Private Bernard Arthur Toseland 5726037 Dorset Regiment

We have little direct information at the time of writing about Pvt Toseland. The photograph shown here was sold as the image of B. Toseland of the Essex Regiment, killed in action at Dunkirk. What immediately raised concern was the lack of any record of a B. Toseland from the Essex Regiment, and the collar badges worn are not those of the Essex Regiment. A wider search revealed the image to be that of Pvt Bernard Toseland of the 2nd Battalion Dorset Regiment, killed somewhere between 22 and 27th May, 1940 aged just 21. He has no known grave and is remembered on column 65 of the Dunkirk Memorial which records the names of 4505 personnel, who were lost during the battle for and evacuation from Dunkirk during the events of 1940.


The 2nd Battalion, the Dorset Regiment was based in Aldershot when war broke out in 1939; as a regular unit of the British Army, they were among the first to be sent over to France as part of the BEF. During the period of the phoney war, they were stationed on the Franco-Belgian border where they spent their time training. Following the German invasion of Belgium on May 10th 1940, they advanced north into Belgium. The French Armée, fighting on their right flank, soon began to withdraw as the German assault steamrollered forward, forcing the BEF into making a fighting retreat all the way from Brussels towards the coast.


The 2nd Battalion of the Dorsets were ordered on the 25th May to stand and fight at Festubert (located in the Artois region of France, and the scene of fierce fighting during the Great War in 1915). This was effectively a sacrificial order to allow other units of the BEF to escape. The defence of the La Bassée Canal by the 2nd emulated their forebears of the Great War who put up a gallant defence in almost the same place in 1914. The German forces greatly outnumbered those of the defenders and the Dorsets sustained 40 killed (including Pvt Toseland), 110 wounded and an additional 158 prisoners being taken. Their commanding officer, Colonel Stephenson, assembled the remaining 245 members of the Dorsets, along with an additional 40 stragglers from other units, leading them all the way to Dunkirk, running the gauntlet of the German advance to the safety of evacuation back to England.



Bernard Arthur Toseland was the son of Mr Arthur J and Mrs J Toseland (née Griffith) who were married in Romford in 1914. Bernard was born four years later in 1919, the birth being registered at Epping. The family resided in Ilford, Essex.

We have applied for the records of Pvt Toseland and will update this page in due course.


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