1809 - 43rd marched from Colchester to Harwich en route for Portugal.
1915 - 2nd Bn Oxf & Bucks LI – RAIMBERT
Route Marching and Training (chiefly in Woods) carried out.
1915 – 1/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion – PLOEGSTEERT WOOD
1940 - 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion – NOMAIN (B.E.F. FRANCE)
It was on this day, the 24th, that the men first showed signs of restiveness. If they had had some serious fighting it would have been different, but they had been marching almost daily and had dug and occupied seven positions, in none of which they had fought. Meals and sleep had been scarce and—most important of all—they were completely unaware of what was happening; this last was equally true of the officers. The Germans had broken through in the south and the Dutch had collapsed—that was the sum total of knowledge. Intelligence reports, if they existed, never descended below brigade.
It was a boring day. Food being short, companies sent out foraging parties with success, and by 1400 hrs all cooks’ trucks were loaded with carcasses of pigs and chickens. The time of arrival of the troop carriers was often postponed, but at last word came through that they would be a mile out of the town at 2130 hrs. The order of march was detailed and companies were ready to embuss at the right time. Then the start was postponed for a further half-hour. When the vehicles did arrive it was as much as the Battalion could do to squeeze into the small number provided.
As route cards were handed out it was noted with misgiving that the destination had been changed from Calais to Cassel. The route lay through Lille, Armentieres, Bailleul and Caestre. The move started slowly, as drivers were still tired, and Major Viney in the rear spent much time chasing vehicles which had strayed off the route. At Bailleul each driver was given a new destination—Hazebrouck. The Battalion was in the rear of the brigade column and was therefore the easiest of the three to detach thence. After more long halts the column arrived at the outskirts of the town. Nearing Hazebrouck it was noticed that every village had its homemade, rather pathetic, roadblocks generally constructed of farm carts. At about 1000 hrs the Battalion entered the town and started cooking breakfast in the main street.
Major Heyworth, company commanders and the intelligence officer made a reconnaissance of the town’s defences, accompanied by Captain A. Campbell, Cameron Highlanders, who was apparently responsible for G.H.Q. defences. G.H.Q. handed Major Heyworth one map of the Hazebrouck area which was the only map of the district that the Battalion was ever to possess. Only after arrival was it learnt that advanced G.H.Q. had been in Hazebrouck until the day before. Now the Battalion was to help guard the rear and flank of the B.E.F.
The G.H.Q. building had been a large school in the Northwest of the town. After the hard times of the past ten days the atmosphere of G.H.Q. was slightly disarming; but in the building there was some confusion, as everyone still there was packing up and hurrying to leave. Officers announced proudly that they had actually been shelled once a few days back by isolated tanks which had quickly retreated. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was still one of airy confidence, shiny boots and a spur or two. The 1st Bucks officers felt rather boorish in battledress and steel helmets. But everyone was cheerful and tried to be helpful.
Major Heyworth had great difficulty in discovering which and how many miscellaneous troops were coming under his command. He managed to extract an approximate list. Artillery (in support) consisted of four 25-pounders and four anti-tank 2-pounders. (In addition, Serjeant Trussell’s platoon of the brigade anti-tank company was still under command.) G.H.Q. also left some two hundred men consisting of orderlies, runners, signallers, drivers and a big contingent of leave men from the York and Lancaster Regiment. There was also a platoon of the 4th Cheshire Regiment with four Vickers guns. As an afterthought, G.H.Q. bequeathed a dozen Boys anti-tank rifles and a few Bren guns with a good supply of ammunition. Later it was discovered that there were a few anti-aircraft guns in and around the town. To complete the assortment of supporting arms, there were some old French and Belgian tanks; but they were in such a bad state of repair that they could be used only as roadblocks. The Battalion was not allotted wire or anti-tank mines.
Hazebrouck was in the Southwest corner of the semi-circle round Dunkirk. The rest of the brigade was at Cassel, six miles to the north. There were no troops in between except odd patrols of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. By this time the 143rd Brigade had been placed under the command of the 5th Division and was holding a sector on the Ypres—Comines Canal to the Northeast. The 144th Brigade was dispersed on the western edge of the Dunkirk perimeter between Cassel and Bergues. The 44th Division was to the Southeast in the Foret de Nieppe.
At a conference Major Heyworth announced that he had decided to hold that part of the town which lay south of the railway line to Calais and west of that running from Hazebrouck to Douai. These lines formed in part a reasonable anti-tank obstacle. Companies were disposed as follows:
B Company from and including the railway station east and Southeast along the railway to where it crossed the Hazebrouck Canal.
C Company in a line running north-west from the canal along the outskirts of the town to and including the main road leading to Morbecque.
D Company in a line running northwest from the Morbecque road to the railway line to Calais.
A Company in reserve in the G.H.Q. building in the town.
A Echelon transport was kept in company areas, with B Echelon near the main square.
Battalion headquarters was established in a large convent opposite A Company.