Sir John Valentine Carden survives.

I was just thinking; capturing those German tanks might have a gotcha in it. Now they know the panzer armour isn't thick, they may not worry about needing the 6-pdr and slow it down. That might be unfortunate.
Hopefully they will try shooting at one with the 2 and 3 pdr, and find that a distressing amount of shot breaks up on impact with the face hardened German plate, that by the numbers, should be able to penetrate.
That wasn't fixed til early 1942 with the introduction of capped AP
 
28 May 1940. Dunkirk
28 May 1940. Dunkirk

Throughout the day the British forces either held positions open to allow the withdrawal of other units, or made their way towards the Dunkirk perimeter. The previous night, under the cover of darkness, the main withdrawal to the river Lys had taken place. The 5th Division with extra forces ordered to support them by General Brooke, held off the Germans all day, with extraordinary support from the Royal Artillery which fired off most of their ammunition to hold the Germans at bay. At the end of the day, the fighting strength of the two 5th Division Brigades was about 600 effectives in each. They withdrew at night, in good order to the River Yser where they were joined by 42nd Division.

The 50th and 3rd Divisions still held the line from Warneton through Ypres to near Noordschote, and although attacked much of the day, they were never in any real peril. At the end of the 28th these two divisions withdrew to their assigned positions. II Corps of the BEF, despite heavy losses, had frustrated the German advance, and completed the penultimate stage of their withdrawal towards Dunkirk.

The twenty-mile gap caused by the Belgian surrender was covered by mobile units of both the British and French armies, while Royal Engineers blew as many bridges as possible. Here, the fact that the German infantry divisions weren’t motorised played an important role. They weren’t able to advance quickly enough to prevent the British and French 2e DLM from closing the hole that the Belgian capitulation had caused. Eventually as German forces reached the coast, British and French infantry supplemented the ad hoc groups of troops that defended the eastern perimeter of the Dunkirk pocket.

Lord Gort's Headquarters were now established at La Panne in the Dunkirk bridgehead. General Blanchard visited the Command Post at 11:00hrs and conferred with Lord Gort and General Pownall. It was quickly apparent that he regarded retirement to the Lys as the final move; apparently the British decision to retire to the coast and evacuate to England, which had been notified by M. Reynaud and General Weygand on the 26th, had not been made known to him. When the British Government's telegram to Lord Gort was read to him, he was horrified.

Gort expressed to opinion that now the Belgian Army had ceased to exist, the only alternatives could be evacuation or surrender. The threat from the German Army Group B on the north-eastern flank would only increase. While the long south-western flank was already under increasing pressure, especially at Cassel and Wormhoudt. While this discussion was taking place a liaison officer arrived from General Prioux, now in command of the French 1st Army, to say that the latter did not consider his troops were fit to make any further move and that he therefore intended to remain in the area between Béthune and Lille, protected by the quadrangle of canals.

Gort begged General Blanchard for the sake of France, the French Army and the Allied Cause to order General Prioux back. Surely the French Government would be able to provide ships at least for some of his troops and the chance of saving part of his trained solders was preferable to the certainty of losing them all. Blanchard would not be moved, but later General Prioux ordered his III Corps and the remnant of the Cavalry Corps to retire towards the coast. Since Gort now had formal orders from His Majesty's Government to withdraw the B.E.F. he would have to continue to the planned withdrawals towards the coast. Blanchard left, still on friendly terms, but once again, at odds with the British decision.

Where the British troops faced the armoured and infantry divisions of Army Group A, the position was very dangerous. Unlike II Corps’ which was made up primarily of pre-war Regular Divisions, III Corps was far weaker. The 44th and 48th Divisions were already understrength and hard fought. What little remained of the 46th was held back in reserve behind Cassel. And not only were much smaller forces available in these two divisions; they were extended over more than twenty miles, holding a series of strongpoints—Brouckerque, Soex, Wormhoudt, Ledringhem, Cassel and Hazebrouck.

In default of orders, General Thorne could not know how long the 48th Division was expected to maintain its extended position. Even if the garrisons could hold out, enemy penetration between those places might seriously interfere with withdrawals taking place farther east. The 1st Light Armoured Reconnaissance Brigade, and 6th Green Howards were tasked with plugging gaps and by their efforts by 18:00hrs the road between Bergues and Cassel could still be used, but Socx had been lost, and Wormhoudt was becoming untenable. Communications with Cassel by telephone, had been lost, the garrison were under continuous artillery and mortar fire all day, the town was not seriously attacked on the 28th. Hazebrouck however succumbed by late evening, the 1st Buckinghamshire Regiment having put up the stoutest of fights.

In addition, the First Army Tank Brigade, along with the 1st Bn Welsh Guards tried all day to stem the attempts of the German 1st Panzer Division to unpick the British and French positions between the River Aa and Brouckerque. This was made easier for the British because of the nature of the terrain. The fields were almost impassable to tanks, and so the British were able to counter the German advances on the raised roads with a combination of the infantry tanks and anti-tank guns. Having their flank protected by this British force meant that the French Secteur Fortifié des Flandres were able to maintain their positions on the Aa at Gravelines to Bourbourg.

I Corps, the 1st, 2nd and 42nd Divisions, also retired during the day and evening towards the coast after heavy fighting. Although command and control throughout the BEF struggled, the divisional commanders knew what it was they must do and their action ensured that the general plan of withdrawal was carried out. Many men of the units who fought to the end to hold back the enemy were inevitably killed, wounded, or finally captured—but practically no one else was left behind. Below the surface confusion the tide ran strongly northwards, and parties which had been separated from their units in the course of fighting or by the congestion of traffic, and refugees on the line of march, were caught up by the stream setting towards the coast. When they arrived there, they were re-organised to hold the perimeter or were sent to the beach for evacuation to England if they could now be spared.

The situation in Dunkirk harbour on the 28th had improved, and early in the morning Captain Tennant asked for ships to be sent in to the mole, which had been found on the night before to be a practical substitute for the harbour quays. Destroyers entered and embarked large numbers, while others lifted men from the beaches. In the afternoon Lord Gort informed the War Office that some 20,000 men were waiting in the dunes and that the situation was critical. But the Admiralty had already ordered 'every available destroyer' of the Portsmouth and Western Approaches Commands to be sailed for Dover and vigorous steps were being taken to collect still more small boats from rivers and estuaries of southern England. The Dutch schuyts, now mostly manned by naval crews, were starting to run a continuous service to Dunkirk from Margate and Ramsgate and a greatly increased, and still increasing fleet, was now at Admiral Ramsay's disposal.

In spite of the losses incurred through enemy action, 28 May was a more successful day and the prospect now looked brighter. The Army was steadily nearing the end of the withdrawal to the coast, arrangements for evacuation were working with great efficiency and the increase of available craft encouraged a hope that all who reached the bridgehead might be brought home. To work during the coming night Admiral Ramsay ordered seven passenger ships, three hospital carriers (for casualties) and two destroyers to embark men from the east mole of Dunkirk harbour with some twenty destroyers, nineteen mine-sweepers, seventeen drifters, over twenty schuyts, five coastal steamers and many motor boats, tugs and lifeboats and ships' boats to work off the beaches. With the garrison in Calais still, but barely hanging on, the short route Z was to be used, especially during darkness.

During the day the German XIX Corps commander (Guderian) made a tour of his forward positions. The Diary records his opinion that further tank attacks would involve 'useless sacrifice of our best troops': in his view the wise course is 'to hold positions reached and to let 18 Army's attack from the east take effect'. The Diary adds that after returning from his tour of the front Guderian advised the Chief of Staff to Kleist Group as follows:

  1. After the Belgian capitulation continuation of operations here is not desirable as it is costing unnecessary sacrifices. The armoured divisions have only 50% of their armoured strength left and their equipment is in urgent need of repair if the Corps is to be ready again in a short time for other operations.
  2. A tank attack is pointless in the marshy country which has been completely soaked by the rain. Furthermore 18 Army [of Army Group B] is approaching [Kleist] Group from the east. The infantry forces of this army are more suitable than tanks for fighting in this kind of country, and the task of closing the gap on the coast can therefore be left to them. The Diary adds that Kleist group agreed: all three armoured divisions were to be withdrawn.
The main preoccupation of Army Group A Headquarters was now the forthcoming offensive southwards from the Somme–Aisne line. Halder, Chief of Staff of the Army High Command, had come to a conference, which Staff officers from all the army groups attended, when the matter for discussion was future operations. After this the Army Group Staff began discussions with the armies in its command concerning regrouping, assembly and boundaries for the operation which had been explained by Halder—to be known as Operation 'Red'.

UK-NWE-Flanders-8.jpg

NB the text in italic differs from OTL. I've used the HyperWar: The War in France and Flanders 1939–1940 [Chapter XIII] (ibiblio.org) as the basis for everything here, much of it should be in direct quotes, but I've tried to simplify it a bit. There are only a couple of minor changes, but important. The first is the use of the infantry tanks and Welsh Guards to maintain the link between the British and French forces, which means that the Dunkirk perimeter on the western side is more extensive that OTL. Again Calais is still holding out, but only just.
 
On the other hand, the logical thing to do is to assume armour will increase in thickness anyway, so deploying the 6-pdr either as OTL, or possibly sooner, gives you a bigger advantage earlier and doesn't leave you struggling to catch up. Essentially you aim to keep one step ahead, not fall one step behind.
Logical, perhaps.
But butterflies flap in all sorts of directions...
 
Could the higher German losses to the British and the delays in closing the Dunkirk and Calais pockets lead to better French performance in Case Red? They aren't in a position to stabilize the front but we might see delays in the Fall of France.
 
Ouch. The last few updates really bring out just what a disaster this phase of the battle was for the Allies and why it was considered such a miracle that the BEF was able to reach the coast and evacuate. If you look at the maps, the BEF and the French troops with it are in what is effectively a salient, much deeper than it is wide, being pressed on both flanks by superior forces.. The remaining Allied troops north of the Somme are immobile in mutually non-supporting pockets, ready to be crushed one by one. Most popular histories I've seen tend to gloss over the often-desperate fighting simply to get the troops to Dunkirk, skipping lightly from Arras to the beaches.

I also hadn't realised that much of the fighting was taking place on the old WW1 Flanders battlefields. Looking at the map , I can't see Passchendaele, but Ypres, Wytschaete, Ploegstreet, Armentieres - they're all there.
 
Do they still have the Panzer IV for study, as in is it still in their possession either in france or has it been sent back to England?
25 May 1940. Gravelines. France.

The arrival of the convoy from Calais with rations the previous day had emphasised the proximity of the German forces. The surviving tanks had taken up positions to offer the French troops some close support. When the column of captured German vehicles arrived from St Omer, Brigadier Vyvyan Pope took one look at them, then saw the three Valiants, which nearly gave him a heart attack, and ordered them all straight to the port and on the first ship available back to England. They had departed, along with the German POWs after dark the night before.
 
Hm, if they're using Route Z, could they divert a couple of ships to drop their troops in Calais to strengthen the garrison?
 
Hm, if they're using Route Z, could they divert a couple of ships to drop their troops in Calais to strengthen the garrison?

If you did that then at best your dropping light infantry with little to no support arms and little ammo or food etc. All you end up doing is increasing the supply burden and make the eventual evacuation of Calais harder. At worst you are dropping disorganised ad-hoc formations of troops with no command structure or supplies in the middle of a desperate defence, that likely makes the situation worse not better.
 
If you did that then at best your dropping light infantry with little to no support arms and little ammo or food etc. All you end up doing is increasing the supply burden and make the eventual evacuation of Calais harder. At worst you are dropping disorganised ad-hoc formations of troops with no command structure or supplies in the middle of a desperate defence, that likely makes the situation worse not better.
I thought one of the issues with Calais right now was that they didn't have enough infantry? With less panic and better organisation, couldn't some better-equipped troops be found?
 
Last edited:
I thought one of the issues with Calais right now was that they didn't have enough infantry? With less panic and better organisation, couldn't some better-equipped troops be found?
Possibly but at this point Britain has committed to withdrawing from the continent. The last thing you need is to send more troops to the continent only to withdraw them a few days later. The shipping is needed to withdraw as many troops as possible as is. Add to that if you send in a fresh formation all you are doing is letting it suffer casualties for no real gain and if it is troops moved from Dunkirk they may well be in no shape to fight.
 
Top