendered on 26 May 1940. The troops then had to endure five years in captivity as described well in Carole McENTEE-TAYLOR’s excellent book entitled ‘The Weekend Trippers – A Rifleman’s Diary Calais 1940’.

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