Movements of 51(H) Div. leaving Lille Area
This account of the “Movements of 51 Div. and Attached Tps. since leaving Lille Area” was provided by Mr Michael Thomson of Perth who provided me with various artefacts from his uncle, Major David K Thomson who was in the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) in the Divisional Supply Regiment. The account is on foolscap paper and appears to be contemporary. Although unattributed, the only person mentioned by name in the account is Major C.P.R.Johnston and as the account from 10 June relates specifically to ARK force it may be that he was the author and escaped. I would be grateful for any further details.
Brig. Charles Grant, Website Historian
MOVEMENTS OF 51 DIV. AND ATTACHED TPS.
SINCE LEAVING LILLE AREA.
154 Inf. Bde. Moved to SAAR by rail.
51 Div. And attached tps., started move to SAAR area, N.E. of METZ, by road and rail.
51 Div. And attached tps, now joined by 7 NORFOLKS become SAAR FORCE and relieve 7 Fr. D.I in sector HOMBOURG BUDANGE under Fr.C.A.C.
Withdrawal ordered from LIGNE DE CONTACT.
51 Div. And attached tps. become reserve to group of armies and ordered from area ETAIN. Withdrawl from HOMBOURG BUDANGE Sector on Maginot line begins.
Move to ETAIN area completed.
154 Inf.Bde Group ordered to VARENNES area N.E. of VERDUN owing to threat in MONTMEDY area.
51 Div. And attached tps. ordered by G.Q.G to area PACY in G.Q.G. reserve.
51 Div. Ordered to join 154 Bde. Group in VARENNES area as reserve to group of armies. Road parties of most units move to that area night 24/25. Rail parties meantime diverted by direct orders of G.Q.G. to ROUEN.
1st. Flight, (152 Bde.Group) move to area GISORS by two stages - 1st stage VITY LE FRANCOIS: 2nd stage SEZANNE., starting 2000 hrs.
2nd Flight, (154 Bde.Group) move to area GISORS by same stages, starting 0800 hrs.
3rd Flight (153 Bde.Group) move to area GISORS byb same stages, starting 2000hrs.
1st Flight, forward to line of R.BRESLE.
Remainder forward to line of R.BRESLE.
Line of R.SOMME incl. ABBEVILLE to the sea to be held by 51 Div. and attached tps. after French have driven in bridgeheads in front of ABBEVILLE.
French X Army attack ABBEVILLE bridgeheads but fail to capture them.
Combined dawn attack of French 31 Div. with tanks assisted by 152 and 153 Bdes. fails to secure bridgeheads - heavy casualties sustained by 152 Bde. (4 Seaforth and 4 Camerons).
Heavy enemy pressure forces retirement to intermediate position between R SOMME and R.BRESLE. 31 Fr.Div sideslips to EAST. Front of 51 Div. now reduced to rt. BLANGY to the sea from previous frontage rt.SENNAPONT.
"A" Bde. Sent up from ROUEN sub-area to assist 51 Div, allotted sector between 153 and 154 Bdes.
900 reinforcements under Major J.R. Mackintosh-Walker (Seaforth) join 51 div. Enemy who had crossed river at BEAUCHAMP bridge successfully counterattacked. Information on enemy threat to ROUEN. Supplies, etc, now based on HAVRE.
French X Army orders withdrawal to the line of R. LA BETHUNE which is carried out during night 8/9 June. Div. H.Q to LA CHASSEE from LE COUDROY. Dv. Amn.Coy fail to find amn,. train located en casse mobile between BOLBEC and ST.SAEN. ST.SAEN dump reported in enemy hands. Appeal for amn. to be sent by sea.
Information of occupation of ROUEN by enemy and threat of advance from ROUEN on HAVRE. 154 Bde.Group later named ARK force ordered to hold line FECAMP - BOLBEC in conjunction with French tps. already in occupation to cover withdrawal on HAVRE of remainder of 51 Div.
ARK force withdraws from positions on R. LA BETHUNE 2100hrs but owing to bad weather conditions and road congestion, due to refugee traffic, rearward elements do not reach FECAMP until 1200 hrs.June 10.
0530 reports, later confirmed, that enemy tanks and motorised infantry have turned N, from TOTES towards DIEPPE and are within three miles of LA CHAUSSEE. A/Tk.Regt. ordered to ensure adequate road blocks on this road. Staff Officer, (Major C.P.R.Johnston), ordered to try to get through to 154 Bde. Group and warn them of latest development, also to assist them in evacuation from HAVRE should the enemy succeed in isolating the remainder of the Division. Remainder of Division would attempt evacuation between ST.VALERY and DIEPPE.
Comdr. 154 Bde. Group warned of latest development and in view of reports of enemy tanks approaching FECAMP decides to hold a previously reconnoitred position HARFLEUR - MONTIVILLIERS - BLEVILLE, leaving detachments to strengthen French posts on line FECAMP -BOLBEC.
Night June 11/12. Information received that remainder 51 Div. will attempt evacuate ST.VALERY and beaches to the EAST. Comdr. ARK force in conjunction with Comdr. HAVRE Garrison and RN commences evacuation from HAVRE.
Original agreement with French that outer defences would be held until 1200 hrs, 12 June is altered at request of French to 259 hrs 12 June and inner defences to 0500 hrs, 13 June.
Remainder ARK Force and HAVRE Garrison evacuated from HAVRE between 2100 hrs. 12 June and 0200 hrs 13 June, except for party holding inner defences which evacuates 0600 hrs. 13 June.
ARK FORCE, with the exception of the two first ships to leave HAVRE, was evacuated to CHERBOURG, and left CHERBOURG for U.K. on June 15 and 16.