Information for Veterans and their families
I am a member of the World War II mailing list and the following information was kindly provided to me by the late Iain Kerr who is the Listowner. He gave his permission for the article he sent me to be reproduced here.
Here are some notes on the regiments that your father served with:
East Surrey Regiment - Territorial Army Battalions - inter-war years The 5th Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment (Territorial Army) was reroled and transferred to the Royal artillery as The 57th (East Surrey) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (Territorial Army) in Nov 1938.
The 6th Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment (Territorial Army) was duplicated in 1939, as part of the doubling in size of the Territorial Army; producing the 1/6th and 2/6th Battalions, The East Surrey Regiment (Territorial Army).
The 7th (23rd London) Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment (Territorial Army) was created in 1937 from the 23rd County of London Battalion, the County of London Regiment. A year later it was converted to an armoured role as 42nd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment.
The 21st (1st Surrey Rifles) County of London Battalion, the County of London Regiment (Territorial Army) was affiliated to the East Surrey Regiment from 1916. In 1935 it was reroled as a searchlight unit and transferred to the Royal Engineers as 35th (1st Surrey Rifles) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers (Territorial Army). Later it was transferred to the Royal Artillery.
The Queen Victoria's Rifles (QVR)
The 9th County of London Battalion (Queen Victoria's Rifles), County of London Regiment (Territorial Force) was descended from the 1st Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps formed in 1859 as the first corps of rifle volunteers in the county. But the battalion owed its origins to the formation in 1803 of the Duke of Cumberland's Sharpshooters. The Sharpshooters later became the Royal Victoria Rifle Club whose members committed themselves as a RVC unit. The 11th (St George's) Rifle Volunteer Corps which was formed in 1860 was amalgamated with the 1st Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1892, becoming the 1st Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps (Victoria and St George's). In 1908, the 1st Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps was merged with the 19th Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps, that had been formed in Bloomsbury in 1860, becoming The 9th County of London Battalion (Queen Victoria's Rifles) (Territorial Force). In common with other regiments of the Territorial Force, the 9th County of London Battalion (Queen Victoria's Rifles) (Territorial Force) formed itself into two and later three lines during WWI: the 1/9th,2/9th and 3/9th Battalions.
In 1937 with the breaking up of the London Regiment, the 9th County of London Battalion, The London Regiment (Territorial Army) became The Queen Victoria's Rifles, The King's Royal Rifle Corps (Territorial Army). At the outbreak of WWII in 1939, the Queen Victoria's were split into two battalions.
The 1st Battalion, The Queen Victoria's Rifles, The King's Royal Rifle Corps (Territorial Army) was equipped with motor cycles. The 1st Battalion was lost during the defence of Calais on 26 May 1940 with virtually all survivors becoming PWs, along with men from the 2nd Battalion, KRRC, plus 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment and another of the Rifle Brigade. The 1st Battalion was redesignated 7th Battalion, The King's Royal Rifle Corps (Territorial Army) in 1941, and two years later, was placed in suspended animation.
After World War II, the 7th and 8th Battalions, The King's Royal Rifle Corps (Territorial Army) were reamalgamated as The Queen Victoria's Rifles, The King's Royal Rifle Corps (Territorial Army). In 1961 a further amalgamation with the Queen's Westminsters took place, forming The Queen's Royal Rifle Corps (Territorial Army). The units were later represented by 4th (Volunteer) Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets.
And here are some notes on the Battle for Calais at which he was taken prisoner.
The 1st Battalion, The Queen Victoria's Rifles after mobilisation was assigned to be part of 1st Support Group in the 1st Armoured Division. The division was not immediately deployed to France with the BEF. However, in early May 1940 the threat to the BEF became evident and reinforcements were deployed to France to defend the key Channel ports. Amongst them was 30th Brigade, formed from units of the 1st Armoured Division.
The 2nd Battalion KRRC embarked in the steamer Royal Daffodil at Southampton on 22 May 1940. The battalion, The Rifle Brigade and 30th Brigade Headquarters had already embarked in the steamer Archangel. Under "fighter" escort, Calais was reached and disembarkation began in the afternoon of 23 May. The rest of the brigade - the 1st Battalion, Queen Victoria's Rifles (Territorial Army) [affiliated to the KRRC] and the 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment - had arrived at Calais on the previous day.
Both the 2nd Battalion, KRRC and the battalion of The Rifle Brigade moved to the sand-dunes just outside and to the east of Calais. Owing to difficulties caused by the refusal of French stevedores to work, The Rifle Brigade battalion was short of about three-quarters of their vehicles and equipment, including, ammunition, and, were placed in an extremely difficult and dangerous position. To add to the difficulties, a supply convoy was ordered to proceed to Dunkirk. Two companies of The Rifle Brigade and part of the 3rd Tank Battalion were sent during the night to open the road there, but they were heavily opposed and forced back.
Dawn patrols sent out on 24 May by the 2nd Battalion, KRRC met a strong opposition and machine-gun fire, There was a heavy bombardment by the enemy and fighting continued throughout hour the day. In the afternoon, the Headquarters 2nd Battalion was informed that the outer perimeter could not be held much longer. A platoon of The Rifle Brigade was sent to help the 2nd Battalion, KRRC. The outer perimeter was held until dark, when the 2nd Battalion, KRRC retired to the inner perimeter. It was generally believed that re-embarkation would be undertaken, but no order for it was given.
The new position was held until 25 May, the right of 2nd Battalion, KRRC resting near Fort Risban. A heavy German attack died down at nightfall. But on Sunday morning 26 May a heavy bombardment from land and air reduced the defensive position and the inner town to a shambles and set it in flames. The brigade had little or no sleep from Tuesday 21 May to Sunday 26 May, having been constantly moving and fighting. Food, water and ammunition were all short and it had been impossible to disembark much of their equipment.
Late on Sunday night the battle was finished. Overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers and weight of armament, this gallant force of three battalions had held out for four days, engaging the two heavy armoured divisions which been destined to cut off the British Expeditionary, Force, thus permitting it to embark. The overwhelmng superiority of the enemy, both in numbers and material, never really gave them a chance. That 30th Brigade held the enemy for four days was a remarkable feat of arms. On 26 May 1940, virtually all survivors of became PWs.
The King, as Colonel-in-Chief of The King's Royal Rifle Corps sent a message to the regiment on 5 Jun, saying ,that he had "learned pride of the heroic action of the 2nd Battalion and The Queen Victoria s Rifles at Calais; which assisted so materially in the successful evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. Such self-sacrifice and gallantry are in keeping with the highest traditions of His Majesty's Regiment and mark a glorious page in its history."
That tribute followed the impressive statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Winston Churchill) in the House of Commons on 4 Jun. He said: "I have said this armoured scythe stroke almost reached Dunkirk - almost, but not quite. Boulogne and Calais were the scenes of desperate fighting. The Guards defended Boulogne for a while and were withdrawn by orders from this country. The Rifle Brigade, the 60th Rifles and The Queen Victoria's Rifles with a battalion of British tanks and about 1,000 Frenchmen, in all about 4,000 strong, defended Calais to the last. The British brigadier was given an hour to surrender. He spurned the offer, and four days of intense fighting passed before the silence reigned over Calais which marked the end of a memorable resistance.
"Only 30 survivors were brought off by the Navy, and we do not know the fate of their comrades. Their sacrifice was not, however, in vain. At least two armoured divisions which would have been turned against the British Expeditionary Force had to be sent for to overcome them. They have added another page to the glories of the Light Division. The time gained enabled the Gravelines water-lines be flooded and to be held by the French troops. Thus it was that the port of Dunkirk was kept open."