Edward G. Rankmore, POW Diary Extracts
12-20 June and 26-29 Nov 1940
The following has been provided by Gordon Rankmore concerning his father who was with the 2nd Seaforths at St. Valéry.
“I have recovered some notes made by my father Edward George Rankmore (1911-2002) who was at St Valery in 1940. He had previously served with the Seaforths in 1930s and based at Dover Castle, Palestine and Hong Kong. He left the regiment early 1939 but was recalled when war broke out later that year.
He was Private 6666187, A Company, 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders who were on the western side of the St Valery box. His diary records an incident on 11 June 1940 when he set out from Battalion HQ on foot to the Village of Le Tot (about 5 miles west of St Valery) where they encountered 6 enemy tanks and heavy machine gun fire. Several of his party were killed. I remember he told me about losing a close friend during this time (my parents used to visit his widow in Lancaster or Carlisle for many years after the war). His name was Strickland. When our sons were still at school we visited the Normandy landings area and visited St Valery. We found in the churchyard above the town the Commonwealth War Graves and, walking between the graves, came across Strickland's grave. I took a photo of it to send to my father. I have just had a look at it and it records that he died on 11 June 1940.
The other record I have are his diaries (though written whilst a POW) for 12-20 June 1940 recounting his attempt to get away by a small boat with a party of Frenchmen and an Englishman who was wounded. Presumably, they were trying to reach the naval boats off-shore? He records being badly shelled with several being killed, with no water and drifting in the Channel for several days before being blown back to the French coast where he was finally caught on 17 June. After capture, he was at Stalaag XXA and XXB, Bishopsnell, Bonhof, Neuwick, Neutach, Johananshan, Riesenburg Strafe Lager - amongst others! He escaped several times - eventually successfully! He was awarded a Military Medal. As well as the 1942 almanac, I have his 1943 German diary completed whilst a POW which records the arrival of Red Cross parcels, and one of his escapes. I hope these records are of interest and help to understand more of this episode.”
Extract - 12th June 1940
We join the narrative as Rankmore takes to a ship's boat after the French troopship he was on is put out of action by enemy artillery, close to St. Valery.
“Over and over again the boat seemed to assume odd angles and we would be soaked with the spray from shell bursts. Eventually we managed to get out of range with the loss of five men killed and one man wounded. Two oars and the life vest lost. We bailed out with the pail and then moved westward in the hope of meeting a British boat. When the dark came we were within a mile or so of a British battleship but we lost it in the dark. Later on we saw flares but thought they might come from enemy patrol boats so shipped our oars and remained quiet. Terrible night. Have no clothes except a shirt which is soaking wet - bitterly cold. Noises of bursting shells and machine guns in my head for several days. Hallucinations - can see trees all around me and keep dipping my oar in grass. Glad when day breaks. Am still confident of getting back to dear old Blighty. “