Personal Account – W R Voysey, Signaller, Royal Artillery, 3rd Division

Personal Account – W R Voysey, Signaller, Royal Artillery, 3rd Division

I was a signaller with a 12 gun battery in the 3rd Division. Our officer commanding was Major Phipps, but I forget the number of the battery.

Our first action was near Louvain (Belgium) – the Guards and the Middlesex Regt were also there. After firing for a couple of days and nights, when it was expected that we would break the toe of the of the horse shoe of the German positions and then withdraw several miles after which the German tanks would form a line and we would be ready and waiting for them. However, our zero hour to withdraw was midnight – I forget the date. Suddenly at 22.20 hours we received orders to up anchors and get going as fast as possible. Eight guns went immediately, I was with the remaining four guns which covered the Guards and Middlesex Regt.

From then on it was chaos, and catch as catch can – nobody seemed to know what was happening. Our O.C. organised looting parties to sustain us, a couple of times he heard of NAAFI trains which had been blown up – on those occasions we shared the rations with the civilians, we also put the spare tins into the vehicles as an emergency – but they didn't last long, because I never saw any rations delivered.

From the time we started withdrawing, I never saw more than 50 aircraft with roundels – and that is being very generous, they might well have been in the rear. The afternoon of the 31st May we had one of the remaining four guns in position on a farm near La Panne spotted by a 'Lysander' which proceeded to make a tight turn with lots of smoke trailing. We had lots of them occur during our withdrawal but made by aircraft with swastikas on which we referred to as the "circle of death" because shortly after they appeared we were very heavily shelled – several times, so much that we had to move positions. However, on this occasion we thought that being it was one of ours we would be safe. We thought wrongly – we were hit with everything bar the kitchen sink, at the same time buried our stack of shells alongside the gun. We then had to man handle shells from another gun position whose gun had been scuttled the day before. From midnight we fired for three hours before being ordered to scuttle the gun and head for La Panne.

We managed to travel a short distance before being forced to get out through the roads being blocked by bombed out vehicles. On reaching the slip way I bent down, picked up a handful of sand and said to my two mates who were still with me, "Well, we are as good as home now". That remark was based on the BBC news I had listened to at 17.00 hours on the 31st May, when Winston Churchill gave a pep talk stating that the Nazis knew that the only port the BEF could be evacuated from was Dunkirk. He assured us that the RAF were continually patrolling the area and keeping the skies virtually free of enemy aircraft. |From the time I arrived on the beach, approximately 04.00 hours on the 1st June until I got aboard a ship about 22.00 hours on the 2nd June I only saw 2 aircraft with roundels on. One of them shot down a Junkers ** and was brought down itself out at sea. The other made a forced landing along the seas edge with lots of smoke sweeping over the cockpit. The pilot very quickly ran away with his hands up shouting "I am Belgian". Several troops closed in on him but did not open up, I later learned that he had been handed over to some officers.

When I eventually got aboard the ship I made my way below decks and found that it was named 'St Helena' and had bunks. I managed to get into one – the next thing I remember was being shaken vigorously and being told we had docked in Folkestone – it was the morning of the 3rd June 1940.

The following year I was lucky to be able to transfer to the RAF and graduate as a pilot.

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