Friday, August 09, 2013

The Border Regt.'s 5th Battalion in the 1940 B.E.F.

1. The Border Regiment shield and badges 
2. Lille ('La Vieille Bourse'), Nord, France.
(Located in the city's main square)
[5th Border was based in the region in spring 1940]  
3. Entrance to Fort Lobau, Bondues, near Lille.
(Now the Bondues Resistance museum)

[This was 5th Border HQ in April / May 1940]
4. Fort Lobau, Bondues, Nord, France
(Internal view)
 For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information


By way of introduction, it is appropriate to look at a little of the history of the Border Regiment and its 5th Battalion prior to WW2. Historically, the Border Regiment was the County Regiment for the Twin Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland (now Cumbria) in N.W. England. The Regimental name was born in 1881 as part of the 'Cardwell system' of reforms of the British Army.

Previously, infantry (or Foot) regiments of the British Army were designated by numbers. From 1782 onwards there was a loose attachment of these regiments to particular districts or counties of Britain. For example, the '34th Regiment of Foot' was attached to the old county of Cumberland and the '55th Regiment of Foot' was attached to the neighbouring county of Westmorland. However, in reality between 1782 and 1881 the bond between the '34th of Foot' and the '55th of Foot' were not as strongly developed as for some other regiments.

Nevertheless, in 1881 the 34th and 55th Regiments were paired together to become 'The Border Regiment'. The '34th' became the 1st Battalion of the new Regiment and the '55th' became the 2nd Battalion of the Border Regiment. The County Militia became the 3rd Battalion. Over time, the 3rd Battalion developed to become effectively a training and reserve battalion for the 1st and 2nd Battalions. Other than during the two World Wars, from this date onwards most recruits for the Border Regiment came from the 'Twin Counties' of Cumberland and Westmorland.

At the same time, the part-time Westmorland Volunteers became the 4th Volunteer Battalion and the Cumberland Volunteers became the 5th Volunteer Battalion. The 4th Battalion eventually developed into the Territorial Battalion and recruited mainly from Carlisle, East Cumberland and Westmorland. The 5th Battalion The Border Regiment became the Territorial Battalion, recruiting mainly from West Cumberland. The Regimental Depot for the Border Regiment was at Carlisle Castle, Cumberland on the English side of the England / Scotland border.

During the First World War, in addition to the regular and territorial battalions, several other battalions of The Border Regiment were formed. Perhaps the most famous of these new battalions was the 11th (Lonsdale) Battalion recruited by the Earl of Lonsdale (the "Yellow Earl") who had vast estates, mines and quarries especially in Cumberland and Westmorland. Before the war the Earl had been a close personal friend and shooting partner of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II before the war. At the top of the recruitment poster for the Lonsdale Battalion there was the following question:


In addition, the Lonsdale Battalion also had its own cap badge. It incorporated the Earl of Lonsdale's family badge.

After the First World War the Regiment reverted to having the 1st and 2nd Battalions as its 'regular' battalions. The 4th and 5th Battalions reverted back to being the 'territorial' battalions, recruiting in their traditional areas.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The Border Regiment badge

Next, let us look at the Border Regiment cap badge and in particular, put this within its historical context. The cap badge reflects the regimental history from the days of the '34th of Foot' and '55th of Foot' onwards. A photograph of this badge mounted on a shield, a blazer badge and lapel badge can be see above [Photograph No 1].

In the centre of the badge is a helmet-plate style centre surrounded by a circle displaying the honour 'Arroyo dos Molinos, 1811'. This honour was won by the '34th of Foot' during the Peninsular Wars against Napoleon's French Army. Remarkably, it was at this battle that the British 34th Regiment defeated the French 34th Regiment!

The star on the cap badge is topped by the monarch's crown. Inside the star is a cross which carries the names of the battle honours won by the 34th, the 55th and their successor battalions (i.e. 1st Border and 2nd Border respectively).

In the centre circle of the badge is a Chinese dragon with the word 'China' above. This represents the honour of the dragon badge awarded to the 55th Regiment for its service in the 1st Anglo-Chinese War of 1840-42. The lower part of the circle, which contains the dragon, is red while the upper part, containing the word 'China', is white. These colours represent the red and white shalako 'pom-pom' of the French 34th Regiment (i.e. the one defeated by the British Army's '34th' at Arroyo dos Molinos). Written on the scroll at the base of the usual Border cap badge is the regimental name: "The Border Regiment".

The laurel wreath incorporated into the badge was awarded to the 34th Regiment for service at the Battle of Fontenoy in May 1745. This was a major engagement in the War of the Austrian Succession between a combined British, Dutch and Hanoverian army led by the Duke of Cumberland and the Louis XV's French Army led by Maurice de Saxe. Cumberland's aim was to relieve the French siege upon the Flanders fortress of Tournai. The battle was won by the French but with heavy casualties on both sides. Cumberland's forces withdrew and Tournai surrendered to the French a few days later.

Almost 200 years later, in May 1940, two regiments of the Border Regiment (the 5th and the 1st) would be sent towards Tournai in an attempt to defend the city from the German Army. Yet again, history repeated itself. The Border Regiment men of 1940 were forced to withdraw and Tournai was occupied by the opposing troops.

The 4th Battalion and 5th Battalion cap badges were slightly different from the usual Border Regiment badge seen above. They had a similar pattern, including the Fontenoy wreath, but with '4th' or '5th' in the centre instead of the Chinese dragon. Also, the honours awarded to the regular battalions were absent and the scroll at the base indicated their respective recruiting areas.

The rest of this article shall concentrate mainly on the history of the territorial battalion of the Border Regiment recruiting mainly in West Cumberland - the 5th Battalion - in the early part of WW2.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Preparing for the seemingly inevitable war

Following the failure of the Munich Agreement in October 1938 to secure a just and lasting peace with Germany, a World War began to look increasingly likely. In retrospect, is there anything good that can be said about the Munich Agreement? Perhaps the best thing that can be said of it is that it gave Britain and France a short additional breathing space to prepare for the inevitable war.

In April 1939 the British Government announced plans to double the strength of the Territorial Army. Both Territorial battalions of the Border Regiment began recruiting and reached their target within a short time. At this time the Commanding Officer of the 5th Battalion was Lieutenant-Colonel H.F. d'A.S. Law, M.C. (appointed from 10 December 1938).

On the day war broke out, 3 September 1939, the battalion, still double its normal size, was still away at summer camp at Halton, near Lancaster. It formed part of 126th Infantry Brigade, whose Commanding Officer at this time was Brigadier G. Darwell, M.C., previously C.O. of the 1st Battalion The Border Regiment (1932 - 1936). Brigaded with 5th Border at this time was 4th Border and 5th Battalion, the King's Own Royal Regiment.

However, at the end of October 1939, the 4th Battalion The Border Regiment was withdrawn from the 126th Brigade. Shortly afterwards, 4th Border was replaced by the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (a battalion of regular soldiers). The 126th Brigade formed part of the 42nd Division, T.A. under the command of Major-General W.G. Holmes, C.B, D.S.O.

The 5th Battalion begins to prepare for overseas service

Because the 5th Battalion was still double its normal size when war was declared, the battalion was split into two while still at Halton. The duplicate battalion - in effect a reserve / training battalion - became the 7th Battalion of the Border regiment. Initially, the 7th Battalion remained at Halton. Meanwhile, on 29 September 1939 the 42nd Division, including 5th Border, moved to Northumberland in N.E. England.

The disposition of the the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment was in the Wooler area of Northumberland. Its bases were as follows:

Battalion Headquarters - Barmoor Castle;

Headquarters Company - Lowick;

A Company & B Company - Doddington;

C Company - Nesbitt Farm;

D Company - Barmoor House.

As referred to earlier, the 4th Battalion The Border Regiment left the 126th Brigade at the end of October 1939 and the 5th Battalion took over their billets at Low Lynn for a few weeks. In December, the 126th and 125th Brigades exchanged accommodation. The 5th Battalion moved to the Felton area. Battalion Headquarters during this period was at Warkworth.

That year, there was an early onset of winter and it went on to be one of the coldest winters in living memory, particularly in north Northumberland with several heavy snowfalls. One of the military 'wags' in 5th Border nicknamed the camp 'Razmak Camp' after the true Razmak military camp on the North West Frontier of the Indian sub-Continent! Obviously the weather conditions were rather different between the Razmak Camp of north Northumberland of November 1939 and the Razmak Camp of the N.W. Frontier. The snow and ice made it difficult for training, especially for drivers on treacherous roads. Despite the conditions accidents were few and the training continued.

The 1st Battalion The Border Regiment was already in France at the end of 1939 and was based in and around the town of Orchies, about 13 miles / 21 Kms S.S.E. of Lille. On 8 December 1939, Captain A.S. Miller, a Colour Sergeant and 3 Sergeants from the 5th Battalion were sent out to join the 1st Battalion. On the following day, Captain W.Y. Kington Blair-Oliphant and 4 N.C.O.s left the 1st Battalion to join the 5th Battalion back in the U.K., with the N.C.O.s to act initially as instructors. Mobilisation of the 5th Battalion for overseas service was moving ever closer.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Final preparations before joining the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.)

On 15 January 1940 the 42nd Division, including 5th Border and 126th Brigade, moved to southern England to make its final preparations before joining the British Expeditionary Force. The men of 5th Battalion The Border Regiment entrained on the night of 15 January at Acklington, Northumberland for Swindon, Wiltshire. Despite the severe weather conditions and poor driving conditions on the roads the battalion's transport moved by road. Due to ill-health, Brigadier G. Darwell, C.O. of 126th Brigade, relinquished command at this time and was replaced by Brigadier E.G. Miles, D.S.O., M.C.

After the 42nd Division's arrival at Swindon the preparations for overseas service continued. For example, the 126th Brigade formed an anti-tank company. The 5th Battalion provided the Company Commander - Captain W.S. Sewell - and one platoon under the command of 2nd Lieutenant S.T. Park from Whitehaven, Cumberland. Lt. Park would be seriously wounded at Dunkirk but was evacuated and went on to become the Captain Adjutant of the Whitehaven Battalion of the Home Guard.

During this period of training, the battalion practised attacking in co-operation with tanks (7th Tank Battalion) . This included giving a successful demonstration to 3 other Divisions at Tidworth. At the end of February 1940, Major G.W. Tucker, M.C. (at that time the 2nd i/c of 5th Border) and 2nd Lt. E.G. Darricote went over to France as an advance party. However, the advance party returned 2 weeks later and the training continued throughout March, with exercises in preparing, attacking and defending trenches.

At the end of March, officers and men of the 5th Battalion were given embarkation leave of 48 hours. There was a final medical examination and this resulted in a small number of changes of the officers and men.

Below were the changes in officers of the 5th Battalion just before embarking for France:

Appointed 2nd in command:
Major H.T. Thompson (previously adjutant)

Appointed Adjutant:
Lieutenant G. Hewitson

Appointed Quartermaster:
Lieutenant H. Conroy
(previously Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant)
[He replaced Lieutenant & Quartermaster E.C. Peters]

Other officers leaving the battalion:
Major G.W. Tucker (previously 2nd i/c)
Captain H. Arbuthnot
Captain A. Chicken
Lieutenant J. Dolan
Lieutenant A. Clarke
Lieutenant J.C. Rigg

Officers joining the battalion:
Lieutenant P. Carter
Lieutenant J. Pennington
Lieutenant A.B. Burton
Lieutenant S. Gillespie
Lieutenant J. Constable

Embarkation for France with the B.E.F.

The 5th Battalion The Border Regiment's transport left the Swindon area fully-loaded on 8 April 1940 while the officers and men entrained for Southampton on 16 April 1940. Embarkation took place the following day and the battalion set sail for France as part of the B.E.F.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Nominal role of 5th Border officers (April 1940)

Below is the nominal role of officers from the Border Regiment who proceeded to France with the 5th Battalion in April 1940.

(Commanding Officer):
Lieutenant - Colonel H.F. d'A.S. Law, M.C.

Battalion Majors:
Major H.T. Thompson (2nd in Command)
Major A.N. Dudding

Battalion Captains:
Captain J.P. Hetherington
Captain W.Y. Kington Blair-Oliphant
Captain W.S. Sewell

(Medical Officer):
Captain E.H.P. Smith, R.A.M.C.

Rev. W. Scanlon, C.F.

Lieutenant G. Hewetson

Lieutenant H. T. Conroy

Battalion Lieutenants:
Lt. E.D. Darricote
Lt. L. Childs
Lt. T.W. Harrison
Lt. J. Monaghan
Lt. W.H. Raby
Lt. W. Tiffin

Battalion 2nd Lieutenants:
2nd Lt. G. Banks
2nd Lt. C. I'A. Banks
2nd Lt. A.B. Burton
2nd Lt. P.J.W. Brandwood
2nd Lt. J. Constable
2nd Lt. P. Carter
2nd Lt. C. Gillespie
2nd Lt. G.E. Green
2nd Lt. C.E. Hind
2nd Lt. W. Jackson
2nd Lt. L. Johnson
2nd Lt. J.C. Lamb
2nd Lt. J.R. Musgrave
2nd Lt. R.G. McN. Scott

(Brigade Anti-Tank Company Commander):
Captain W.S. Sewell

(Brigade Anti-Tank Platoon Commander):
2nd Lt. S.T. Park

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A timeline summary of 5th Border in France and Belgium

Below is the timeline summary of the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment while it was part of the B.E.F. between April and June 1940.

18 April 1940

The Battalion disembarks at Le Havre, continues by train to Sablis and then marches to Bouessay to meet up with its transport.
They stay there for 3 days.

21 April 1940

The Battalion moves to the Lille area (Photograph No 2).
Battalion Headquarters is established at Fort Lobau, Bondues, about 6 miles / 10 Km to the north of Lille (Photographs No 3 and No 4).

21 April 1940 - 10 May 1940
The other companies are deployed to the north and east of Lille to construct defences along the Franco-Belgian frontier.
Many old pill-boxes from the 1914 - 1918 war are incorporated into the defences.
H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester visits the battalion. He is a younger brother of King George VI and Chief Liaison Officer of the B.E.F.
The 5th Battalion meets up with the 1st Battalion who are in an adjacent area as part of the 125th Brigade.

10 May 1940
German troops invade the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
As part of the pre-arranged plan in the event of a German invasion of the Low Countries, the 42nd Division (part of 3rd Corps) was not due to move until Phase 4 (on or after the 11th day after invasion). Hence, the 42nd Division initially remains in readiness to move forward as part of the Allied plan.

16 May 1940
The speed and movement of the German advance necessitated the Allied defensive plan being brought forward.
42nd Division sends most of 125th Infantry Brigade and one R.A. battery forward to form a tank trap between Tournai (Belgium) and Lille.
B Company of 1st Battalion The Border Regiment is sent to guard the aerodrome at Bondues, adjacent to Fort Lobau (5th Battalion HQ).
Other companies of 1st Border are sent to guard bridges on the Franco-Belgian border to the N.W. of Bondues at Comines, Warneton and Deulemont.
127th Brigade, 1st Army Tank Brigade and a Field Artillery Regiment is detailed to cover the crossings over the river Scarpe between Raches, a little to the N.E. of Douai, and St Amand.

16 May 1940 - 20 May 1940

The remainder of 42nd Division, including 5th Border, is ordered to move to Tournai and take up defensive positions both sides of the Escaut river.
The advance in the direction of Tournai is held up on the roads by refugees travelling in the opposite direction.

At Tournai, the dispositions of the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment are as follows:
5th Battalion Headquarters - established in Froyennes, about 2 miles / 3 Kms N.W. of Tournai;
A Company - billets in Tournai and takes responsibility for the canal bridges;
B and C Companies - takes up positions on the eastern outskirts of Tournai about 2 miles / 3 Kms beyond the Escaut;
D Company - remains in reserve.

16 May 1940 (night)
Tournai is heavily bombed for the first time. Most civilians have already fled the town.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

19 May 1940
Tournai is ablaze due to the bombing. There are few civilian firefighters left to extinguish the fires.
125th Brigade re-joins the 42nd Division.
1st Border takes over some of the positions of 5th Border.
5th Battalion Headquarters moves to La Marmite (Tournai).
42nd Division is part of the rearguard for the withdrawal.
The French 1st Army, plus the British 1st and 2nd Corps fall back and pass over the Escaut. They are pursued by the enemy.

20 May 1940
The canal bridges are blown before the enemy arrives.
The Germans proceed to shell the defensive positions.

21 May 1940
The Germans break into the positions held by 1st Border.
A counter-attack by 125th Brigade recovers control of the river banks of the Escaut.
5th Border comes under heavy fire, especially in and around its HQ.

22 May 1940
The Germans attack along the whole front occupied by 42nd Division.
Evening - 42nd Division is ordered to disengage and withdraw.
1st Border initially falls back to Lezennes, close to the southern suburbs of Lille.
5th Border falls back on Cysoing (S.E. of Lille), covered by the carrier platoon under the command of 2nd Lt. J.R. Musgrave.
D, B and C Companies are placed in forward positions. A Company is placed in reserve.
5th Border stays in the Cysoing area for 3 days.

22 May 1940 - 25 May 1940
During this time the 5th Border positions are frequently shelled.

24 May (night) - the left flank held by 5th Border spots a concentration of enemy troops in a sunken road and calls in defensive fire from the whole battalion.
The planned enemy attack is repelled.

25 May (morning) - enemy snipers are spotted in a nearby house and haystack. Artillery rounds destroy the house and Captain T.P. Hetherington of C Company sets the haystack ablaze.

Elsewhere, German armoured forces break through in the Ardennes and take Amiens, Abbeville and Boulogne and Calais. The B.E.F. is cut off from its bases and in danger of being cut off from the sea. The B.E.F. makes its way towards the coast and Dunkirk.

26 May 1940 - 27 May 1940
26 May (night) - 5th Border moves initially to Lesquin (south of Lille).
C and D Companies are initially left at Cysoing to cover the withdrawal.
These 2 companies move directly to Le Bizet (north of Armentières).
HQ Company becomes separated passing through Armentières and just avoids contact with German armoured tanks.
The battalion links up at Le Bizet on 27 May.
At Le Bizet about 80 other ranks from 1st Border who were separated from their own unit link up with 5th Border.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

28 May 1940 - 1 June 1940
28 May (night) - 5th Border moves to Rousebrugge-Harenge via Neuve Eglise (Nieuwkerke), Belgium.

29 May (08:00 a.m.) - the battalion arrives at Rousebrugge-Harenge and 'digs in'.

29 May (night) - firing is heard to the rear of 5th Border' position suggesting they may be getting cut off from the sea.

29 May (09:00 p.m.) - communications with Brigade HQ is severed.

29 May (10:00 p.m.) - a motor-cyclist arrives with the orders to withdraw to Dunkirk, put all transport out of action and abandon all kit that could not be carried by the men. The carriers are retained to assist the withdrawal.

30 May 1940 (02:00 a.m.) - the battalion withdraws from its positions and moves to a brigade rendez-vous. The brigade begins marching towards the Dunkirk perimeter at 03:30 a.m. via Hoondeschoote and Uxem.

30 May (08:00 a.m.) - 5th Border reaches Uxem on the Dunkirk perimeter. It takes up a defensive position in the centre of a line on the Canal des Chats. There is shelling and aerial combat all day.

31 May (04:00 a.m.) - heavy German artillery fire followed by an attack on the canal takes place. All 4 of the 5th Border Companies are involved in the defence. C Company in particular suffers from heavy shell and mortar fire. A detachment of 70 men from the South Lancashire Regiment makes up C Company's strength.

31 May (evening) - the order is given for all men not urgently required to withdraw to the beaches.

1 June - enemy artillery fire continues. Both A Company and C Company again have several casualties.

1 June (night) - 5th Border withdraws to the beaches, still covered by the carrier platoon under the command of 2nd Lt. J.R. Musgrave (who is later awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry during the withdrawal). Some of the 5th Border men are taken off the beaches (including Lt.-Col. Law). The remainder 'dig in' on the beaches.

2 June (09:00 p.m.) - the remaining 5th Border party lined up and marched to the mole for embarkation (completed at 11:00 p.m.). This is one of the last parties to successfully evacuate from the Dunkirk beaches.

3 June - this last party of men disembark at various ports on the southern English coast.

The 5th Border survivors are eventually re-united at Spennymore, Yorkshire.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

5th Border after Dunkirk

To conclude this brief history of the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment as part of the B.E.F. in 1940 let us see what happened to the battalion after Dunkirk. Initially, for the rest of 1940 and until September 1941, 5th Border was involved in the Home Defence. In particular the battalion was involved in coastal defence against a possible German invasion in the S.E. of England. .

In September 1941 5th Border, still part of 126th Brigade and 42nd Division, was to selected to have an armoured role (i.e. tanks). In October 1941 the battalion was re-designated 110th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (Border Regiment). In May 1942, 126th Brigade was withdrawn from the 42nd Division. It became the 11th Independent Tank Brigade (Churchill tanks). However, in July 1942 the brigade began to supply drafts for other units detailed for overseas service.

The battalion continued to train as an armoured unit at Castle Bolton In January 1943 the 126th Brigade was transferred to 77th Reserve Division and initially moved to Catterick. In May 1943 the brigade moved to Farnley Park, near Otley, Yorkshire. In October of that year it moved to Ewart Park, Wooler, Northumberland and in November to Spalding, Lincolnshire. It was at Spalding that the brigade, and its constituent battalions, received orders to disband. This took effect from 31 December 1943.

Although the survivors of 5th Border who went to France in 1940 as part of the B.E.F. did not return to front line service as a single unit, many of them did so after being drafted to, or volunteering for, other units. For example, many of the 5th Border soldiers of 1940 volunteered to serve with 1st Border, which became part of the 1st Airborne Division after Dunkirk. Other 'old soldiers' of 5th Border went into armoured units and saw service in North Africa, Italy or N.W. Europe.

However, the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment did return in a slightly different guise in 1944. It will be remembered that the 7th Battalion The Border Regiment was split off from the 'old 5th' shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939 when it became a training and reserve battalion for the 5th. In 1944 7th Border was re-numbered and it became 5th Border. This 'new' 5th Border continued to train new recruits and provide drafts of men to other units serving overseas until the end of the war.

When the war ended, 5th Border was placed in 'suspended animation' while a review of the Territorial Army took place. Thus ended the Second World War history of the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment.

Friday, 09 August, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


Cumbria's Military Museum:

Border Regiment and King's Own Royal Border Regiment Museum
Queen Mary's Tower,
Carlisle Castle,
Cumbria. CA3 8UR


Further Reading

Shears, Philip James. (1948),
"The Story of the Border Regiment 1939-1945",
Nisbet & Co, London. (184 pages).

Friday, 09 August, 2013  

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