War Diary of Captain R.A.A.S. Macrae
27 May - 10 Jun 1940


This diary is a record of the two weeks from 27th May until 12th June 1940 by the then Adjutant of the 4th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, Capt. R.A.A.S. Macrae. (later Colonel Sir Robert Macrae KCVO, KStOO, MBE, JP, DL, d 15/11/1999). It describes in detail the events experienced by the Bn. leading up to their eventual capture at St. Valé ry-en-Caux, together with the rest of the 51st Highland Division. Sadly, I was unable to talk with Sir Robert about the diary or my notes, as I did not find the original until after his death.

The diary is written in pencil which leads me to believe that this is only a draft and that a fair copy in ink may exist somewhere. It was obviously written in one sitting in the prison camp rather than during, or immediately following, the events it describes. There are notes, such as 'Augment', that are written here and there throughout the diary in another hand, possibly that of his CO or another fellow officer. The diary has also been stamped 'Oflag VI B, 22, Gepruft' (trans.-Checked or Passed) by the German prison camp authorities, which may indicate that they had possibly read it, but had allowed him to keep it. Oflag VIB was, I believe, Dössel/Warburg in North Rhine Westphalia. However Oflag VIIC in Laufen, Bavaria was the camp where the captured soldiers of the 51st Division were first sent following an arduous journey on foot, by river barge, and in cattle trucks through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, and including about a weeks stay in the military section of Dachau concentration camp. At various other times according to the author, he was also held in for a short period in Oflag IVC Colditz, in Oflag VIIB Eichstatt, Bavaria, and finally in Oflag VIlD Moosburg, Bavaria from where he was liberated on 29th April 1945 by General Patton's 14th Armoured Division.

There is also a loose scrap of paper in ink. It seems to be an introduction to the diary.

"About a week after the German main attack on Holland, BELGIUM and North FRANCE on the 10th May 40 had commenced the 4th Bn. were withdrawn from the 'Line de Contact' on the sector of the 'Saarforce' line which they were then occupying. The 51 Div. had, since the last week in April, been occupying on a 3 Bde. front a sector of the SAAR fortifications due EAST of METZ. 152"

I have included in appendix 2 a transcript of some loose sheets and a map covering 7th to 12th June that is apparently not in the hand of R.A.A.S Macrae. They appear from the context probably to have been written by Major C.J. (Colin) Shaw MacKenzie, 2nd in Command, as he had taken over command of the Bn. on 4th June when the C.O., Lt Col H.W. (Harry) Houldsworth, was wounded.

[Note. This has not been included on the website at this time.]

I have left the spelling of towns and villages in the text as my father wrote them. I append in appendix 3 a list of what I believe to be the correct spellings. Army abbreviations mentioned in the text are also left as written. I believe the correct spellings and meanings are as listed m the appendix [not included on the website at this time]. I have inserted a colon for clarity in all the times stated.

Christopher Macrae
February 2003

Captain R.A.A.S. Macrae 1074 Room No 19

War Diary
4/Seaforth Highlanders
27th May 40 -12 June 40

Bn. Roll of Officers

Bn. HQ

Lt Col H.W. Houldsworth - C.O. (wounded)
Major C.J. Shaw MacKenzie - 2/in C
Capt. R.A.A. S. Macrae - Adjutant
Lt. H. Macrae - I.O. (wounded)
2/Lt. Lindsay - Sig.Officer (wounded)
2/Lt. C. Shand - M.T.O.
Lt. J. MacIntosh - Q.M.
Lt. D.J. Macrae R.A.M.C. - M.O.

H.Q. Coy.

Capt. G.H.W. Baird - O.C.
Capt. N. Macbeath (wounded) - Carrier P. Officer
Lt. A.G.D. Cameron - Mortar Officer


Major Viscount Tarbat - O.C.
2/Lt. T.D. Scott
2/Lt. J Lochrane
2/Lt. B. MacIrvine


Major S.K.Fraser - O.C. (killed)
Captain C.A.H. Gascoigne
Lt. M. MacLennan - (killed)
2/Lt. C.H. MacLean - (killed)


Capt. P.G. Munro - O.C.
2/Lt. A. Shearer
2/Lt. W. Grieve (killed)
2/Lt. S.Smith (killed)


Capt. R.R. Pelhan-Burn - O.C.
Capt. J.E.Young
2/Lt. W. Mundell (wounded)
2/Lt. J. Anderson (wounded)

27th May

02:00 hrs

Bn. HQ, HQ Coy. and A Coy. de-trained at a junction a few miles from ROUEN & D Coy. had arrived 2 hours earlier and had proceeded to the I.B.D. camp outside ROUEN.

Troops had then been in the trains for 51 hours but had had plenty of opportunity for sleeping during that time.

M/C guides led the Bn. to I.B.D. camp where tentage accommodation was allotted to Coys.

Breakfast was served and Coys. were left to rest in their areas.

4/Camerons were adjoining our area and Ack-Ack precautions were taken for the whole area by the two Bns.

12:00 hrs

Col. Houldsworth was called away to a conference at I.B.D. HQ. While he was away a staff officer from Northern Area HQ. arrived at Bn. HQ. with the information that the Bn. was to Embuss at 1800 hrs. that day in French M.T. He gave no information as to the destination and none with regards to 152 Bde. HQ. or our Road Tp. of whom we had heard nothing since leaving the Saar.

Col. Houldsworth then returned from I.B.D. HQ. and orders were issued to Coys.

18:00 hrs

Bn. was standing to for Embussing but no French M.T. arrived.

21:00 hrs

No French Tp. arrived in spite of efforts of D.R.'s etc. to try and locate them. C.O. 4/Seaforths decided to go to Northern Area HQ. in ROUEN and obtain information. He took with him C.O. 4/Camerons and Adj. 4/Seaforths. Northern Area HQ. was unable to give much information with regards to the French Tp. except that they might not arrive until the following morning.

The C.O.'s however were put in the picture with regards to Enemy operations and dispositions and were also told that 51 Div. was going forward to the Somme.

On return to I.B.D. a meal was given to the troops and Coys. were allowed to return to their areas and sleep.

22:30 hrs

Lt. Smith arrived from the Bn. Road Party with information that they were bivouacked at CHARMONT and were proceeding the following morning to the FORÊT D'EU.

28th May

06:00 hrs

French M.T. arrived. The Bn. was immediately embussed and the column proceeded by way of ROUEN - NEUF CHATEL to a rendezvous at the "STARFISH X Rds" in the FORÊT D'EU.

The C.O. and Adj. preceded the column and found 152 Bde. HQ. in the neighbourhood of the Rendezvous and were given the situation and the Bn. Area. Bn. Road Party had already arrived and were then in hides in the Bn. Area.
C.O. and Adj. then proceeded on a Reece of the Area.

On arrival of the Bn. in M.T., Coy. Guides from the Road Party took Coys. to their Areas.

A perimeter was formed of Anti-Tank positions on all roads * etc. leading into the Bn. Area. * (Main Abbeville - Rouen road?)

The forest in this area was very thick and gave good cover from air but was intersected by 2nd class road and rides running parallel both N & Sand E & W.

12:00 hrs

Orders were received from Bde. that an armed Reece party were to proceed through BLANGY across R.BRESLE to the village of LE TRANSLA Y. Reconnaissance of this village was to be made with a view to the Bn. proceeding to that area and taking up positions to hold the village and protect the X-roads there on the main Abbeville road.

Information of the Enemy in this area was very vague but they were known to be in HUPPY some 6 miles East of LE TRANSLAY.

The French were also going to attack HUPPY at 1700 hrs. that day.

14:00 hrs

1 sec. of carriers, the C.0., 1.0. and 5 Coy. Com'drs. proceeded to LE TRANSLAY for Reece.

The Transport in the party consisted of the Carriers, C.O.'s car, l.8 cwt. and 2 D.R.'s.

On arrival at his destination the C.O. sent his car back to bring up the Adj. No enemy were seen in the area of the village and the recce. was carried out successfully.

On return to Bn. HQ. a report was sent to Bde. and orders were issued to Coys. for the move to (LE TRANSLAY? - left blank in original - Ed.)

B Ech. Tp. was to remain in the Bn. Area with 2nd in C. and Q.M. until further orders from Bde. A-Ech. to proceed with the Bn. to LE TRANSLAY.

The Q.M., Lt. Mackintosh, arrived back from compassionate leave soon after the Bn. arrived at the Starfish X-roads and took over from Lt. Cargill who had been operating his job since he went on leave.

Information was received from Bde. that the French attack on HUPPY this afternoon was completely successful.

21:00 hrs

The Bn. with D. Coy. & No.4 PI. acting as advance guard marched off from the Starfish X-roads for LE TRANSLAY.

29th May

02:50 hrs

A-Ech. Tp. left Starfish area and moved to LE TRANSLAY in two bounds.
1st Bound. I mile E-side of BLANGY at the summit of hill on main Abbeville

2nd Bound. LE TRANSLAY

04:00 hrs

All Coys. were in position and transport in Coy. hides as the dawn began to break.

Message sent to Bde. that Bn. was in position.

Bn. HQ. was established in the moat of an old ruin near the centre of the village.

12:00 hrs

Orders were received that the positions in LE TRANSLAY would be taken over by 2/Seaforths at 2100 hrs. and 4/Seaforths were to move into positions at GREBAULT -MESNlL that night.

The C.O. carried out a recce of GREBAULT-MESNIL with Bn. R Group during the afternoon.

Coys. filtered forward to GREBAULT-MESNIL during the late afternoon and were in position shortly before it was completely dark.

A-Ech. Tp. left LE TRANSLAY as soon as it was dusk and was sent out to Coy.areas.

Positions to form a tank-proof perimeter for the village had been allotted to Coys. and Bn. HQ. was established in a farm house near the centre of the village.

A liaison D.R. was sent to the French HQ. at HUPPY for the purpose of speedy communication should they require our services.

30th May

03.30 hrs

Bn. stood to for an hour. No Enemy activity.

During the morning the C.O. was called to a conference at HUPPY which had been bombed early that morning.

The French Commander informed the C.O. that the French were holding MOYENVILLE-BIENFAIT and BEHEN, a village immediately in rear of MOYENVILLE.

The French were to attack with tanks from these positions at 1700 hrs. that afternoon and he wanted 4/Seaforths to be standing by ready to move to BEHEN and support the French in stemming a counter attack by the enemy should the French attack be a failure.

The C.O. replied that he would prefer his Bn. to move into position at BEHEN before the French attack was launched in order that his Bn. might be ready in position to support the French should the attack fail.

This plan was agreed upon by the Brigadier 152 Bde. (who was present) and the French Cmd.

Bn. Reece. Group then proceeded to BEHEN.

15:15 hrs

Coys. moved forward into position and existing French R.A.P. and HQ. was taken over.

A-Ech. Tp. was filtered forward during the afternoon and the Bn. was in position and the Tp. in hides in a large orchard and wood in the SOUTH outskirts of the village by 1700 hrs. The French attack commenced with tanks unsupported by Arty. at 1800 hrs against Mt. de CAUBERT.

The progress of the attack was watched from Coy. localities at BEHEN and its failure was soon evident. Enemy A/Tk defences were strong and took heavy toll of the advance French Tanks. NO progress seemed to have been made at all by the French Infantry. Bn. HQ. had no communication with French Arty. at this juncture.

(Note in another hand: - Shelling-)

F.O.O. of the Bty. 1 R.H.A. was established in the grounds of a chateau on the N.W. outskirts of the village and was connected through Bn. HQ. to the Bty. mand Bde. (Note – under command Bde Awl. Coy I PI. KENSINGTONS)

As darkness fell disorganised bodies of Frenchmen started to come back through the village together with the surviving French tanks.

The general information supplied by these men was that all their officers were dead and that there were no Frenchmen left in MOYENVILLE. As no information had been received from the French HQ. in MOYENVILLE a patrol under 2ILt. Scott with the Bn. French Liaison Officer was sent forward to MOYENVILLE to the French HQ. to obtain some information regarding their present intentions.

In the meanwhile a French officer arrived and with his help about 100 Frenchmen were rounded up and organised.

2/Lt. Scott's patrol reported that the French Brigadier was now in MOYENVILLE and wished as many Frenchmen as possible sent up to him there. The 100 men under a French Commandant of the Mechanised Cavalry and one Subaltern returned to MOYENVILLE.

31st May

02:00 hrs

2/Seaforths relieved French Tps. in MOYENVILLE and BIENFAIT.

Orders were received for 4/Seaforths to hold MOYENVILLE and BEHEN. 2/Seaforths on our Right were to hold BIENFAIT & BOENCOURT.

On our Left there was a large gap until the positions of the l.B.W. were reached.

The country between the two Bns. was open and had good observation during the daytime.

The Front took a Rt.angle bend at the l.B.W. positions and from there ran Northwards to the sea.

Positions in MOYENVILLE were taken over during the afternoon by B. C. & D.Coys leaving A. Coy and HQ.Coy personnel responsible for BEHEN.

One ATK Tp. 51 Div. A TK Regt. now came under command and was moved into MOYENVILLE while Pl. of Bde ATK Coy remained in BEHEN.

1 Pl. M.G.'s from the 5th N. Fusiliers relieved Pl. of KENSINGTONS and moved into MOYENVILLE.

(Note – 1 Sec MG's? A Coy area 13th?)

The layout of defensives were as shown (see map)

R.H.A. were in support at GREBAULT -MESNIL.

1st June

07:00 hrs

C. Coy HQ. area was heavily shelled while breakfasts were being prepared. 10 Casualties - 1 killed, remainder wounded.

Unfortunately the M.O. (Lt. DJ. Macrae) together with his Medical Sgt. went up to C. Coy area to tend immediately to the wounded, during which time the enemy repeated his shelling of the HQ. with the result that the Medical Sgt. (Sgt. Wilkes) was wounded fairly badly.

(It is worth remembering here that none of the Medical Staff, other than S.B.'s, should be sent forward to forward areas to deal with casualties. In this case we nearly lost our M.O. as well as our Medical Sgt.)

Later in the day Pte. Scott of A. Coy, while on sentry duty, saw something moving in a haystack some 50x to his right front. He reported this to his Sec. Comd. and took 2 men forward and discovered 4 Germans with a heavy M.G. in the haystack. He made these his prisoners. The Prisoners were very frightened and stated that they had been in the haystack 3 days. They had made no use of their gun during these days. They were sent immediately back to Bde. HQ.

(Note in another hand:- "What unit were these from?")

Little further activity during this day apart from periodic shelling.

2nd June

Enemy shelling was fairly active during the morning on MOYENVILLE and an enemy mortar was located in Wood 77 on the right front of MOYENVILLE and also in a valley immediately in front of the village. Enemy were also observed making defences in haystacks and on the ground on the high ground to our immediate front.

A very successful M.G. shoot on these operations was arranged by the 5th N. Fusiliers and the enemy were observed rapidly evacuating their haystacks etc. Lt.A.D.G. Cameron with No 3 PI. replied to the German mortar fire from a position in D Coy. area with fair success.

Orders had now been received that the 4/Seaforths would be relieved by the 5th Gordons on the night of 2/3 June.

5/Gordons recce. party arrived at Bn.H.Q.

Enemy artillery had been shelling Moyenville and the exits from BEHEN periodically during the morning.

Unfortunately a Coy. recce party from 5th Gordons going up to C Coy. area was caught by an enemy concentration between BEHEN and Moyenville. This party consisted of guide from 4/Seaforth Pte. Sutherland, 5th Gordons Coy. Cmdr., N.C.O. & Coy. runner.

The 5th Coy . Cmdr. & Pte. Sutherland were killed, and the other two men were wounded.

The remainder of the reconnaissance was carried out successfully.

The enemy continued shelling and mortar fire at intervals during the afternoon. Enemy mortar positions were located in wood 77 on the right of B. & D. Coys. and also in the hollow in front of D. Coy. Enemy M.G. Psns. had also been located in Wood 77.

18:00 hrs

1R.H.A. heavily and very successfully shelled Wood 77.

The Col. left Bn. HQ. at about 1700 hrs. for a conference at Bde. HQ.

As it was growing dark, D. Coy. reported that about 100 of the enemy were concentrating in the hollow to their front and they were expecting to be attacked.

Moyenville was again shelled.

R.H.A. shelled on their S.O.S. programme the hollow and the western edge of Wood 77.

The 5/Gordons were now arriving to take over our positions and guides from companies had reported at Bn. HQ. and were sent off with the relieving Coys.

Tp. from the forward Coys. had reported at BEHEN and was ready to move back to BIENAST -ZALLIEUX. The enemy now started shelling behind BEHEN near 1 R.H.A. positions and also the rear exits to BEHEN.

During a lull in the shelling, the Adj. ordered the Tp. to proceed to ZALLIEUX, where Coy. guides were ready waiting.

Coy. recce parties with Major Shaw MacKenzie carried out a recce of ZALLIEUX during the afternoon.

Soon after the Tp had left, the enemy shelled BEHEN scoring a direct hit on A. Coy. HQ., killing Sgt. Giles and wounding Pte. Swanson.

The C.O. returned from the conference at Bde.

All Gordon Coys. reported that they had taken over positions and our own Coys. started to come back on their way to ZALLIEUX

Enemy shelling was now comparatively silent and all companies arrived at ZALLIEUX without further casualties.
Bn.H.Q. at BEHEM was handed over to 5/Gordons and went back to chateau at ZALLIEUX

3rd June

Troops were rested during the morning but a warning order was received from Bde. for an attack by the 51 Div. with the French on 4th June. The C.O. went to Bde. HQ. to receive orders.

13:00 hrs

Bn. recce. party went forward to 4/Camerons HQ. south of the main Abbeville road and opposite the Bois de Villers.
The recce. for the attack was carried out under difficulties as the enemy were very close and were active with mortar and M.G. fire. The party then moved round to the left of the Bn. Sector S.W. of BIENFAIT. Here a better view of the ground was obtained.

18:00 hrs

The operation order from Bde. arrived and a conference was held at Bn. HQ. French Tank and Arty. reps attended but no one from the French Dragon-Portés as it appears these had not yet arrived on the scene.

The plan of attack for the 4/ Seaforths sector was as follows:

ZERO 0330 hrs.

The attack was to be launched in 5 definite phases.

1. Z-10 Arty. barrage opened on Bois de Villers to cover the noise of the tanks coming forward and was lifted gradually to the other side of the Somme.

2. French heavy tanks to follow the barrage and capture the high ground of the Mt Caubert and Caesar's Camp.

3. 2 Coys. of 2/Seaforths to attack Bois de Villers and clear it of enemy as far as its E extremities which was their final objective.

4. *French light tanks followed by 4/Seaforths advancing on a 2 Coy. front on each side of the Bois de Villers were to attack the Mt. Caubert and consolidate on this objective.

*(Note - This necessitated the northernmost two Coys. wheeling right after having cleared the northern side of the Bois de Villers, to bring them into line with the Coys. to the south to attack the high ground of Mt. Caubert.)

5. French Dragon-Portés were to advance through the 4/Seaforths and to follow the heavy tanks to the Mt. Caubert and Caesar's Camp and hold this ground until the arrival of the slower moving infantry.

Three aerial photos * of the country were received from Bde. One was given to each B & C Coys. Note* - seen by all Coy Commanders).

It was stated that air co-operation would definitely be available for the attack and that the bridges over the Somme were to be bombed at 0500 hrs.

Orders were given out to Coys. and attached tps. under command 1 PI. 7th Royal Norfolks.

The French were to be responsible for all Arty. liaison and support.

All Coys. were told to rest their men as much as possible and to finish preliminaries for the following day as soon as possible.

02:00 hrs

Coys. move off to the assembly area in the following order. B. D. C. & A. Coys followed by No 4 PI.

B & C Coys. then moved forward to the start line which was a track running between BIENFAIT and the main Abbeville road and at Rt angles to the line of advance.
B Coy. on the right. C Coy. on the left.

A & D Coys. formed up on a track 600x in rear of the start line.
D on right & I PI Norfolks Pioneer Bn. A on left.

Bn. HQ. was between A & D Coys. with Bn. HQ. signallers & Pioneers. No 4 PI. in rear of Bn. HQ.

All movement was done in complete silence and Coys. lay down in their positions and waited for zero hour.

The morning was exceptionally quiet and a fine June dawn was just breaking.


The barrage commenced and sounded exceedingly effective.


2/Seaforths attacked the Bois de Villers and encountered little resistance.

2 French heavy tanks now appeared and advanced to the right of Bois de Villers. There was no sign of the light tanks and the Bn. was preparing to move without them, when at Z+30 3 arrived on our right flank, and B Coy. moved off with them followed by D Coy.

No tanks had arrived on C Coy. front on the left, but a Frenchman reported that they had gone to the north of the Bois de Villers and would be picked up there. C Coy. followed by A Coy. then went forward on the N side of the BOIS de VILLERS. They found no sign of French tanks but continued their advance.

We do not know why the French tanks which did arrive were late, (and the number which eventually turned up was far short of what we had been told to expect) but the result of this delay meant the loss of all protection we might have had from the barrage, and also the loss of the dawn light.

It was now very much lighter and the enemy were shelling the Abbeville Road and the N. side of Bois de Villers causing several casualties in C Coy. The advance on both sides of the wood continued.

Bn. HQ. moved along the south side of the wood behind D Coy. with 2 Sec. of Carriers, 1 sec of Carriers had been attached to A Coy.

The Bn. frontage was now about 1200x and communications with the left flank were very difficult.

B & D Coy. continued their advance through an orchard to the north of the Abbeville Road. 2 heavy French tanks had been hit by enemy A/Tk. fire and were in flames. B Coy. left the cover of the orchard and proceeded to cross the open ground in front of the Mt. Caubert to make their final assault but were caught by heavy M.G. fire on their right flank which caused enormous casualties in the company. All officers were killed and C.S.M. Bifield brought 18 men back to the cover of the orchard. D Coy. was held up by these M.G.'s and fire coming from the Mt. Caubert, 2/Lt W Mandell being wounded and one man killed and several wounded. The C.O. after visiting D Coy.'s position and making a recce returned to Bn. HQ., which had taken up a position in a small orchard S. of the Bois de Villers about 200x in rear of D Coy.

Communication was established with the left forward Coy. of 4/Camerons who stated that their advance was also held up.

During the time the C.O. was forward two more French heavy tanks arrived in the area of Bn. HQ. and also a Dragon Porté. The C.O. told them the situation and asked their co-operation to dislodge the M.G. nests on our right front. They showed very little enthusiasm and wouldn't even attempt to make a recce. of the area to see where they might be able to help. After a great deal of talk and private conferences amongst themselves they re-entered their vehicles and went off in the direction of ZALLIEUX from where they had come not long before.

The C.O. then sent a section of carriers under Sgt Ross forward to D Coy. Immediately on leaving the cover of the orchard and the forward edge of Bois de Villers this section came under heavy A/Tk. fire from the enemy.
One of the carriers was hit and put out of action. The remaining two were signalled back to Bn. HQ. by Sgt. Ross who had been blown out of his carrier and miraculously wasn't killed, the rest of his crew having been killed.

Bn. HQ. personnel and ½ PI. Norfolks were into positions in the orchard and had dug weapon pits and slit trenches.

The C.O. again went forward to D Coy. area and soon after he left the enemy shelled the orchard in which the Bn. HQ. was situated and the ground between this orchard and D Coy positions.
No casualties from this shellfire.

The Adj. attempted to get round the forward edges of the Bois de Villers to find out what was happening to C & A Coys. *

(*Note by another hand: "Augment")

The front of the wood was however being subjected to heavy M.G. fire and the enemy seemed to have very good observation of this area. A carrier was therefore sent round the rear of the wood to follow up the north side to find A Coy. A message came back from A Coy. that C Coy. had been badly shot up and that A Coy. was held up just clear of and N .E. of the Bois de Villers.

The 2/Seaforth Coys. were in the E. edges of Bois de Villers

It is worth mentioning here that the responsibility for Arty. liaison for support for the attack belonged to the French who made no attempt at any form of liaison.

The 1 R.H.A., not wishing to rely on the French, had sent forward an armoured O.P. with Lt. F. WELDON who did excellent work trying to bring Arty. fire on A/Tk. guns and M.G. posts and also to obtain a suitable O.P. for himself, but his wireless was very soon jammed by the enemy.

A line was laid by a carrier from Bn. HQ. to Rear Bn. HQ. at ZALLIEUX to link us up from there with Bde. But this line was very soon put out of action by shellfire.

09:00 hrs

The C.O. returned from D Coy. to Bn. HQ. and very soon after he returned the enemy put a very heavy concentration on the orchard. The casualties at Bn. HQ. were serious.


Lt Col. Houldsworth - C.O.
2/Lt. Lindsay - Signal Officer
Capt Macbeath - Carrier PI. Officer
LlSgt. Wells - Sig Sgt.


2 Ptes. Signallers

The C.O. was wounded in three places, but was a walking case, and told the Adj. before going back to keep the Bn. where it was at present. He would report the situation to Bde. and information would be sent forward from there concerning further advance in the attack. He would also send up Major Shaw MacKenzie to take over command of the Bn.

The other wounded were sent back to R.A.P. at BIENFAIT. The C.O. went to ZALLIEUX and then to Bde. HQ. The Adjutant went forward with the Intelligence Sgt. to D Coy. area to inform the Coy. Cmd. of the C.O.'s decision. Capt. Baird O.C. HQ. Coy. remained in charge of Bn. HQ.

On the way to D Coy. German dive bombers commenced systematic dive bombing of our line from the 4/Cameron area and the orchards in D Coy. area including the front edges of the Bois de Villers to A Coy. area.

This bombing although extremely nerve racking did not produce very many casualties.

D Coy. had consolidated their position in the orchard and had a good position although rather concentrated. They had contact with 2ILt. David Ross PI. (4/Camerons) who were holding the ground about 50X to the left* of the Coy.
(note by another hand: "Right")

D Coy. were told to hold their ground at all costs and were told that further orders would be issued regarding further action.

The Adj. returned to Bn. HQ. where he found Capt. Hobkirk 2/Seaforths who had come over from Bois de Villers. He told us that he understood that the line was to be withdrawn back that night.

A message was then sent to Bde. HQ. giving situation and positions, same message to 2/Seaforths HQ.

A message was received from Bde. HQ. to the effect that A Coy was to come under the orders of 2/Seaforths. *

(note in another hand: "Augment")

The Bn. would withdraw to ZALLIEUX that night. Time of withdrawal would be given by 2/Seaforths.

Enemy shelling activity and bombing had quietened down on our positions and shells were falling on back areas and on the La Croisette X rds in rear.

16:00 hrs

Major C.J. Shaw MacKenzie came up to take over command of the Bn.

He confirmed the orders for withdrawal that night and said that French troops would relieve us.

The Adj. took the new C.O. round the Bn. front and also over to - Coy. HQ. 4/ Camerons on our right.

Orders for withdrawal were issued to D and the remnants of B Coy., A & C Coys acting on orders from 2/Seaforths.

On withdrawal the Bn. was to move to positions on the LA- CROISETTE-LIMEUX road having our left flank on La Croisette.

Orders were received to withdraw to the LIMEUX line. F.D.L's to be evacuated at 0200 hrs. 5 June whether French relieving units had arrived or not.

Casualties 4 June

Killed - Officers

Major S. K. Fraser M.C. - B Coy.
Lt. M.MacLennan - B Coy.
2/Lt H.H.C. Maclean - B Coy.
2/Lt Smith - C Coy.
2/Lt Grieve - C Coy.

Wounded - Officers

Lt. Col Houldsworth - C.O.
Lt. H. Macrae - I.O.
2/Lt F. Lindsay - Sig Offr.
Capt. N. Macbeath - Carrier Officer
2/Lt W. Mindell - D Coy.
2/Lt I. Anderson - D Coy.

Total Casualties (approx)

Killed & Wounded - Officers - 11
Killed & Wounded - O.R.'s - 170 to 200

5th June

02:00 hrs

Bn moved back via LA CROISETTE and ZALLIEUX to LIMEUX. Breakfasts were served at ZALLIEUX

The Bn. was joined by A & C Coys. and after having picked up a car HQ. personnel moved to LIMEUX area *

(*Note by another hand: "Augment")

Support at LIMEUX:
Arty: 1 R.H.A. in support
(F.O.O. in A Coy. area)

Under command:
Position Right of A Coy. area.

A Coy. on the Left excl. La Croisette.

B Coy. Centre.

D Coy. on the Right.

Personnel from HQ.Coy. with remnants of B Coy. under command of Capt G.H.W. Baird filled the gap between Left of C Coy. and A Coy.

There was indiscriminate shelling and dive bombing activity by the Enemy during the morning but no casualties to the Bn.

2/Seaforths were on the Right and contact was made by A Coy. with French troops at LA CROISETTE.
Fairly heavy shelling by the Enemy was concentrated on the LA CROISETTE x- rds. Very little other activity during the morning.

All ranks were extremely tired after the attack and the days preceding it and had had practically no chance of decent rest for days.

During the morning 4/Camerons passed through our positions going back through HUPPY

In the early afternoon HUPPY immediately to our rear was heavily bombed.

21:00 hrs

A Coy. reported enemy activity on his front.

Orders for withdrawal to RAMBURELLES arrived from Bde.

The withdrawal order was sent out to Coys. and 1 Sec. of carriers was sent to A Coy.

23:00 hrs

The Bn. withdrew from F.D.L.'s to RV at HUPPY and then marched to RAMBURELLES.

A. Coy. had some unpleasantness on the left flank while getting out owing to Enemy Arty. action. The remainder of the Bn. got away without any fuss.

6th June

Daylight was breaking by the time we reached RAMBURELLES. All ranks were extremely tired having marched all night and having been on the go since the attack on 4th June.

The Bn. was placed in Bde. reserve at RAMBURELLES. and was told to get as much rest as possible.

Companies took over defensive positions on the outskirts of the village and were told to rest the men until further orders.

A/Tk defences formed by 1 PI. Bde. A/Tk Coy were posted.

The Bn. had a well earned rest during the morning.

2/Seaforths were on our Right front. 5/Gordons to our front and 4/Camerons on the railway line on our Left front.

11:30 hrs

Orders came from Bde. that the 4/Camerons were being heavily attacked and infiltration of the enemy was taking place on our Left.

All defences were manned and companies dug themselves in.

An emergency position for the carriers was reconnoitred on some high ground on our Left front which overlooked the open ground beyond the railway and across the main Abbeville Road. From here they could cover the 4/Camerons front.

14:00 hrs

The carriers were sent into their emergency position to help the 4/Camerons who appeared to be having a rough time on the Railway Line.

I PI. of M.G.'s from the ……..(?) was up in this area and had some very good shooting across the flat and open country across the Railway. Our carriers did some very useful work here and formed a good mobile reserve of fire.

A few shells landed on the Bn. area but otherwise we were battered very little this day.

Enemy aircraft were very active all day and had complete command of the sky. Orders received that the Bde. would withdraw across the R BRESLE that night.

21:15 hrs.

The Bn. left RAMBURELLES. Enemy shelling was increasing along our front as we were leaving the village.

A-Ech. Tp. had been ferried through to the Starfish X-rds. during the afternoon. The Bn. marched through BLANGY at about 03:00 hrs. The crowd in Blangy of refugees, French soldiers and all types of French Tp. was phenomenal and we were very thankful when the Bn. was through the town and marching up to the Forêt d'Eu.

All the Bn. had a very good night's sleep after a very strenuous time since we were last in the Forêt d'Eu.

We found that our Tp. had been moved from the Forêt d'Eu and it took a great deal of trouble to find them, as they had got separated from the rest of the Bde. Tp. This was very annoying as it meant that by the time we had located them, the men's meals were late in coming up and nothing could be given them on arrival in the Forêt d'Eu after the long march.

7th June

This day was devoted chiefly to resting and reorganisation of B and C Coys. who were very depleted in strength.
Enemy aircraft were very active but we were not bombed this day.

This day we saw our first British fighters since the Blitzkrieg started and saw them bring down some German planes and chase others out of the sky. The difference it made to the general spirits of the troops was tremendous. We felt that at last the German troops were going to get some of their own back.

Orders were received that the Bn. would move by M.T. that night northwards in the direction of LE TREPORT. The move was to begin as soon as darkness fell. No transport had arrived so the Bn. started to march to our destination at COURVlLLE, some 20 miles northward.

Our Tp. was now at LONDINIERES and had been ordered to join us at COURVILLE.

No 4 PI. had gone ahead of the Bn. and were forming Road Blocks and Flank Piquets on the East side of the route and had been allotted two roads in the area north of Grand Court.

Capt. R.R. Pelham-Burn went with the carriers and continued to COURVILLE to find hides for the Tp. and the Bn.
There was a great deal of Enemy Activity during this night and they were dropping parachute Flares which lit up the countryside very effectively.

8th June

The Bn. had been marching all night and had done about 15 miles when R.A.S.C. troop carriers arrived and picked up the Bn. and ferried the Companies to COURVILLE.

The Bn. transport arrived at about the same time and the Bn. went into hides in a copse above COURVILLE. It was daylight before the Bn. was in, and the usual German Reece. plane was up and floating about and must have seen the tail of the Bn. Tp. going into the hide although there was a good ground mist at the time.

11:00 hrs

The C.O. and Adj. went into a conference at Bde. HQ. Orders were received there for the Bn. to embuss at 1400 hrs in R.A.S.C. vehicles and proceed to the Bois Robert near DIEPPE. It was also reported that there were 5 officers and 160 O.R. reinforcements, 4/Seaforths, in an R.V. in the Forêt …….(?) N.E. of DIEPPE

The Bn. embussed and moved to Bois Robert by M.T., a distance of about ?30 miles? Positions were allotted to Companies on the high ground around the Bois Robert overlooking the valley of the BETHUNE.

19:00 hrs

The Adjutant was summoned to Bde. HQ. where he received orders for the Bn. to move that night to a position on the R. BETHUNE at the village of ARC Le BATAILLE.

The Bn. marched to Arc Le Bataille and arrived in position during the early hours of the morning 9th June.

9th June

The Bn. took up defensive positions on the Bethune on a 2 Coy. front and was responsible for two Bridge Crossings, one* Road and one Rly.

(*Note by another hand: "Two")

Right - D Coy. - 2 Road Crossings
Left - A Coy. - Rly

Right - B Coy. - in village of Arc.
Left - C Coy. - on ARC - DIEPPE Road.

Reinforcements from the Forêt ……? joined the Bn. this morning and were sent to B and C Coys.
Contact was made with the 5/Gordons on our Right and the fire plan of the two forward Coys. was fixed.

The D.W.R.'s took up positions on our left later during the day and liaison was formed with them.

During the early part of the day a great deal of British M.T. came back through Arc.

Very little Enemy activity during this day and companies had good opportunity of getting their defensives well prepared. Bn. HQ. was situated in the orchard of a chateau on the high ground behind Arc Le Bat'.

17:00 hrs

The C.O. and Adj. attended a conference at Bde. HQ. and orders were given for the bridges over the BRESLE* to be blown at 0200 hrs. provided the last of the withdrawing troops had crossed.

(*Note by another hand: "Betune" )(sic.)

B-Ech. Tp. was now with the Bn. and was in a hide near Bn. HQ. Orders were given for B-Ech. Tp. to remain with Bn's.

The Adj. went round the Coy. positions during the evening, a tremendous number of transport was coming back through Arc. The last vehicle reported at 0245 hrs. and shortly after both bridges were blown.

All companies were in good spirits and the morale was very good as it had been during the whole course of the actions.

10th June

03.30 hrs

The Bn. stood to after a quiet night since the bridges were blown.

Breakfasts were given to the troops in the line.

11.30 hrs

D Company reported that the enemy were attacking and were trying to cross the Bethune by the destroyed bridge and that his forward post at this bridge had been driven back.

It was also reported that German lorries were de-bussing troops on the other side of the Bethune at a X -rds.
This information was passed back to the R.H.A. who immediately concentrated on this X-rds., setting two of the lorries on fire and causing many casualties to the Enemy. The shooting of the R.H.A. was extremely accurate and most effective. Enemy troops managed to cross the river and established a post in an old factory near the rly. The Enemy were making good use of their mortar on D & A Coy. areas.

It was reported by D Coy. that the enemy were trying to repair the destroyed bridge. One sec. of carriers was sent forward under Sgt. Ross to D Coy. Sgt. Ross attacked the Enemy at the bridge with his carrier but was caught at nearly point-blank range by an enemy A/Tk. gun, destroying the carrier. He himself was brought back wounded badly by tommy gun bullets in the chest. Sgt. Ross did a very gallant bit of work at Arc La Bataille and throughout all the fighting previously had been a most courageous and efficient carrier Sgt. and 4 PI. Comd.

He was still alive when he left the R.A.P. for A.D.S.

D Coy was now withdrawn a matter of 70x into line with B Coy. in order to allow the Arty. to shell the bridge area.

The R.H.A. shelled the bridge and scored a direct hit on the ruin and blew it to pieces. They also shelled the wood on A Coy. front.

Meanwhile the Mortar PI. shelled the enemy factory post and drove them out of that position. *

*(Note by another hand "Augment")

A Coy. area was heavily shelled and was engaging the enemy with fire to their front in the woods to their Right front. At 1200 hrs. the forward two PIs. of A Coy. withdrew to behind the railway to confirm with D Coy.
Liaison with the 5/Gordons on our right who were not being directly attacked gave us M.G. fire right across our front.

Bn. HQ. was heavily shelled at about 1400 hrs. causing several casualties. The transport hide also received some of this shelling, and 3 C.Q.M.'s were wounded and one L/Cpl. killed. Three other M.T. staff were badly wounded.

The momentum of the attack was definitely wearing off and by 1600 hrs. all the enemy had been drawn off towards the south.

The quick response from the Arty. and the accuracy of their fire when any demand for assistance was made upon them calls for special mention in this action.

D Coy. took the brunt of this attack and put up a stubborn resistance. Some enemy with tommy guns were reported to have got behind our positions and to be creating trouble by firing into the forward Coys. from the rear but these were never located. Orders were received that the line would be withdrawn that night and F D L,' denied until 2300 hrs.

Orders were issued to Coys. for withdrawal to (? left blank) where a defensive line was to be held.
Orders had previously been received to abandon and destroy all stores and kit other than Amm'n and Rations and to use our own Tp. for taking the Bn. out.

22:00 hrs

A Telephone message was received from Bde. that some R.A.S.C. 3 Ton vehicles were available to help move the Bn. The M.T.O. was sent to collect these vehicles from a X-rds. near Dieppe. He failed however to find them. So our own Tp. was used.

23:00 hrs

The Coys. were beginning to arrive at the Rendezvous and were immediately piled into the Tp.

It was a very dark night and some of the Coys. had difficulty in finding their way to the RV.

The Adj. went off in a carrier to find C Coy. which was the only one which had not yet arrived. He found them about a mile from the R V. on their way in from their position and they soon came in.

It was very difficult to get the whole Bn. onto the Tp. but it was managed somehow.

All stores were destroyed and the Bn. left the ARC LA BATTAILLE area much later than it was anticipated.

Casualties - Arc La Bataille.

Officers - Nil

Killed 7 approx (11)
Wounded 25 (33 per RP-B)
(Capt R R Pelham-Burns?)

Division History References :

Supporting Information :


The War Diary of Captain R.A.A.S. Macrae Adjutant to 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, covering the period of 27th May to 10th June 1940. Nb. a separate account covers the 11/12th June, a link to which has been added to the St. Valery section of the site.


1940 . 4th Seaforth Highlanders . The B.E.F.