Regimental History - 20th Century
Second World War
7th Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment, Lancaster
Formed in February 1940 the 7th Battalion went out to France in April
1940 in order to assist with the construction of defensive works.
Following the German invasion on 10th May the battalion was ordered back
to Dunkirk and the UK. On their return to the UK they were employed on
anti-invasion duties whilst they awaited the expected German invasion.
In June 1942 the Battalion went to Gibraltar and then onto India in
March 1943, where it remained until after the war. Despite intensive
training it was never to see active service.
14th February 1940 Battalion formed at Dover
25 April 1940 7th Battalion arrive in France
10th May 1940 German advance begins
German aircraft bomb the 7th Battalion but they receive no
26th May 1940 Battalion withdraws from Belgium
27th May 1940 Battalion under attack
The 7th Battalion come under attack from the German forces across the
River Lys. The battalion are successful in shooting down an aircraft
with a Bren gun and capture the pilot. The order to withdraw is later
29th May 1940 7th Battalion withdraws from Dunkirk
|Captain William Shuttleworth's account of the 7th
Battalion, King's Own in 1940.
Five of the King’s Own Battalions were in France during the
early years of the war. The 7th Battalion was typical of many
units of the British Army at the time.
The Battalion was formed on 14th February 1940 at Dover.
Soldiers were drafted from many different units. The lack of
experienced men was a problem. Many received rapid promotions
and anyone with specific skills was quickly assigned suitable
duties. Civilian clerks, for example, were used to staff the
Orderly Room. Officers were transferred to the Battalion from at
least ten other regiments. William Shuttleworth was transferred
from the Royal Norfolk Regiment.
Training took place at Braintree in Essex, in March. HQ was
established in the local drill hall, with the officers’ mess in
the White Hart Hotel. The Companies were billeted about the
town. In April the Battalion moved to France and, on 10th May,
were bombed for the first time. Second Lieutenant Samuel Peter
Fawcett and his platoon went forward on a ‘hush-hush’ mission -
they were one of the first bodies of troops to be in contact
with the enemy. They did not rejoin the Battalion until the
evacuation. Fawcett, from Lancaster, was later attached to The
Green Howards. He was killed on 1st June 1941 and is listed on
the El Alamein Memorial.
The Battalion moved up into Belgium. It guarded bridges near
Brussels and had orders to blow them as the enemy approached.
With the enemy twelve miles to the north the Battalion retreated
- but not before B and C Companies had come into contact with an
enemy patrol, exchanging fire. The Battalion moved to Tournai to
build up defences. There were rumours that the Germans had
captured Arras. On 22nd May the unit took up position on the
Bethune-La Basse Canal, but again they were ordered to withdraw.
New positions were established at Estaires and Merville.
“At Estaires an aircraft was brought down by light machine gun
fire. The pilot, who told us we might as well surrender, was
brought into Battalion HQ and given a drink, most probably the
wrong thing to do, but we were very green in those days”
The enemy broke through between Estaires and Merville. The
Battalion lost contact with both Brigade and Divisional
Headquarters but an order did get through - bridges were to be
blown at 4 am on the 29th May - whether the rearguard were
through or not. The message also said;
“... MAKE FOR THE SEA, IF POSSIBLE D U N K I R K .”
The Companies withdrew to Poperinghe and each moved to Dunkirk
as best it could. The Battalion did not form up again as a
single unit - there was no time. It was absorbed into various
other units defending Dunkirk. Soldiers of the Battalion were
evacuated from Dunkirk and reformed as a unit in Devon on their
return to England.
Captain Shuttleworth was promoted to Major and later became
second-in-command of the Battalion. He served with the 7th in
Gibraltar and India but was posted to another regiment in
September 1943. He retired from the Army in September 1949.
June 1940 Home Defence begins
7th King's Own arrive at Newark in the East Midlands and begin a home
defence role operating in camouflaged buses.
September 1940 Move to Northern Ireland
In the autumn of 1940 the 7th Battalion moves to Northern Ireland.
21st June 1942 7th Battalion sails for Gibraltar
The 7th Battalion sails from Greenock on the River Clyde, Scotland,
to re-enforce Gibraltar, they return to the UK three months later.
More on the 7th Battalion in Gibraltar
19th March 1943 7th Battalion, King's Own arrive in India
The King's Own The Story of a Royal Regiment Volume 3 1914-1959 by
Colonel Julia Cowper - the best history of the King's Own in the Second
World War. On a CD-rom,
viewable through a computer with Internet Explorer or similar. Price
including UK postage £12.75
How to order this
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