Private War Diary of 58th Medium Regt. Royal Artillery B.E.F.

Jan-June 1940

Notes on the British SAAR Force

Contents of the Diary

Jan | Feb | March | April | May | June | July

Jan 1940

(Data issued through Aldershot Command: 58th Billeted at Coldharbour House, Kingsley, 23 Officers (1 Lieut.-Colonel (M.Macewan), 3 Major's, 7 Captains, 3 Lieutenants and the rest 2nd Lieutenants), 470 other ranks, 1 medical officer, 1 O.M.E, 1 Chaplain plus 1 Signal Officer. Train route in England was Bordon, Farnborough, Winchfield then Southampton)

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
Kingsley, Bordon.


0800 Regimental Vehicles and Guns with personnel proceeded to Southampton
    1230 Regimental Vehicles and Guns with personnel arrived at Southampton


  Loading Vehicles and Guns


  Loading Vehicles and Guns


1500 Personnel of Vehicle Party embarked


0830 Personnel of Vehicle Party disembarked


  Unloading Vehicles and Guns


1030 Vehicles and Personnel left Cherbourg
Kingsley, Bordon.   0910 Regimental Main Body entrained at Bordon Station for Southampton
Southampton   1200 Regimental Main Body disentrained at Southampton
    1300 Regimental Main Body embarked on S.S. Fenella
Cherbourg 17th 0710 Regimental Main Body disembarked
    2035 Regimental Main Body entrained and left Cherbourg


  Vehicles and personnel stationed at Vire for 17th Jan (Roads impassable)
Le Houte


0700 Regimental Main Body disentrained and proceeded by road to Fresnay sur Sarthes.
Vire   0930 Vehicles and personnel left Vire for Fresnay sur Sarthes.
Fresnay sur Sarthes.   1530 Vehicles and personnel arrived.
      Regiment Billeted.


  Regiment Billeted.


0800 Regiment proceeded by road to Evreux.
    1500 Regiment arrived at Evreux and billeted for the night.


0830 Regiment proceeded by road to Breteuil.
    1300 Regiment arrived at Breteuil and billeted for the night.
Breteuil 22nd 0830 Regiment proceeded by road to Vermelles.


1330 Regiment arrived at Vermelles and billeted.

Orders for March to Evreux 21/1/40 - Convoy starting point is the more easterly of two crossroads leading North to Louvigny from main road about nine kilometres East of La-Hutte (starting: 0800-0900 hrs) ROUTE: Mamers B.2 - Mortagne Q.61 - Verneuil R.03 - Nonancourt R.24 - Evreux - Pacy R.36 - Vernon R.47 - Thilliers-En-Vexin R.56 - Gisors R.69 - Beauvais M.91 - Breteuil N.02 - Amiens - Bapaume N.57 - Arras H.40 - Lens H.51 - La.Basse H.5026 (This route includes the whole three days, arriving in La.Basse on 23rd Jan 1940) Citroen breakdown Garages were used in an emergency at Le Mans, Havre and Dieppe.

Feb 1940

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information


  Standing Orders for War issued
  27th 0900 Billeting Parties left for Pozieres.


0630 Regimental Gun Groups left for Pozieres.


0830 Regimental Fast Column left for Pozieres.


1230 Regimental headquarters established.

58th Med Regt plus 65 Med Regt will move to their new location on 29th Feb by the following route: Lens H.51 - Arras H.40 - Bapaume N.57. Billeting areas in G.H.Q Troops area are allotted as under: 58th: Poziers, Bazentin, Longueval, Contalmaison, Montauban and Mametz.
65th: Grevillers, Pys, Warlencourt, Coucellete and Miraumont.
1 Regt R.H.A: Ligny, Martinpuich and Flers.
58th Med Regt now numbered 600 men. Documents issued for each captain included:

Security, System of marking maps, S.O.S signals, Types of fire and rates, Scales of ammunition expenditure in answer to air calls, dumping and holding ammunition, reports and returns, Anti-Gas, Signals, R.A.F, Traffic density, Reporting casualties, Discipline when occupying billets, Discipline - Vehicles, Organised outings and entertainments, Hygene, Mails and Censorship, Office Routine, Guards and Picquets, Ammunition returns, Ammunition storage, Stores-guns and Vehicles, Salvage, Petrol containers, Petrol-carriage of, Frost precautions and supplies.

March 1940

No extra Entries recorded. Posted at Waldwiesstroff. (See Captain Twomeys diary)

April 1940

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information


0900 Advance Party to AIX-Noullete
  16th 0830 Main body to AIX-Noullete

58th Med Regt now numbered 631 men.

May 1940

Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
10th   Germany invaded Holland and Belgium. Regiment at the time was under 50 div 2 corps and in billets at Aix Noulette (Pas de Calais). This was reserve division and was to take up position on River Escaut.


  The Guns having iron tyres were to go by train and were loaded this afternoon with a train party of 50 O.R's under Liet. P.F. Brennan R.A and 2/Lieut. C.E Macqueen R.A.
17th   C.O. returned at 2300 hrs from G.H.Q. and 3 corps H.Q. The regiment was now placed under command H.Q M.A 3 Corps. and was to go forward into Belguim. The C.O. left at 2330 hrs with Major Ellis with all scammells to find the guns.
18th 0400 Regiment under Major Walter left Aix Noulette for Oyghem which they reached at 0900 The scammel party had arrived. H.Q.M.A. 3 Corps was at Marcke where Major Walter and Captain Twomey received orders to meet C.C.M.A at Anseghem Church at 1200 hrs. After receiving orders 230/58th Medium went independantly to recce. positions in 4 Div area and came under Right group Cmdr. O.C. 69 Med Regt.R.A. O.C. 58 Medium was to command Left group M.A. in support of 44 Div. This consisted of 229/58 Medium, 241/69 Medium, C Bty. 52 Hvy Regt. Positions were recce. and found actually in Belgiun Army zone opposite OUDENARDE. RHQ established at Kleighoek farm, main W.L. at Spittals wood Weather continued warm and sunny.
19th   229 Battery fixed and dug Gun positions but the guns had not yet been found. 2/Lieut. Macqueen arrived about mid-night 19/20 May with the news that 8 guns were now back at Lille. This officer showed great initiative in getting the guns back by road from Berchem, Nr. Brussels to Sotteghem, (having been given orders to destroy and leave them) by insisting on an R.E unit L.A.D. helping him. The other 8 guns went by road and were found at Oyghem. The guns were in a bad way, from their rapid journey on iron tyres at high speed, and from then on inspite of hard work by night and day by L.A.D. under Capt. Mackenzie and Battery fitters, no more than an average of 5 guns were again in action at any time.
20th   Between 1400 & 1500 hrs Enemy Light tanks and bridging convoys and light horse drawn artillery, were seen from "A" O.P. at Windmill infront of Petegem, to be coming down into Meldon.
About 1545 Hrs. Major Foulkes, commanding 241/69 Med Regt. being at R.H.Q. it was decided to open fire on these concentrations and about 40 rounds of gunfire was shot by one troop of 241/69 Med. with great effect, orders and corrections coming through R.H.Q. from "A" O.P. (Captain Grimwood). Five guns of 229 battery went into action and commenced about 1900 hrs. chiefly on Meldon.
  2030 Orders were received that 230 battery/58 Med.rEGT. were to move all the battery back to their Wagon lines and to await orders, came under command of C.O. 58th. Med. again.
  2100 Message from H.Q.M.A. to effect that from information, enemy main attack expected about 5000 yds North of Oudenarde this entailed getting the guns pulled out and re-sighted in new zero-line, a difference of , from 140* to 30*. Thus no harassing fire tasks could be shot.
20/21st 2400 at approx. mid-night orders came from H.Q.M.A. to withdraw all 230/58 and spare vehicles of 229/58 and R.H.Q. to Heule near Courtrai. Owing to difficulties 230 battery did not receive this order until 0900 hrs. 21st - they arrived at Heule about mid-day 21st.
21st   Enemy crossed (by wading the river) at Meldon and pushed through to Petegem; some also filtered through further to our right. 229/58th Med. were ordered to withdraw by troops to positions reconnoitred by C.O.2 and Adjutant, about Eastern corner of Spittals Wood. "A" troop withdrew about 1400hrs and "B" troop about 1600hrs.
Enemy recce.plane flew around unmolested the whole day and pin-pointed everything in the area, some regiments were heavily shelled in consequence. No British planes were available, and no A/A guns.
R.H.Q. at Kleighoek was actually shelled just as they were leaving, but the slit trenches saved any casualties. R.H.Q. established in a Cafe west side of Spittals Wood near Waeregem. This wood was shelled by 5.9" all night by lifts and switches.
22nd 0100 Message from H.Q. M.A. ordering whole regiment to withdraw via Heule to assembly area in woods about 2 miles west of Gheluvelt. R.H.Q moved off about 0300hrs. Rear R.H.Q. established in Jack Straw's castle, by Stirling castle crossroads. Forward R.H.Q. was in a farm house at Commerstraat.
23rd   Enemy advance troops reached line of canal Menin-Courtrai by evening. 58th Med. at this position were in support 3 and 4 Belgian Brigades.
24th   Enemy crossed canal at Besseghem pushing the Belgians back about a thousand yards towards Wevelghem and also advanced North Easterly, towards Morselle. 230/58th Med. shot on to the bridges at Besseghem and Lauwe. Firing was restricted by orders from H.Q. M.A. due to supplies of ammunition being short. The telephone wire from R.H.Q. to H.Q.M.A. was constantly having about 400 yrs cut clean out and dragged away by some enemy agent, delays in communications, in spite of vigilant line work by the signal section.
25th   Orders to withdraw to 2 corps area were received from C.C.M.A., time being left to the discretion of the Commanding Officer 58th Med.
"C" & "D" troops were in action in temporary positions near Dadizeele from which more firing was done on Lauwe and Wevelghem, the latter now in enemy hands.
About 1400 hrs orders were sent to O.C. 229/58th Med. to take his Battery, and remainder of R.H.Q. under Lieut.D.J.Hutchinson.M.M., R.A. to an assemble area south west of Wervicq Le Sud in France.
C.O. 58th Med. ordered O.C. 230 battery to come into action in area Oudencruiseeke with R.T/O.P on Menin - Roulers road; by this time O.C.230 battery got his battery back, by roads congested and blocked in many places by retreating Belgians; the Germans were through Menin and shelling Gheluve about 1700 hrs. O.C 230 Battery considered position too risky and took his battery back and across the canal at Comines where the remainder of the Regiment were already over, the bridge at Wervicq having been blown up earlier in the afternoon. The C.O., C.O.2, Adjt., and A/Adjt. crossed about 1830hrs. This bridge was waiting to be blown up at the time.
The Regiment was moved on and scattereed for the night in side-roads and farms.
26th 0100 229/58th Med. were moved off back to area Lacroix crossing canal by Quesnoy. R.H.Q. went back to same area, leaving about 0600hrs. 230/58th Med. prepared the new positions. 229/58th Med. were brought up and took over, 230th battery men being very tired. Forward R.H.Q. established in a house at road junction, near Le Crumesse with battery positions about 300yrds from same. No shooting was done, as ammunition was low, as also were rations. Later in the day R.H.Q. was moved back to a farm at 691471. During the afternoon Major Walter and 2/Lieut.Drake left under orders from C.C.M.A for Dunkirk and England, sending their trucks back. These were next day met by Lieut.Diamond, who was also ahead of the Regiment and turned back.
Gunner P.W.Robbens was lost when the Destroyer "Grafton" was sunk.
Lieut.Diamond brought orders for the Regiment from the C.C.M.A. to destroy guns and to proceed immediately to Dunkirk. Remainder of Vehicles were put out of action at Houthem.
27th   The Regiment arrived at Bray Dunes to embark for U.K.
28th/29th   R.H.Q. and most of 230th Battery embarked on Tuesday night, and early Wednesday morning. Remainder of Regiment remained on the beaches under Major G.P.Mason and Captain L.P.Twomey.
31st   Remainder of Regiment embarked early Friday morning. The Regiment was dispersed to many points in England before it was reformed at Larkhill during the period 2nd to 12th June 1940.

May-June - In Depth:

Thursday 23 May 40:- 229 Battery remained in the Gheluvelt wooded area which became the W.L. and rear R.H.Q.

During the morning there was an air raid on Ypres and on the Regiments W.L. and R.H.Q., some bombs falling fairly near by. Our anti-aircraft fire seemed singularly ineffective. Gnr. Mollinson was wounded in the arm by a machine gun bullet from an aeroplane – our first casualty. 230 Battery prepared and dug their positions and O.P.s and laid line.

The positions were occupied in the early morning. Enemy advanced troops reached the line of the canal Menin-Courtrai by the evening.

As the 44 Div. Almost ceased to exist after the casualties sustained at Oudenarde, the linein front of us was held by the Belgian 3 and 4 Infantry Brigades.
NOTE;- It was considered inadvisable to mention this fact in Operation Order No.4.

Friday 23 May 40:- The Germans crossed the canal at Besseghem and pushed the Belgians back about1,000 yards, and advanced left handed towards Wevelghem, driving prisoners in front of them. We sent out many Officer’s patrols day and night to gain information, and 230 Battery did some shooting on the bridges over the Canal, on Besseghem and Lauwe.

Saturday May 25th 40:- An unfortunate incident occurred when replenishments of ammunition and petrol were sent up to 230 Battery in this position from the W.L. The party ran into some German Infantry who were advancing fast on all sides, and a petrol lorry and an ammunition lorry, also 2 motor cycles, as well as the following personnel were captured: Gnr. Boon, F.G., Gnr. Borrett, G., D.R.s (229 Battery), Bdr. Hale, H.J. L/Bdr. Baalam, J.C., Gnr. Blakely, T.(230 Battery) some others made a run for it and escaped.

Monday 27 May 40:- About midnight 26/27 May 40. Lt. Diamond who had been sent as liason officer to H.Q.M.A. at La Tache arrived with a message ordering the Regiment to destroy the guns and proceed to Hogstaad near Dunkirk via Quesnoy-Messines-Vlamertinghe-Elverdinghe.

The batteries destroyed their guns by removing dial sights, sight clinos and breech mechanism, and knocking sight brackets, wheels, etc. about. They then proceeded as independent columns on the route given to Hogstaad. By about 11.30a.m. the Regiment was assembled at Hogstaad and proceeded on orders from a movement control staff officer ot Houthem, where they sorted out what kit they could carry, and burnt all correspondence etc.

2nd Lt. Hindle on a motor cycle proceeded to Dunkirk but was given no orders for the Regiment. Capt. Twomey then went to II Corps H.Q. in whose area the regiment was rendezvoused, and was told to send an officer in to a different address in Dunkirk, and to take all the vehicles for destruction, east of the Canal east of the road Hogstaad-Furnes.

The C.O. went to Dunkirk and obtained a movement order in writing for the Regiment to march to Bray Les Dunes immediately, for embarkation.

Capt. Twomey and R.S.M. Fordham assembled all the vehicles of the Regiment with one driver each, and led them to the place ordered for destruction, here they were knocked about, and put out of action to the best of the ability of the few men in the short time available, and the party returned to rejoin the Regiment.

The Regiment marched on foot to Bray-Les-Dunes (about ten miles) arriving about 9p.m. and were told off in groups under officers, and remained for the night on the sea-front.

No rations had been available for issue on this day, and the two days of preserved rations had been used up; the last two drawings of rations had been on less than a half scale. Water was scarce. The weather all day was again hot and sunny, vast columns of smoke drifted from Dunkirk, over the beach, and Bray- the result of enemy bombing raids in which oil tanks and buildings had been set on fire.

Tuesday 28 May 40:- In the morning while the Regt. Was on the dunes, German planes attacked Bray and machine-gunned our columns coming into it. There was a lot of anti-aircraft fire. In the embarking arrangements on Bray beach, we were given Serial Number 2 for embarkation, but many other units arrived thick and fast through the night and day, and it became evident that all could not be embarked here, so the 58 Medium Regiment with various others were ordered to march along the sands to embark at Dunkirk (about 6 miles). After a short march a part of the beach was reached which was crowded with units, and on which embarkation was proceeding at two points. As the Regiment could not proceed beyond all this congestion, the C.O. found and reported to an embarkation Office where a Brigadier seemed to be in charge in a private house just behind the Belgian Coast Guard Fort in the dunes. Here we were allotted Serial No. 26 (verbally) for embarkation on the beach, and the Regiment prepared to spend the night spread along a portion of the dunes.

Just before dark several new ships, chiefly minesweepers, were sighted approaching, and Lt. Hitchcock waded into the sea, hailed the boat put off from one of these, and commenced to embark 230 Battery.

229 Battery and R.H.Q. were then brought up in parallel columns to form additional embarking parties in other boats.

The Minesweeper, H.M.S. Kellet could only take 450 of our men, and they were embarked. They consisted chiefly of 230 Battery and R.H.Q. and a few 229 Battery, with also the H.Q.M.A. Staff of III Corps and a number of ‘hangers on’ from other Regiments. When H.M.S. Kellet put off, Major Mason was left in charge of 7 other officers and 230 men chiefly of his own battery, and R.H.Q. and a few of 230 Bty. And of our F/3 R.A.S.C. section. These returned to the Dunes for a short sleep.

Wednesday 29 May 40:- In the early morning, another vessel was seen approaching the beach opposite us and we hailed the small boats, and managed in spite of a choppy sea and an incoming tide to get 12 more men off before the embarkation authorities arrived and took over the boats and embarkation. On making contact again with the embarkation office, it was then discovered that they knew nothing of our being allotted serial No 26 which was in fact allotted to some other unit, Serial No. 33 (last on the list) was therefore allotted to us, and a signed slip given as a pass, several other units having arrived during the night.

About 9a.m. we were marched on to a point further along the beach where serials were being sorted out and we then formed in a long beach queue of units forming up at various embarking points. We had found that three other units were included in serial No.33, and we lost the toss with these, and were again that much further back in the queues. In addition several units came in front of us, when it was given out that serial numbers had been abolished.

In the afternoon we abandoned this beach as hopeless, and marched for Dunkirk, in the hopes of embarking on what was left of the Mole after the German air raids.

After being stopped by a beach picquet lined up from the dunes to the sea, we managed to take over their duties, and stopped further units from going past this point.

We then followed behind the last of the units in front of us, but progress was very slow, as the beaches were by now crowded with troops. During one halt we scraped holes to take cover from a German air raid, and witnessed a very intensive dive bombing raid on the vessels just off the coast and on Dunkirk, and its mole, lasting two hours. One destroyer was sunk, another hit, and one transport sunk, and two set on fire, but the crowded beaches were fortunately left alone.

The night was spent continuing the march to Dunkirk very slowly with very short marches and long halts owing to congestion, at each halt all went to sleep in the ranks where they halted. Dunkirk was shelled by land guns at night.

Thursday 30 May 40:-In the morning we were told that embarkation seemed fairly hopeless, that we must go back to the dunes, dig in against air attack, and establish a Command Post on the forward edge of the dunes, and await orders. Later by mere luck we found out that the beach had been divided into sections, and making contact with the other units of our section, we organised it in groups of 60 men – there were 32 groups in our section of about 200 yards – and drew from the hat the order in which the groups would embark. Again we drew badly on this deal. About 3.30p.m. Major Mason attended a conference in which beaches were amalgamated and serial numbers again allotted. He managed to obtain serial No.7 for the Regiment, but it was discovered that 4 Medium Regiment were also in that serial, and on the toss we again lost, and had to be behind them. Ships were expected at 6.30 but did not arrive until 10p.m., and loading was very slow and continued all night, The enemy shelled the dunes and beach intermittently all night.

Friday 3l May 40:- At daylight there was still all of 4 Medium Regiment to embark and two embarking points with a number of small boats loading troops into two small Dutch vessels – a Destroyer having been previously filled and put off.

Major Mason and Capt. Underwood and 2/Lt. Stevenson loaded troops at one point and Capt. Grimwood, Capt. Twomey and Lt. Brennan at the other point. The tide was coming in fast and the waves were increasing under a fair wind. The water was finally up to the armpits. Having loaded all 4 Medium Regiment the remainder of 58 Medium Regiment were eventually got on and at about 8a.m. the ships left the coast for Margate pier, where we arrived at 6p.m. Trains then took troops to various parts of the country at random.

The bulk of the regiment was assembled at Larkhill between 2 and 11 June 40, and on 12 June 40, moved to Poole, Dorset, where they were billeted awaiting re-equipment.

June 1940

Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
2nd - 12th   Reformed at Larkhill during the period 2nd to 12th June 1940.


  Regiment moved to Southbourne, and R.H.Q. was established at 'Sea Croft', Dalmeny Road. A section of the beach from here to Hengistbury Head was taken over and put in a state of defence by the Regiment.

July 1940

Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
5th   Regimental advance party moved to Newbury, Berks where the Racecourse buildings were taken over.


  Southbourne defences taken over by the 4th Med. Regt. R.A. Regiment in body moved to Newbury.