1845 – 43rd - Great fire at Quebec; 43rd gave valuable assistance in putting it out.
1916 –2nd Bn Oxf & Bucks LI – COUY-SERVINS Q.35.d.
Several working parties were found, and except the above, Reconnaissances of the above line were carried out daily by Officers and NCO’s and such training as could be done in the vicinity of billets was performed.
1916 – 1/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion – BEAUVAL
Battalion in Billets.
Brigade Church Parade at 10am.
1940 – 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion – HAZEBROUCK
As soon as it was light troop movements along the Therouanne (western) road could be seen from a good observation post on the second floor. Both troops and lorries were fired on by a concentration of every available Bren with tracer, and made good targets at fourteen hundred yards. This one-sided target practice did not last for long. Soon the enemy mortars were ranging on the building.
At 0630 hrs one of the ammunition trucks, unfortunately only half-unloaded, was hit and continued exploding for two hours. Firing increased and there were more casualties. To the astonishment of all, at 0900 hrs. an enemy battery appeared not half a mile away, firing at Cassel from an open field. Two Vickers guns of the 4th Cheshire Regiment, manned by members of the old Wycombe machine-gun company, were taken up on to the roof. Their firing was most effective, but eventually it produced redoubled and more accurate fire from the enemy six-barrelled nebelwerfers.
At 1000 hrs. some enemy got into the garden of headquarters under cover of smoke and shouted for the Battalion to surrender. At least one of them never left the garden.
Tanks appeared on both sides. Some were hit and at least one put out of action. The same sort of fighting continued for the rest of the morning, by which time most of the transport was on fire, including all the carriers used as roadblocks.
At 1300 hrs. a more serious attack had to be faced. Several tanks came past the front and fired point blank at twenty yards. These attacks, coupled with mortar bombing, machine-gun fire and sniping, but countered continually by anti-tank and .303 fire were maintained until 1430 hrs., when there was a well-marked lull for an hour or more. It was found that ammunition was seriously short, but, as over half the attached G.H.Q. troops scarcely knew how to fire a rifle, their ammunition was withdrawn and they were unceremoniously consigned to the cellars.
At this time, too, it was agreed between Majors Heyworth and Viney that as the remnants of the Battalion were obviously not now holding up the advance and the rifle companies had been overrun, added to which brigade had ordered a move out the day before (after headquarters had lost touch with the companies), all who were left should march out and make for the coast that night, provided that resistance could be maintained until then.
During the lull Major Viney discovered two boxes of cigars that he had received at Lesdain. Determined that they should not be smoked by Germans, he went round the posts until everyone, officers, non-commissioned officers and men alike, were all smoking cigars.
But it was the lull before the storm, for, at about 1630 hrs, the artillery started again. This time it was not mortars but heavier stuff, and in quick succession the top and then the second floor had to be evacuated. The chapel wing was now useless. The enemy had the exact range. There were many wounded by now and Major Heyworth decided to go across to the G.H.Q. building to see if it was worth evacuating there. He never returned.
Shells were coming down thick and fast and Major Viney decided that the building must be evacuated at once. The whole building was on fire and the cellars badly damaged. Men who could move, weapons and the very small supply of ammunition left were taken outside into the garden at the east end. The adjutant, Captain Ritchie, who led a party out the other end, was killed very soon afterwards.
Once in the garden, Major Viney, who had perhaps a hundred men but only two Brens and virtually no ammunition, found that the party was trapped. They climbed into one of the house gardens in the Northeast corner, where they were concealed from view. He ordered them to stand fast there until dark, when they would try to make a break, but, if attacked, he told them that he might have to surrender because so many men were unarmed and ammunition was so short. Besides, they were vulnerably placed if discovered and attacked.
Major Viney took a nominal roll of those who were with him and went into the house to watch developments.
It was now 1800 hrs and six tanks were bombarding the main building at short range. There was a great roar as it collapsed altogether. The tanks advanced towards it still firing hard. Then a section of infantry came noisily down the street. He ducked down at his window, but he had been seen. Just as one of the Germans threw a grenade into the house he climbed through the window and surrendered his party.
The defence of Hazebrouck was over.