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Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

Second World War  On This Day

May 1940

1 May 1940
Adolf Hitler set the date of 6th May for the Western offensive, the date would be postponed due to the weather.
Norwegian troops at Lillehammer surrendered to the Germans.
A Nazi German aircraft was in the vicinity of Blyth harbour, Northumberland at 23.30 for about 15 minutes.  Anti-aircraft guns were fired at the plane which was illuminated by search lights, which the enemy machine gunned
2 May 1940
Their Majesties the King and Queen made a visit to the Regimental Depot at Bowerham Barracks, and met members of the permanent training staff, soldiers being trained and members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
In Norway German forces reached Andalsnes.
3 May 1940
In Norway the Allied evacuation of Namsos was completed by German aircraft sank the destroyers HMS Afridi and the French 'Bison'.  Norwegian troops south of Trondheim surrendered to the Germans.
4 May 1940
In Norway the Polish destroyer 'Grom' was sunk in the Rombaken fjord by a German Heinkel HE111
5 May 1940
In Norway the Battle of Hegra ended when the fortress capitulated.  The Germans had now achieved complete victory on Norway's southern front.
6 May 1940
A massive German motorised column was spotted driving west through the Ardennes, but the Belgian Army did not respond.
7 May 1940
In Norway five thousand Polish mountain troops arrived at Harstad.
Nazi German propaganda alleged one of the reasons why British troops were unsuccessful in the fighting in Norway was that many troops had been poisoned by the tinned food issued to them.  The British government stated there were no grounds for this allegation.
A debate in the House of Commons gave details of the Government's mishandling of the Norwegian Campaign.
It was stated in the House of Commons that since the introduction of the blackout in September 1939, 18 seamen had died in the Port of Liverpool, 15 of which occurred in the hours of darkness.  It was stated that suitably restricted lighting was used on gangways and guard chains used at dangerous parts of the docks.
8 May 1940
In Norway the action in Nordland began.
In the House of Commons the debate continued and the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, survived a motion of no confidence.
9 May 1940
Men aged between 28 years and 36 years were now liable for military service.
British troops occupied Iceland.
Belgium declared a state of emergency and place its military on full alert.
The Royal family of Luxembourg and most of its government fled westward to France due to reports of German troop movements.
10 May 1940
Nine months after war had been declared, Nazi German forces invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France, and launched the first air attacks on the British Expeditionary Force in France. Five battalions of the King's Own were with the BEF, plus the 56th Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery, which had converted from the 4th Battalion in 1938.
Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister with the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.
11 May 1940
The soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force in France, including battalions of the King's Own Royal Regiment, hear the news that Winston Churchill had become Prime Minister back in London. The 5th (Territorial) Battalion held positions at Le Touquet, and the 6th, 7th, and 8th Pioneer Battalions were located in North East France, but all were poorly equipped as infantry.
12 May 1940
On this day in 1937 it was the Coronation of King George VI. 80 Years ago the Battle of France was underway. Earlier in the month the King and Queen had visited Bowerham Barracks, in Lancaster, see both soldiers of the King's Own and members of the Auxiliary Territorial Service who were being trained at the Regiment's Depot.

His Majesty The King, accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel R P F White, MC, Depot Officer Commanding, is speaking to Sergeant H G Phenna MM after visiting the miniature range at Bowerham Barracks, 2nd May 1940.
Accession Number KO0705/22
13 May 1940
Nazi German forces were crushing resistance in the Netherlands and fighting the French at Sedan. Meanwhile in London, Winston Churchill made his first speech to the House of Commons as Prime Minister, and then spoke via the BBC to the Nation.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill
14 May 1940
The Netherlands capitulated, Queen Wilhelmina, the Dutch Royal Family and government were evacuated by the Royal Navy to England. Nazi German bombing devastated the city of Rotterdam.
In Britain the government announced the formation of the "Local Defence Volunteers", which soon became known as "The Home Guard". Men from across the country quickly volunteered to serve. Four local units wore the cap badge of the King's Own.

3rd (City of Lancaster) Battalion, County of Lancaster Home Guard, on parade through Lancaster in 1944.
Accession Number KO2631/05
15 May 1940
In the Battle of France, soldiers of the 8th Battalion, King's Own were attacked by Nazi German dive bombers. The battalion suffered no casualties.
Further to the south the Germans had defeated the French army at the Battle of Sedan, and Nazi forces continued their push into France.
Within 24 hours of the government establishing the Local Defence Volunteers, for men aged between 17 and 65 years, more than 250 000 men had reported to their local police station to join.
16 May 1940
Nazi German forces moved through Sedan to the West rather than South West or South as expected, they were now aiming for the English Channel.
Soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force repulsed German attacks at Louvain. French forces counter attacked with tanks and aircraft, but were unable to re-establish their line.
17 May 1940
Lord Gort VC, Commanding the British Expeditionary Force ordered the withdrawal of troops in Belgium back to the River Scheldt, This allowed the Nazi German 6th Army to capture Brussels.
The Royal Air Force bombed German oil storage facilities at Bremen and Hamburg.
18 May 1940
The German 7th Panzer Tank Division under General Erwin Rommel, captured the French town of Cambrai, a place so well known to many King's Own soldiers in the First World War.
The 2nd Panzer Division captured Saint Quentin in France, and the German 18th Army captured the Belgium port of Antwerp.

General Erwin Rommel, commanding the German 7th Panzer Tank Division in France, May 1940.
19 May 1940
In the Battle of France the situation was not looking good. The British Expeditionary Force was ordered by its Commander Lord Gort VC, to fall back on to the port of Dunkirk.
Units spread across North East France and Belgium would now withdrawn from their positions and head to the port on the English Channel.
20 May 1940
In Lancaster the City & King's Own Museums had been closed since 1st September 1939. Within four days the collections had been removed to various safety stores around Lancaster.
The museum building was then used at the Billeting Headquarters under the Government Evacuation Scheme, with the Curator, Mr G M Bland, in charge of the scheme in Lancaster.  The cellars were used as an Air Raid Shelter.
21 May 1940
Nazi German Panzers reached the English Channel coast to the west of Abbeville, France, and Allied troops in the north east of France are cut off from their comrades in the South. The indecision of the German High Command was now key - they had advanced so rapidly they did not know what to do next - go north or go south. So on this day the German Armoured Divisions in France stood idle.
22 May 1940
People in Lancaster were supporting the war effort. A room at Westfield House, at the War Memorial Village, was used as a centre for providing material such as wool for knitters and for collecting and distributing finished articles and comforts for the men of the King's Own Royal Regiment.
A Th Dansant held in April had raised 51 17 shillings and one penny for The King's Own Comforts Fund.
A debate in the House of Commons discussed the newly created Local Defence Volunteers.
23 May 1940
The British launched a counter attack against the Germans at the Battle of Arras. It was limited, and they were too weak to follow up its early success - but the they did inflict damage on the Germans.
It convinced the German High Command that its army had advanced too far and its flanks were dangerously exposed.
Meanwhile Lord Gort, Commanding the BEF, saw that it was essential to hold the Channel ports for as long as possible as Germans advanced from Boulogne in the west and Belgium in the east.

The photo is a still from the 1958 film Dunkirk.
24 May 1940
The 6th Battalion, King's Own were making their way back to Dunkirk. They fought a determined rear guard action at Merville. Private Longyear was awarded the Military Medal for holding back 3 German armoured fighting vehicles at a canal bridge, which could not be blown up.
The 5th Bn King's Own was attacked by 24 German aircraft. At Wannehain Wood Drummer James Whitbread fired a Bren gun to force the attacking planes to break formation. He continued to fire even after others in his gun position had been blown out by a bomb. He continued to man his gun for the rest of the day as attacks continued. He was awarded the Military Medal for his Gallantry.
Nazi German Panzer forces halted outside Dunkirk as the low lying ground was unsuitable for them, and the British strengthened the perimeter defences.
25 May 1940
Lancaster's Local Defence Volunteers, later the Home Guard, were established in the police parade room at Lancaster Town Hall. All of the first volunteers were former soldiers. They were equipped with 10 rifles, 40 rounds of ammunition per man, 10 suits of denims and forage caps.
The 10 men were based at the Phoenix Street Drill Hall, and a bus was parked at the Corporation Garage in order that they could be mobile and go to where ever they were required.
In the Battle for France the decision was made to evacuation the British Expeditionary Force, with all troops ordered back to the coast, Dunkirk if possible.
5th Battalion, King's Own, were ordered to hold a line on the River Marcq at Bouvines. The 8th Battalion moved to Kemmel, Zillebeke and Poperinghe, all places so familiar to the Regiment in the First World War.
26 May 1940
Operation Dynamo started, this was the evacuation of the British troops from Dunkirk.
The 6th Battalion, King's Own, was fighting a rear-guard action at Merville, as they withdrew to Dunkirk. Sergeant George Mason lead a patrol which resulted in the capture of 12 German prisoners, 3 armoured troop carriers, 4 motor cycle combinations and one anti tank gun. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
27 May 1940
A platoon of the 8th Battalion which had been guarding the Lille telephone exchange were ordered to make for the coast after it had been destroyed.
Meanwhile Captain J H Everett and men of 'C' Company, 8th Battalion, held at bridgehead at Moeres near Bray-Dunes. Forty men will killed or wounded by a large flight of German Junkers aircraft which attacked them. There was no transport so it was difficult to get treatment for the wounded. 17 men are recorded as having been killed, and buried in a common grave. The near by Adinkerke Military Cemetery, Belgium contains the graves of 17 men who died on that day.
All battalions of the King's Own were heading towards the port and beaches at Dunkirk. The 6th Battalion was a Merville, the 8th Battalion was a Beveren and the 7th Battalion were attacked by Germans across the River Lys. The battalion, however, has success in shooting down a German aircraft with a Bren gun and capturing the pilot.
Meanwhile 7669 soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk during the first day of Operation Dynamo.
28 May 1940
King Leopold III surrendered Belgium forces to the Nazi German forces.

German forces had surrounded the French city of Lille.
A further 17804 men were lifted from Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo, the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force.
29 May 1940
The 56th Anti-Tank Regiment were protecting lines of communication at Rousbruggee. The 9th Battalion, King's Own, joined 3 Division and manned an area between the Furnes Bergues and Furnes Dunkirk Canals.
Men from the 7th and 8th Battalions were started to be evacuated from Dunkirk. The 6th Battalion was evacuated on board the SS Prague. The SS Prague was London and North Eastern Railway ship which usually operated on the Harwich to Hook of Holland service.
30 May 1940
The 8th Battalion, King's Own were evacuated from Dunkirk. Elements of the 56th Anti-Tank Regiment evacuated and some remained to defend the Dunkirk perimeter.
The 5th Battalion, King's Own, moved into Divisional Reserve at Dunkirk, in order to support the front line troops as the Nazi German land forces slowly reduced the size of the perimeter, whilst the Luftwaffe continued to plague the men on the beaches and target shipping in the Channel.

The photo is a still from the 1958 film Dunkirk.
31 May 1940
Thousands of soldiers still awaited evacuation from the beaches at Dunkirk. The 5th Battalion, King's Own remained in Divisional Reserve within the perimeter.
The 8th Battalion, King's Own, arrived in Ramsgate and were ordered to re-equip and move to the South East of England; the 9th Battalion arrived back in England and ordered to the Southampton area.

The photo is a still from the 1958 film Dunkirk.

June 1940


Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store.

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