Battle of Boulogne (1940)

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Battle of Boulogne (1940)
Part of Battle of France
21May-4June1940-Fall Gelb.svg
The Battle of France, situation 21 May – 4 June 1940
Date22–25 May 1940
Location Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
50°43′35″N1°36′53″E / 50.72639°N 1.61472°E / 50.72639; 1.61472 Coordinates: 50°43′35″N1°36′53″E / 50.72639°N 1.61472°E / 50.72639; 1.61472
Result German victory
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg  France
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
Flag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Pierre Louis Félix Lanquetot
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg William Fox-Pitt
Flag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg Heinz Guderian
Rudolf Veiel
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Headquarters, garrison and training units
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg 2 infantry battalions
1,500 Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps troops
supporting units
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg training units
1 panzer division
Casualties and losses
about 5,000 POW

The Battle of Boulogne was the defence of the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by French, British and Belgian troops, during the Battle of France of the Second World War in 1940. The battle was fought at the same time as the Siege of Calais, just before Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) through Dunkirk. After the Franco-British counter-attack at the Battle of Arras (21 May) German units were held ready to resist a resumption of the attack on 22 May, despite the protests of General Heinz Guderian, the commander of XIX Corps, who wanted to rush north up the Channel coast to capture Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. An attack by part of the XIX Corps was not authorised until 12:40 p.m. on 22 May, by when the Allied troops at Boulogne had been reinforced from England by most of the 20th Guards Brigade.

Boulogne-sur-Mer Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Boulogne-sur-Mer, often called Boulogne, is a coastal city in Northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais. Boulogne lies on the Côte d'Opale, a touristic stretch of French coast on the English Channel between Calais and Normandy, and the most visited location in the region after Lille conurbation. Boulogne is its department's second-largest city after Calais, and the 60th-largest in France. It is also the country's largest fishing port, specialising in herring.

Battle of France Successful German invasion of France

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

Siege of Calais (1940) 1940 battle

The Siege of Calais (1940) was a battle for the port of Calais during the Battle of France in 1940. The siege was fought at the same time as the Battle of Boulogne, just before Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) through Dunkirk. After the Franco-British counter-attack at the Battle of Arras, German units were held back to be ready to resist a resumption of the counter-attack on 22 May, despite the protests of General Heinz Guderian, the commander of the XIX Armee Korps, who wanted to rush north up the Channel coast to capture Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. An attack by part of the XIX Armee Korps was not authorised until 12:40 a.m. on the night of 21/22 May.


The Guards had time to dig in around the port before the 2nd Panzer Division, which had been delayed by French troops at Samer, then attacked the perimeter held by the Irish Guards at around 5:00 p.m. and were driven off after an hour. The Welsh Guards front was attacked at 8:00 p.m. and again at dusk before cutting off a party of the Irish Guards at 10:00 p.m. The defence of Boulogne was assisted by about eighty light bombers of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and at dawn on 23 May, the German attacks resumed, eventually pushing the defenders back into the town.

2nd Panzer Division (Wehrmacht) division

The 2nd Panzer Division was an armoured division in the German Army, the Wehrmacht, during World War II.

Samer Commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Samer(DvLz Azpect) is a commune and in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Hauts-de-France region of France.

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

Royal Navy ships shot their way into and out of the harbour and with French navy destroyers, bombarded German positions as wounded and non-combatants were embarked and landed a navy demolition party. During a lull in the afternoon, a Luftwaffe force bombed the harbour, despite being intercepted by RAF fighters and at 6:30 p.m. the Guards Brigade was ordered to re-embark. The navy destroyers ran the gauntlet of German tanks and artillery to evacuate the garrison. The French defenders around the Citadel above the lower town could not be contacted and only in the morning of 24 May did General Lanquetot realise that the British had gone, which led to reproaches.

The French and remaining British troops held out until 25 May and then surrendered. Guderian wrote that the delays in allowing an advance and then the retention of considerable forces to guard against Allied counter-attacks, had forfeited an opportunity quickly to capture the Channel Ports and destroy the Allied forces in northern France and Belgium. An advance on Dunkirk began on 23 May but the next day was halted until 27 May and Dunkirk was not captured until 4 June, by when most of the BEF and many French and Belgian troops had escaped.

The Channel Ports are seaports in southern England and the facing continent, which allow for short crossings of the English Channel. There is no formal definition, but there is a general understanding of the term. Some ferry companies divide their routes into "short" and "long" crossings. The broadest definition might be from Plymouth east to Kent and from Roscoff to Zeebrugge although a tighter definition would exclude ports west of Newhaven and Dieppe. A historic group of such ports is the Cinque Ports of south-east England, most of which have ceased to be commercial ports.



Map of the Cote d'Opale Cote d'Opale topographic map-fr.svg
Map of the Côte d'Opale

Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, Dunkirk and Dieppe, are Channel Ports on the French side at the narrowest part of the English Channel. Boulogne is at the mouth of the Liane river, which meanders through a valley between hills. The harbour is on a level area of ground on either side of the river, well built-up and with steep roads uphill to the old town (Haute Ville or the Citadel). The rolling hills make for hidden approaches to the port and offer commanding high ground to an attacker, particularly Mont St. Lambert ridge. [1] During the Phoney War (September 1939 – 10 May 1940), the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had been supplied through ports further to the west, such as Le Havre and Cherbourg but the Channel Ports came into use, once mine barrages had been laid in the English Channel in late 1939, to reduce the demand for ships and escorts. When leave from the BEF began in December, Boulogne was used for communication and for troop movements. [2] [3]

Calais Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Calais is a city and major ferry port in northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's prefecture is its third-largest city of Arras. The population of the metropolitan area at the 2010 census was 126,395. Calais overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km (21 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England. The White Cliffs of Dover can easily be seen on a clear day from Calais. Calais is a major port for ferries between France and England, and since 1994, the Channel Tunnel has linked nearby Coquelles to Folkestone by rail.

Dunkirk Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Dunkirk is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. It lies 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the Belgian border. The population of the city (commune) at the 2016 census was 91,412 inhabitants.

Liane (river) river in France

The Liane is a 37 km river in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. It rises in Quesques and flows into the English Channel at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Other communes along its length include: Selles, Brunembert, Bournonville, Alincthun, Crémarest, Wirwignes, Questrecques, Samer, Carly, Hesdigneul-lès-Boulogne, Isques, Saint-Léonard, Hesdin-l'Abbé, Condette, Saint-Étienne-au-Mont, and Outreau.

The Battle of France

On 10 May 1940, the Germans began Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) the offensive against France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Within a few days, the panzers achieved a breakthrough against the centre of the French front near Sedan and drove westwards down the Somme river valley. As the BEF withdrew through Belgium into northern France, fewer supply troops were needed as the lines of communication shortened. The British began to withdraw surplus manpower through Boulogne and Calais and on 17 May, General Douglas Brownrigg, the Adjutant-General of the BEF, moved the Rear General Headquarters (GHQ) from Arras to Boulogne, without informing his French liaison officers. [4] [lower-alpha 1] The Germans captured Abbeville at the mouth of the Somme River on 21 May, cutting off the Allied troops in Northern France and Belgium from their bases south of the river. [5]

Manstein Plan

The Manstein Plan is one of the names used to describe the war plan of the German Army during the Battle of France in 1940. The original invasion plan was a compromise devised by Franz Halder and satisfied no one. Some documents with details of the plan fell into Belgian hands during the Mechelen incident of 10 January 1940 and the plan was revised several times, each giving more emphasis to an attack by Army Group A through the Ardennes, which progressively reduced the offensive by Army Group B through the Low Countries to a diversion.

Lieutenant General Sir Wellesley Douglas Studholme Brownrigg KCB DSO was a senior British Army officer who became Military Secretary.

Arras Prefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Arras is the capital (chef-lieu/préfecture) of the Pas-de-Calais department, which forms part of the region of Hauts-de-France; prior to the reorganization of 2014 it was located in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The historic centre of the Artois region, with a Baroque town square, Arras is located in Northern France at the confluence of the Scarpe river and the Crinchon River.

The defence of Boulogne was the responsibility of the French Navy, which manned some 19th-century forts under the command of Commandant Dutfoy de Mont de Benque. To protect Boulogne from air attack, eight 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns of the 2nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, eight machine-guns of the 58th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and a battery of the 2nd Searchlight Regiment had arrived from England on 20 May; the French had two 75 mm field guns, two 25 mm anti-tank guns and two tanks, one of which was unserviceable. [6] On 20 May, the leading elements of the German XIX Corps, (General Heinz Guderian), reached Abbeville. The importance of holding the Channel Ports as the only means of supply and if necessary, evacuation, became vital for the Allies. [7] [5] Early in the morning of 21 May, Dutfoy ordered the naval garrison of 1,100 men to retire behind the medieval walls of the Haute Ville (Old Town or Citadel), east of the Liane river. [8]

French Navy Maritime arm of the French Armed Forces

The French Navy, informally "La Royale", is the maritime arm of the French Armed Forces. Dating back to 1624, the French Navy is one of the world's oldest naval forces. It has participated in conflicts around the globe and played a key part in establishing the French colonial empire.

QF 3.7-inch AA gun

The QF 3.7-inch AA was Britain's primary heavy anti-aircraft gun during World War II. It was roughly the equivalent of the German 88 mm FlaK and American 90 mm, but with a slightly larger calibre of 94 mm. Production began in 1937 and it was used throughout World War II in all theatres except the Eastern Front. It remained in use after the war until AA guns were replaced by guided missiles beginning in 1957.

Heinz Guderian German general

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during the Nazi era. An early pioneer and advocate of the "blitzkrieg" doctrine, he successfully led Panzer (armoured) units during the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France, and Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.

After hearing alarmist reports of the approach of a large German force, apparently from General Jean Pelissier de Féligonde, who had commanded a unit attacked by German tanks at Hesdin, 30 mi (48 km) to the south-east of the port. Dutfoy ordered his men to disable the Coastal artillery in the forts and to head for the harbour for evacuation. Dutfoy left for Dunkirk and discipline broke down, looting took place and civilians waiting for places on evacuation ships began to panic, until the commander in charge of the sea front threatened people with a gun. The commander decamped at 10:00 a.m. and the spiking of the naval guns continued, until the order was questioned and Admiral Leclerc in Dunkirk was contacted, who ordered the remaining guns to be preserved for the defence of the town and then visited Boulogne early on 22 May. Leclerc ordered the sailors to fight it out and wait for relief by the French and British armies. Admiral Jean Abrial at Dunkirk ordered

You are to die at your posts one by one rather than give in.

Admiral Abrial [9]

and a reorganisation began; at 6:30 a.m. on 22 May, the first British troops arrived from England. [10]


Allied defensive preparations

Modern map of Boulogne and vicinity (commune FR insee code 62160) Map commune FR insee code 62160.png
Modern map of Boulogne and vicinity (commune FR insee code 62160)

In response to General Brownrigg's requests for reinforcements, a detachment of Royal Marines arrived in Boulogne in the early morning of 21 May. [11] Meanwhile, part of the 20th Guards Brigade under the command of Brigadier William Fox-Pitt, consisting of the 2nd Battalion, Welsh Guards and 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards, were training at Camberley on 21 May, when they were ordered to embark for France. Together with the Brigade Anti-Tank Company and a battery of 69th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, they arrived in Boulogne on the morning of 22 May, aboard three merchant ships and the destroyer HMS Vimy, having been escorted by the destroyers HMS Whitshed and HMS Vimiera. The French 21st Infantry Division (General Pierre Louis Félix Lanquetot) was to hold a line between Samer and Desvres, about 10 mi (16 km) south of the town, where three battalions had already arrived. Further British reinforcements, including a regiment of cruiser tanks, were expected from Calais on the following day. [12]

Fox-Pitt deployed his men on the high ground outside the town, liaising with General Lanquetot who organised the French troops in the town. The Irish Guards held the right flank to the south-west from the river at St. Léonard to the sea at Le Portel and the Welsh Guards held the left flank north-east of the river, on the west slopes of Mont Lambert ridge and high ground through St. Martin Boulogne, which made a defensive perimeter of 6 mi (9.7 km). Some road blocks had already been established by a party of about fifty men of the 7th Royal West Kents from Albert, about 100 men of the 262nd Field Company Royal Engineers and anti-aircraft personnel held the right of the Welsh Guards, along the roads approaching from the south. [1] Fox-Pitt had left a gap in the perimeter between the Welsh Guards' left flank and the coast, allocated to the reinforcements which were expected from Calais. [13] There were 1,500 men of No 5 Group Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (AMPC) in the town awaiting evacuation, a mixture of recalled reservists and incompletely-trained troops working as labourers. [11] Under French command were the fort garrisons and some French and Belgian training units of limited military value. [14]

German offensive preparations

Guderian during the Battle of France Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1980-004-32, Heinz Guderian in Bouillon, Frankreich.jpg
Guderian during the Battle of France

The Franco-British counter-attack at Arras led the Germans to continue to attack north towards the Channel Ports, rather than south over the Somme and late on 21 May, Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) ordered Panzergruppe Kleist to advance about 50 mi (80 km) north, to capture Boulogne and Calais. Apprehension about another counter-attack led to the XV Corps (General Hermann Hoth) being held back, a division of the XXXXI Corps (Major-General Georg-Hans Reinhardt) being moved eastwards and the 10th Panzer Division (Lieutenant-General Ferdinand Schaal) of XIX Corps was detached to guard against a counter-attack from the south. Parts of the 1st Panzer Division (Lieutenant-General Friedrich Kirchner) and 2nd Panzer Division (Lieutenant-General Rudolf Veiel) were also held back to defend bridgeheads over the Somme. [15] The 2nd Panzer Division was ordered to advance to Boulogne on a line from Baincthun to Samer, with the 1st Panzer Division as a flank guard on the right advancing to Desvres and Marquise in case of a counter-attack from Calais. [1]


22 May

The 2nd Panzer Division was divided into two columns, one of which was to circle round the town and attack from the north. The other column made contact first in the early afternoon of 22 May, when it encountered the headquarters company of the French 48th Infantry Regiment, the only troops of the 21st Division who had arrived between the Germans and Boulogne. The small French force, including clerks, drivers and signallers, set up two 75 mm field guns and two 25 mm anti-tank guns to cover the cross-roads at Nesles, where they delayed the Germans for almost two hours, until they were outflanked. [16] The same column arrived at the outskirts of Boulogne that evening and began shelling and probing the Irish Guards positions in the south of the town. In the early hours of the morning, the Germans attacked the Welsh Guards positions along the coast from the north-east. General Brownrigg, who was Fox-Pitt's only communication link with England, departed with his headquarters staff at 3:00 a.m. on the destroyer HMS Verity, without informing the Guards. At 4:00 a.m., Fox-Pitt was told that the 21st Division had fallen back from its blocking position after being attacked by tanks. Parts of the division, en route by train, were machine-gunned by German tanks and dispersed. [17]

23 May

HMS Venomous, one of the World War I vintage British destroyers used in the evacuation HMS Venomous WWI IWM P 1975.jpg
HMS Venomous, one of the World War I vintage British destroyers used in the evacuation

An hour after dawn, Fort de la Crèche near Wimereux, north of Boulogne, was captured by German troops. The appearance of German armour at the northern perimeter confirmed to Fox-Pitt that there would be no reinforcements from Calais. Therefore, a force of 800 was hastily selected from those AMPC troops with previous military experience and armed with rifles taken from the others, they were rushed into the gap between the two Guards battalions, and a further 150 were sent to reinforce the Welsh Guards. Meanwhile, the anti-aircraft gunners guarding the southern approach roads destroyed two German tanks with their 3.7-inch guns AA before retiring. [13] By 10:00 a.m., the determined German attack from the south had forced the Irish Guards back into the town. At midday, HMS Vimy arrived, carrying a naval demolition party and Force Buttercup, a Royal Marine shore party, then began to embark the wounded and the AMPC. Orders were passed on from Vimy to Fox-Pitt that the Guards were to hold Boulogne at all costs, as his radio contact with England had been lost earlier in the day. [18]

During the afternoon there was a lull, followed by a Luftwaffe air raid, which was intercepted by Royal Air Force (RAF) Spitfires from 92 Squadron. The commanders of both British destroyers were killed by bomb splinters and Stuka dive bombers hit Frondeur which was disabled; Orage had to be scuttled as they bombarded German shore positions. [18] Shortly before the air raid, the destroyer HMS Keith berthed in the harbour and began embarking AMPC troops. Before 6:00 p.m.,Keith had received orders for a full evacuation of the British force and five more destroyers were either en route or were standing off Boulogne, giving gunfire support. Fox-Pitt decided to continue with the AMPC evacuation, while the Guards conducted a fighting withdrawal to the harbour. Vimiera and Whitshed replaced Vimy and Keith, embarking most of the Marines, Irish and Welsh guards. [19]

A pre-war photograph of the Gare Maritime at Boulogne, showing the quay used by British destroyers during the evacuation Boulogne gare maritime bateau cpa.jpg
A pre-war photograph of the Gare Maritime at Boulogne, showing the quay used by British destroyers during the evacuation

HMS Venomous and HMS Wild Swan arrived and began embarking Force Buttercup and some of the Irish Guards. The Germans had taken up positions overlooking the harbour and engaged the Guards and the ships, which used their guns to counter the German fire. German tanks advanced towards the quayside but were knocked out by the 4.7 inch guns of Venomous, one tank turning "over and over, like a child doing a cart-wheel". [20] German field guns bombarded the harbour and as HMS Venetia moved through the narrow entrance channel, it was hit several times and set on fire but managed to reverse out and make way for Venomous and Wild Swan which also backed out, Venomous steering with its engines as the rudder had jammed. [19]

24–25 May

HMS Windsor arrived after dark, and was able to continue the embarkation. On clearing the harbour, the captain signalled that there were still British troops requiring evacuation and Vimiera was sent back, arriving in Boulogne at 1:30 a.m. The quayside was deserted but the captain called out using a loud hailer and found that a large number of men were hiding, who were packed into every available space. When Vimiera arrived at Dover at 4:00 a.m.,1,400 men disembarked. [21] [lower-alpha 2] About 300 Welsh Guards were left behind, having been wrongly informed that the evacuation had ended, who then attempted a break-out to the north-east. [22] Lanquetot had established his headquarters within the medieval walls of the Haute Ville (Old Town, the Citadel), awaiting the arrival of elements of the 21st Division. When he discovered that disaster had befallen his division, he organised the forces to defend the town as best he could. [23] By the time that Brigadier Fox-Pitt had received orders to evacuate, there were no means of communication with Lanquetot. [17]

A gate in the medieval town walls, defended by parties of the 21st Infantry Division Boulogne-sur-Mer - Porte Gayolle.jpg
A gate in the medieval town walls, defended by parties of the 21st Infantry Division

On the evening of 24 May, the Germans attacked the town at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The attacks were repulsed and some German tanks were reported to have been destroyed. The French Navy continued its gunfire support but the destroyers Fougueux and Chacal were damaged by the Luftwaffe and Chacal was later sunk by German artillery. During the night, about 100 French soldiers tried to break out towards Dunkirk but failed. At dawn on 25 May, the Germans assaulted the walls again using ladders, grenades and flamethrowers, supported by 88 mm guns and at 8:30 a.m., Lanquetot surrendered. [22]

Major J. C. Windsor Lewis, officer commanding 4 Company, 2nd Welsh Guards, had taken charge of a large party of stragglers, who were awaiting rescue in the sheds at the quayside. Besides guardsmen from both battalions, there were 120 French infantry, 200 AMPC,120 Royal Engineers and 150 civilian refugees; most of the Pioneers were unarmed. When the sheds came under German fire, Windsor Lewis moved the group into the Gare Maritime (harbour railway station) and made sandbag barricades. On the evening of 24 May, under fire from tanks and machine-guns, they fought off a German assault party that had approached the quay in a boat. Without food, running low on ammunition and realising that there would be no further evacuation, the force surrendered at 1:00 p.m. on 25 May. [22] The Germans captured 5,000 Allied troops in Boulogne, the majority of whom were French. [24]



Approximate number of troops evacuated, 23–24 May 1940 [25]
Wild Swan400

The 20th Guards Brigade had retired towards the outskirts of Boulogne on the morning of 23 May, after resisting attacks from all sides from 7:30 a.m. and Lanquetot signalled to his superiors that the British were withdrawing precipitately, perhaps unaware of how fiercely the withdrawal was being contested. Communication between Fox-Pitt and the French headquarters at the Citadel had been cut off, by the advance of German troops between the Citadel and the Guards positions in the lower town, when he was ordered to evacuate but could not offer to take the French, according to the orders. On the morning of 24 May, Lanquetot discovered that the British had gone and French complaints about British desertion (sic) at Boulogne, along with the belief that the Germans at Calais would immediately move towards Dunkirk if the siege ended, may have influenced Churchill who ordered the British garrison to fight to the finish. [26] [lower-alpha 3]

In 1954, in the British official history, L. F. Ellis wrote that the five-hour delay of the XIX Corps attack on Boulogne until 12:40 p.m. on 22 May, which had been ordered by General Ewald von Kleist, commander of Panzergruppe von Kleist, had been criticised in the Corps war diary, because the retention of the 10th Panzer Division in reserve during the attacks on Boulogne and Calais, meant that the Aa Canal could not be attacked simultaneously. Had the panzers not been delayed, the preparations of the 20th Guards Brigade might have been interrupted but the long, exposed flank of Army Group A, the uncertain hold on Amiens and Abbeville and the Allied possession of Arras meant that the situation on 22 May could have changed and the delay was not excessive, since the Allied counter-attack at Arras could have continued. [28] S. W. Roskill, the navy official historian, wrote (also in 1954), that the defence of Boulogne delayed the advance of the XIX Corps towards Dunkirk ("undoubtedly contributed to that end"), which assisted the Allied defence during the Battle of Dunkirk (26 May–4 June). [29] The Welsh and Irish Guards were awarded the battle honour; "Boulogne 1940". [30]

Orders of battle

See also


  1. Relations among Franco-British commanders had been good until the German breakthrough on the Meuse, after which the British staff officers became apprehensive that they might be cut off from the coast, began slighting the liaison officers and withheld information. The French liaison party left Boulogne after a Luftwaffe air raid on the night of 19/20 May and reached Abbeville just before the Germans. [4]
  2. One of the rescued soldiers was Arnold Ridley.
  3. In Their Finest Hour (1949), Churchill wrote that he "regretted the evacuation" of Boulogne. [27]


  1. 1 2 3 Ellis 2004, p. 155.
  2. Ellis 2004, p. 16.
  3. Bond & Taylor 2001, p. 130.
  4. 1 2 Sebag-Montefiore 2006, pp. 188, 190.
  5. 1 2 Ellis 2004, p. 153.
  6. Ellis 2004, pp. 153, 385.
  7. Churchill 1949, p. 53.
  8. Sebag-Montefiore 2006, p. 190.
  9. Sebag-Montefiore 2006, pp. 190–191.
  10. Sebag-Montefiore 2006, pp. 190–192.
  11. 1 2 Jackson 2002, p. 39.
  12. Ellis 2004, p. 154.
  13. 1 2 Thompson 2009, p. 50.
  14. Ellis 2004, pp. 153–154.
  15. Cooper 1978, pp. 227–228.
  16. Sebag-Montefiore 2006, p. 192.
  17. 1 2 Windsor Lewis 1940.
  18. 1 2 Jackson 2002, p. 40.
  19. 1 2 Ellis 2004, p. 157.
  20. Hawkins 2003, p. 70.
  21. Gardner 2000, pp. 8–10.
  22. 1 2 3 Ellis 2004, p. 158.
  23. Ellis 2004, p. 156.
  24. Rickard 2008.
  25. Gardner 2000, p. 10.
  26. Sebag-Montefiore 2006, p. 198.
  27. Churchill 1949, pp. 70, 72.
  28. Ellis 2004, p. 159.
  29. Roskill 1954, p. 213.
  30. Baker 1986, p. 146.
  31. Ellis 2004, pp. 368, 402–403.





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HMS <i>Jackal</i> (F22) destroyer

HMS Jackal was a J-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. Completed in 1939, Jackal served in the Norwegian campaign and the Dunkirk evacuation before being deployed to the Mediterranean in 1941. Jackal took part in the Battle of Crete, and was scuttled after being heavily damaged by German bombers on 12 May 1942.

Battle of Arras (1940)

The Battle of Arras, took place on 21 May 1940, during the Battle of France in the Second World War. British and French tanks and infantry advanced south from Arras to force back German armoured forces, which were advancing westwards down the Somme river valley towards the English Channel, to trap the Allied forces in northern France and Belgium. The Anglo-French attack made early gains and panicked some German units but was repulsed after an advance of up to 6.2 mi (10 km) and forced to withdraw after dark to avoid encirclement.

HMS <i>Whitshed</i> (D77) destroyer

HMS Whitshed (D77/I77) was an Admiralty modified W-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She was ordered from Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd under the 14th Order for Destroyers in the Emergency War Program of 1918–19. She was the first ship to carry the name.

HMS <i>Wild Swan</i> (D62)

HMS Wild Swan was an Admiralty modified W class destroyer built for the Royal Navy. She was one of four destroyers ordered in 1918 from Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne under the 14th Order for Destroyers of the Emergency War Program of 1917-18. She was the second Royal Navy ship to carry the name, after the sloop HMS Wild Swan in 1876. Like her sisters, she was completed too late to see action in the First World War.

The Boulogne Bowl was presented to 168 Pioneer Regiment RLC(v) by the Royal Pioneer Association on 15 November 1997 to commemorate the Defence of Boulogne in May 1940 by the Regiment's predecessors.

HMS <i>Keith</i> destroyer

HMS Keith was a B-class destroyer flotilla leader built for the Royal Navy around 1930. Initially assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet, she was placed in reserve in 1937, after repairs from a collision were completed. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, the ship was reactivated and spent some time in Spanish waters, enforcing the arms blockade imposed by Britain and France on both sides of the conflict. Keith escorted convoys and conducted anti-submarine patrols early in World War II before being sunk at Dunkirk by German aircraft.

Siege of Lille (1940)

The Siege of Lille or Lille Pocket was a Second World War battle fought during the Battle of France. It took place from 28 to 31 May 1940, in the vicinity of Lille during the Battle of France. It involved about 40,000 men of the French IV Corps and V Corps, part of the First Army, after the III Corps managed to retreat to the Lys river with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) divisions nearby. The surrounded portion of the army fought seven German divisions, including three armoured divisions, that were attempting to cut off and destroy the Allied armies in the Battle of Dunkirk. The defence of Lille was of great assistance to the Allied troops retreating into the Dunkirk perimeter.

British Expeditionary Force (World War II) British Army in Western Europe from 1939 to 1940

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was the name of the British Army in Western Europe during the Second World War from 2 September 1939 when the BEF GHQ was formed until 31 May 1940, when GHQ closed down. Military forces in Britain were under Home Forces command. During the 1930s, the British government planned to deter war by rearming from the very low level of readiness of the early 30s and abolished the Ten Year Rule. The bulk of the extra money went to the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force but plans were made to re-equip a small number of Army and Territorial Army divisions for service overseas.

The following events occurred in May 1940:

Beauman Division

The Beauman Division was an improvised formation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) during the Second World War, which fought against the German 4th Army in June 1940, during Fall Rot, the final German offensive of the Battle of France.

Battle of Abbeville

The Battle of Abbeville took place from 27 May to 4 June 1940, near Abbeville during the Battle of France in the Second World War. On 20 May, the 2nd Panzer Division advanced 56 miles (90 km) to Abbeville on the English Channel, overran the 25th Infantry Brigade of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and captured the town at 8:30 p.m. Only a few British survivors managed to retreat to the south bank of the Somme and at 2:00 a.m. on 21 May, the III Battalion, Rifle Regiment 2 reached the coast, west of Noyelles-sur-Mer.

HMS Venetia (D53) was a V-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in World War I and World War II.

HMS <i>Venomous</i>

HMS Venomous (ex-Venom), was a Modified W-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in the Russian Civil War and World War II.

HMS <i>Windsor</i> (D42) Royal Navy destroyer

The third HMS Windsor (D42) was a W-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in the final months of World War I and in World War II.