Title Graphic


British Forces Engaged


The following were the principal commands concerned with naval operations in this campaign.

Admiral The Hon. Sir Reginald A. R. Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax

Admiral Sir William M. James

Admiral Sir Martin E. Dunbar-Nasmith

Flag Officer Commanding
Vice-Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay

A full account of the naval ships employed to guard and to carry the British Expeditionary Force to France; to carry out operations off Holland and Belgium; and finally to evacuate our forces from Dunkirk and other French ports belongs to the history of the War at Sea, where the story of naval operations is told in greater detail.


The lists which follow are not a complete 'Order of Battle'. They give the main composition of the principal fighting formations and Lines of Communication troops, but omit, for considerations of space, details of the administrative and specialist services. It may therefore be well to emphasise the fact that, both in the listed formations and in the rearward organisation which sustained them, the administrative and specialist services played an essential part.

The story of this campaign illustrates very clearly the fundamental importance of communications. The responsibilities of the Royal Corps of Signals at every level were very heavy for they were indeed the nerve system of the British Expeditionary Force. They had to provide normal communications within the Expeditionary Force on which the control of operations was entirely dependent and to maintain long-distance communications between General Headquarters, the French High Command


and the War Office and Air Ministry in England. Frequent moves greatly increased their difficulties and they were handicapped by inadequacy of wireless equipment.

Though infantry often had to march long distances, it is broadly true that is this campaign the Army moved on wheels and, except for the railways and unit transport, the wheels were provided by the Royal Army Service Corps. They carried troops and their equipment, they carried and distributed ammunition, stores, rations, petrol and mail; they provided transport alike in back areas and at the front for almost every purpose, driving often under most difficult conditions and at time in danger. The Army could not have existed without them.

War diaries and personal accounts of fighting, too detailed for quotation in this history, are liberally sprinkled with praise for the courage and devotion of the medical officers of units at the front, but have less occasion to notice the constructive work of the Royal Army Medical Corps in maintaining the health and hygeine of the troops and all that was involved in the care of the sick and wounded. In fact the Corps provided a complete medical service for half a million men, which included medical officers and trained personnel for units, field ambulances, casualty clearing stations, base hospitals, convalescent depots, ambulances, ambulance trains and hospital ships. It was typical of their spirit and tradition that when the British Expeditionary Force was evacuated and hospitals which could not be cleared in time fell into enemy hands, medical officers and staffs who could have saved themselves remained voluntarily to serve their patients in captivity.

In the Army, specialist and administrative services are performed by the following: the Corps of Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Royal Army Chaplains Department, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Corps of Military Police, Royal Army Pay Corps, Military Provost Staff Corps, Royal Army Dental Corps, the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, and the Intelligence Corps.

(as organised on 10th May, 1940)

General The Viscount Gort

Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant-General H. R. Pownall
Adjutant-General Lieutenant-General Sir W. D. S. Brownrigg
Quarter-Master-General Lieutenant-General W. G. Lindsell

G.H.Q. Troops

Royal Armoured Corps
1st Light Armoured Reconnaissance Brigade—Brigadier C. W. Norman
1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry1st East Riding Yeomanry
2nd Light Armoured Reconnaissance Brigade—Brigadier A. J. Clifton
5th Royal Innisikilling Dragoon Guards
15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars
1st Army Tank Brigade—Brigadier D. H. Pratt
4th and 7th Battalions Royal Tank Regiment

Not brigaded

4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards; 12th Royal Lancers; 13th/18th Royal Hussars; 1st Lothians and Border Yeomanry
Royal Artillery
1st and 2nd Regiments Royal Horse Artillery; 32nd, 98th, 115th, 139th Army Field Regiments; 1st, 2nd, 4th, 58th, 61st, 63rd, 65th, 69th Medium Regiments; 1st, 51st, 52nd Heavy Regiments; 1st, 2nd, 3rd Super Heavy Regiments.
1st Anti-Aircraft Brigade—Brigadier E. D. Milligan
1st, 6th, 85th Anti-Aircraft Regiments
2nd Anti-Aircraft Brigade—Brigadier E. W. Chadwick
60th Anti-Aircraft Regiment51st, 58th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiments
4th Anti-Aircraft Brigade—Brigadier J. N. Slater
4th Anti-Aircraft Regiment1st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery
5th Searchlight Brigade—Brigadier E. Rait-Kerr
1st, 2nd, 3rd Searchlight Regiments
Royal Engineers
100th, 101st, 216th Army Field Companies; 228th, 242nd Field Companies; 223rd Field Park, 19th Arm Field Survey, and 58th, 61st, 62nd Chemical Warfare Companies. In addition there were thirty-eight General Construction companies; two Road Construction, one Excavator, four Tunnelling companies and one Workshop and Park company; one Field Survey depot; and two Water-Boring section
1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
—Machine Gun
7th Battalion The Cheshire Regiment; 1st/8th Battalion The Middlesex Regiment; 4th Battalion The Gordon Highlanders; 6th Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Battalions The King's Own Royal Regiment; 7th Battalion The Royal Norfolk Regiment; 6th Battalion The Royal Scots Fusiliers; 1st/6th Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment
9th Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment

Lieutenant-General M. G. H. Barker

1st Division
2nd Division
48th Division

Corps Troops

Royal Artillery
27th, 140th Army Field Regiments; 3rd, 5th Medium Regiments; 52nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment; 2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery and 1st Survey Regiment
Royal Engineers
102nd, 107th, 221st Army Field Companies; 105th Corps Field Park and 13th Corps Field Survey Companies
Infantry—Machine Gun
2nd and 4th Battalions The Cheshire Regiment; 2nd Battalion The Manchester Regiment

Lieutenant-General A. F. Brooke

3rd Division
4th Division
5th Division*
50th Division
*(in G.H.Q. reserve on 10th May)

Corps Troops

Royal Artillery
60th, 88th Army Field Regiments; 53rd, 59th Medium Regiments; 53rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and 2nd Survey Regiment
Royal Engineers
222nd, 234th, 240th Army Field Companies; 108th Corps Field Park and 14th Corps Field Survey Companies
Infantry—Machine Guns
2nd Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers; 2nd and 1st/7th Battalions The Middlesex Regiment

Lieutenant-General Sir R. F. Adam, Bt.

42nd Division
44th Division

Corps Troops

Royal Artillery
5th Regiment Royal Horse Artillery; 97th Army Field Regiment; 51st, 56th Mdeium Regiments; 54th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and 3rd Survey Regiment
Royal Engineers
213th, 214th, 217th Army Field Companies; 293rd Corps Field Park and 514th Corps Field Survey Companies
Infantry—Machine Gun
7th Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers; 1st/9th Battalion The Manchester Regiment; 1st Battalion Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment, The Middlesex Regiment

Major-General The Hon. H. R. L. G. Alexander

1st Guards Brigade—Brigadier M. B. Beckwith-Smith
3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards
2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards
2nd Battalion The Hampshire Regiment
2nd Brigade—Brigader C. E. Hudson
1st Battalion The Loyal Regiment
2nd Battalion The North Staffordshire Regiment
6th Battalion The Gordon Highlanders
3rd Brigade—Brigadier T. N. F. Wilson
1st Battalion The Duke of Wellington's Regiment
2nd Battalion The Sherwood Foresters
1st Battalion The King's Shropshire Light Infantry

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
2nd, 19th, 67th Field Regiments; 21st Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
23rd, 238th, 248th Field Companies; 6th Field Park Company

Major-General H. C. Loyd         (to 16th May)
                   Brigadier F. H. N. Davidson        (acting from 16–20th May)
    Major-General N. M. S. Irwin    (from 20th May)

4th Brigade—Brigadier E. G. Warren
1st Battalion The Royal Scots
2nd Battalion The Royal Norfolk Regiment
1st/8th Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers
5th Brigade—Brigadier G. I. Gartlan
2nd Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment
1st Battatlion The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
7th Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment
6th Brigade—Brigadier N. M. S. Irwin (to 20th May)
                      Brigadier D. W. Furlong (from 20th May)
1st Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers
1st Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment
2nd Battalion The Durham Light Infantry

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
10th, 16th, 99th Field Regiments; 13th Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
5th, 209th, 506th Field Companies; 21st Field Parl Company

Major-General B. L. Montgomery

7th Guards Brigade—Brigadier J. A. C. Whitaker
1st and 2nd Battalions Grenadier Guards
1st Battalion Coldstream Guards
8th Brigade—Brigadier C. G. Woolner
1st Battalion The Suffolk Regiment
2nd Battalion The East Yorkshire Regiment
4th Battalion The Royal Berkshire Regiment
9th Brigade—Brigadier W. Robb
2nd Battalion The Lincolnshire
1st Battalion The King's Own Scottish Borderers
2nd Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
7th, 3rd, 76th Field Regiments; 20th Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
17th, 246th, 253rd Field Companies; 15th Field Park Company

Major-General D. G. Johnson

10th Brigade—Brigadier E. H. Barker
2nd Battalion The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment
2nd Battalion The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
1st/6th Battalion The East Surrey Regiment
11th Brigade—Brigadier K. A. N. Anderson
2nd Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers
1st Battalion The East Surrey Regiment
5th Battalion The Northamptonshire
12th Brigade—Brigadier J. L. I. Hawkesworth
2nd Battalion The Royal Fusiliers
1st Battalion The South Lancashire Regiment
6th Battalion The Black Watch

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
22nd, 30th, 77th Field Regiments; 14th Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
7th, 59th, 225th Field Companies; 18th Field Park Company

Major-General H. E. Franklyn

13th Brigade—Brigadier M. C. Dempsey
2nd Battalion The Cameronians
2nd Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
2nd Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment
17th Brigade—Brigadier M. G. N. Stopford
2nd Battalion The Royal Scots Fusiliers
2nd Battalion The Northamptonshire Regiment
6th Battalion The Seaforth Highlanders

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
9th, 91st, 92nd Field Regiments; 52nd Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
38th, 245th, 252nd Field Companies; 254th Field Park Company

Major-General R. L. Petre

35th Brigade—Lieutenant-Colonel A. F. F. Young (acting 10th–12th May)
                        Brigadier V. L. de Cordova (from 13th May)
2nd/5th, 2nd/6th and 2nd/7th Battalions The Queen's Royal Regiment
36th Brigade—Brigadier G. R. P. Roupell
5th Battalion The Buffs
6th and 7th Battalions The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment
37th Brigade—Brigadier R. J. P. Wyatt
2nd./6th Battalion The East Surrey Regiment
6th and 7th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment

Divisional Troops

Royal Engineers
262nd, 263rd, 264th Field Companies; 265th Field Park Company

Major-General A. E. Herbert

69th Brigade—Brigadier The Viscount Downe
5th Battalion The East Yorkshire Regiment
6th and 7th Battalions The Green Howards
70th Brigade—Brigadier P. Kirkup
10th and 11th Battalions the Durham Light Infantry
1st Battalion The Tyneside Scottish, The Black Watch

Divisional Troops

Royal Engineers
233rd, 507th Field Companies; 508th Field Park Comapny
8th Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (motor-cycle);
9th Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (machine gun)

Major-General W. G. Holmes

125th Brigade—Brigadier G. W. Sutton
1st Battalion The Border Regiment
1st/5th and 1st/6th Battalions The Lancashire Fusiliers
126th Brigade—Brigadier E. G. Miles
1st Battalion The East Lancashire Regiment
5th Battalion The King's Own Royal Regiment
5th Battalion The Border Regiment
127th Brigade—Brigadier J. G. Smyth
1st Battalion The Highland Light Infantry
4th Battalion The East Lancashire Regiment
5th Battalion The Manchester Regiment

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
52nd, 53rd Field Regiments; 56th Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
200th, 201st, 250th Field Companies; 208th Field Park Company

Major-General E. A. Osborne

131st Brigade—Brigadier J. E. Utterson-Kelson
2nd Battalion The Buffs
1st/5th and 1st/6th Battalions The Queen's Royal Regiment
132nd Brigade—Brigadier J. S. Steele
1st, 4th and 5th Battalions The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment
133rd Brigade—Brigadier N. I. Whitty
2nd. 4th and 5th Battalions The Royal Sussex Regiment

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
57th, 58th, 65th Field Regiments; 57th Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
11th, 208th, 210th Field Companies; 211th Field Park Company

Major-General H. O. Curtis

137th Brigade—Brigadier J. B. Gawthorpe
2nd/5th Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment
2nd/6th and 2nd/7th Battalions The Duke of Wellington's Regiment
138th Brigade—Brigadier E. J. Ginling
6th Battalion The Lincolnshire Regiment
2nd/4th Battalion The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
6th Battalion The York and Lancaster Regiment
139th Brigade—Brigadier H. A. F. Crewdson (to 22nd May)
                          Brigadier R. C. Chichester-Constable (from 22nd May)
2nd/5th Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment
2/5th and 9th Battalions The Sherwood Foresters

Divisional Troops

Royal Engineers
270th, 271st, 272nd Field Companies; 273rd Field Park Company

Major-General A. F. A. N. Thorne

143rd Brigade—Brigadier J. Muirhead
1st Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
1st/7th and 8th Battalions The Royal Warwickshire Regiment
144th Brigade—Brigadier J. M. Hamilton
2nd Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment
5th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment
8th Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment
145th Brigade—Brigadier A. C. Hughes (to 15th May)
                          Brigadier The Hon. N. F. Somerset (from 15th May)
2nd Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment
4th Battalion The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
1st Buckinghamshire Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
18th, 24th, 68th Field Regiments; 53rd Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
9th, 224th, 226th Field Companies; 227th Field Park Company

Major-General G. le Q. Martel

150th Brigade—Brigadier C. W. Haydon
4th Battalion The East Yorkshire Regiment
4th and 5th Battalions The Green Gowards
151st Brigade—Brigadier J. A. Churchill
6th, 8th and 9th Battalions The Durham Light Infantry
25th Brigade—Brigadier W. H. C. Ramsden
2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment
1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers
1st/7th Battalion The Queen's Royal Regiment

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
72nd. 74th Field Regiments; 65th Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
232nd, 505th Field Companies; 235th Field Park Company
4th Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (motor-cycle)

Major-General V. M. Fortune

152nd Brigade—Brigadier H. M. V. Stewart
2nd and 4th Battalions The Seaforth Highlanders
4th Battalion The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
153rd Brigade—Brigadier G. T. Burney
4th Battalion The Black Watch
1st and 5th Battalions The Gordon Highlanders
154th Brigade—Brigadier A. C. L. Stanley-Clarke
1st Battalion The Black Watch
7th and 8th Battalions The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
17th, 23rd, 75th Field Regiments; 51st Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
26th, 236th, 237th Field Companies; 239th Field Park Company

When the 51st Division moved to the Saar in April, 1940, the following troops were attached to the division:

Royal Armoured Corps
1st Lothians and Border Yeomanry*
Royal Artillery
1st Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery (less one battery)*
97th Field Regiment (one battery)†
51st Medium Regiment*
Royal Engineers213th Army Field Company†
Infantry—Machine Gun
7th Battalion The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers†
1st Battalion Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment, The Middlesex Regiment†
7th Battalion The Royal Norfolk Regiment*
6th Battalion The Royal Scots Fusiliers

* From G.H.Q. Troops

† From III Corps

Royal Artillery
3rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade—Brigadier W. R. Shilstone
2nd, 8th, 79th Anti-Aircraft Regiments4th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery
Royal Engineers
104th, 106th, 110th, 212th, 218th Army Troops Companies

In addition there were four Road Construction companies, twelve Artisan Works companies, three General Construction companies, one Map depot, two Engineer Stores (Base) Depots, Engineer Base Workshop, one section Foresty company, and lines of communication depot.

4th Battalion The Buffs, 14th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers, 12th Battalion The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 4th Battalion The Border Regiment, 1st/5th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters

In addition there were two infantry and two general base depots.

With the Advanced Air Striking Force

Royal Artillery
12th Anti-Aircraft Brigade—Brigadier W. T. O. Crewdson
53rd, 73rd Anti-Aircraft Regiments

Major-General R. Evans

2nd Amoured Brigade—Brigadier R. L. McCreery
The Queen's Bays
9th Queen's Royal Lancers
10th Royal Hussars
3rd Armoured Brigade—Brigadier J. H. Crocker
2nd and 5th Battalions Royal Tank Regiment
(The 3rd Battalion was detached and sent to Calais—see below)
1st Support Group—Brigadier F. E. Morgan
101st Light Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Tank Regiment
(The infantry battalions were detached and sent to Calais—see below)

Divisional Troops

Royal Engineers
1st Field and 1st Field Park Squadrons

Major-General J. S. Drew

155th Brigade—Brigadier T. Grainger-Stewart
7th/9th Battalion The Royal Scots
4th and 5th Battalions The King's Own Scottish Borders
156th Brigade—Brigadier J. S. N. Fitzgerald
4th/5th Battalion The Royal Scots Fusiliers
6th and 7th Battalions The Cameronians
157th Brigade—Brigadier Sir J. E. Laurie, Bt.
5th and 6th Battalions The Highland Light Infantry
1st Battalion The Glasgow Highlanders, The Highland Light Infantry

Divisional Troops

Royal Artillery
70th, 71st, 78th Field Regiments; 54th Anti-Tank Regiment
Royal Engineers
202nd, 241st, 554th Field Companies and 243rd Field Park Company

Defence of Boulogne

20th Guards Brigade—Brigadier W. A. F. L. Fox-Pitt
2nd Battalion Irish Guards
2nd Battalion Welsh Guards
Royal Artillery
275th Anti-Tank Battery, less one troop; 69th Anti-Tank Regiment

Defence of Calais

30th Brigade—Brigadier C. N. Nicholson
2nd Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade
3rd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment
(all the above from 1st Armoured Division)
1st Battalion Queen Victoria's Rifles, The King's Royal Rifle Corps (motor-cycle)
Royal Artillery
229th Anti-Tank Battery, less one troop; 58th Anti-Tank Regiment


Since 1940 there have been radical changes in the British Army. It may be well therefore to add a general indication of its organisation and equipment at the time of this campaign, while emphasising the fact that the notes have no relevance to the position at any subsequent date. It should also be recognised that, owing to shortages in 1940, units of the British Expeditionary Force were not all up to strength or fully equipped in every respect.


G.H.Q. Troops: The troops listed under this heading did not constitute a 'formation', but were a pool of troops at the disposal of General Headquarters. They were allocated, temporarily or permanently, to corps or other formations, or were used for special purposes. The light armoured reconnaissance brigades were usually employed in the role of divisional cavalry, and most of the artillery shown in G.H.Q. troops was permanently allocated to corps and disposed to cover the corps front. Thus an infantry brigade in the line was supported not only by the field artillery of the division to which it belonged and by the field and medium artillery of the corps, but also by the field, medium and heavy artillery allocated to corps from G.H.Q. troops.

Corps: Consisted of a headquarters, corps troops, and two or more infantry divisions. Thus is strength varied from time to time according to the number of its divisions.


Infantry Division: Consisted of a headquarters, divisional troops, and three infantry brigades. Its strength was approximately 13,600 of all ranks.

Infantry Brigade: Comprised a headquarters and three infantry battalions and a brigade anti-tank company with nine 25-mm. guns. It strength was approximately 2,500 of all ranks.

Armoured Division: The establishment of an armoured division in April 1940 provided for a headquarters divisional troops, two armoured brigades, and a support group which consisted of artillery and two motorised infantry battalions. The 1st Armoured Division, the only one ready for dispatch to France in May 1940, never fought as a complete division.

Armoured Brigade: Consisted of three armoured regiments or three battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment.

Light Armoured Reconnaissance Brigade: Comprised two divisional cavalry regiments.

Army Tank Brigade: Comprised two army tank battalions.


Armoured Regiments

Armoured Units of the British Expeditionary Force consisted of mechanised Cavalry regiments and battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment. Cavalry were either organised as 'armoured car regiments', 'divisional cavalry regiments', or 'cavalry light tank regiments'. Battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment were either organised as 'armoured regiments' or as 'army tank battalions'.

Armoured Car Regiment: Organised as headquarters and three squadrons, and equipped with 38 armoured cars, each with a light machine gun1 and an anti-tank rifle.2 The total strength was about 380.

The 12th Lancers was the only armoured car regiment used in the campaign.

Divisional Cavalry Regiment: Consisted of headquarters and three squadrons equipped with twenty-eight light tanks3 and forty-four carriers.4 Each


light tank had two Vickers machine guns and each carrier one light machine gun. The strength was about 480 officers and men and for personal weapons they had 240 pistols, 296 rifles, ten light machine guns and ten anti-tank rifles. The cavalry regiments shown in the list as G.H.Q. troops and those shown in the two light armoured reconnaissance brigades were organised on this basis.

Cavalry Light Tank Regiment: Headquarters, a headquarters squadron and three squadrons equipped with fifty-eight light tanks, five armoured cars and personal weapons. The cruiser tank carried a 2-pounder gun. The total strength was about 575 of all ranks. The battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment shown in the list under the 1st Armoured Division were organised on this basis.

Army Tank Battalion: Organised as headquarters and three squadrons and equipped with 50 'I' tanks, seven light tanks and eight carriers. The infantry or 'I' tank was armed with a machine gun or a 2-pounder gun. Light tanks had machine guns (see above). The strength was about 590; personal weapons were pistols, nine light machine guns and nine anti-tank rifles. Battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment shown in the 1st Army Tank Brigade were organised on this basis.


Note: All artillery was tractor-drawn.

Field Regiment: Organised as headquarters and two batteries each of twelve guns. Their armament varied. The 18-pounder gun and the 4·5 howitzer were to be superseded by a new 25-pounder gun-howitzer and until this was available 18-pounders were being converted to 25-pounders. At this time field regiments were armed either with 18-pounders and 4·5 howitzers or with converted 18/25 pounders. The strength of a field regiment was approximately 580 officers and men, and for personal weapons they had seventy-five pistols, 113 rifles, fourteen light machine guns and thirteen anti-tank rifles. It was with these personal weapons that many fought as infantry in the last few days of the withdrawal to Dunkirk.

Medium Regiment: Consisted of headquarters and two batteries, each of either 6-inch howitzers or eight 60-pounder guns. The new 4·5/60-pounders were just coming into production. The strength was about 650 of all ranks, armed with sixty-eight pistols, 117 rifles, ten light machine guns and nine anti-tank rifles.

Heavy Regiment: Headquarters and four batteries. Each regiment had four 6-inch guns and either twelve 8-inch or twelve 9·2 howitzers. The strength of a heavy regiment was about 700 all ranks, with fifty-three pistols, 205 rifles, ten light machine guns and seventeen anti-tank rifles.


Anti-Tank Regiment: Headquarters and four batteries, each of twelve 2-pounder anti-tank guns or in some cases of 25-mm. guns. The strength was about 540 and their personal weapons were seventy-seven pistols, 182 rifles, sixty-six light machine guns, thirteen anti-tank rifles.

Anti-Aircraft Regiment: Headquarters and three or four batteries, each of eight 3·7 anti-aircraft guns. Personal weapons were pistols, rifles, light machine guns and anti-tank rifles.

Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment: Headquarters and three or four batteries, each of twelve (Bofors) 40-mm. light anti-aircraft guns. Personal weapons were similar to those of an anti-aircraft regiment. The Bofors gun could be set for automatic fire and was capable of firing 120 2-pound shells a minute for a normal range of up to 1,500 yards.

Light Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Tank Regiment: Planned to consist of headquarters and four batteries, i.e. two batteries each of twelve 40-mm. light anti-aircraft guns and two batteries of twelve 2-pounder anti-tank guns. The only regiment which went to France (with the 1st Armoured Division), was, however, short of its twenty-four anti-aircraft guns.

The strength of a regiment was about 740, with ninety-six pistols, 168 rifles, sixteen anti-tank rifles and thirty-eight light machine guns as personal weapons.


Infantry Battalion: An infantry battalion had a total strength of approximately 780 organised in battalion headquarters, headquarters company and four rifle companies. Its main armament was 734 rifles,5 fifty light machine guns, two 3-inch mortars,6 twelve 2-inch mortars7 and twenty two anti-tank rifles. It had ten carriers.

Machine-Gun Battalion: Headquarters, headquarters company and four machine-gun companies, each armed with twelve machine-guns. These were the Vickers ·303, firing belt ammunition. In addition to these forty-eight machine guns the battalion had, as personal weapons, 175 pistols, 559 rifles and eighteen light machine guns. The full strength was about 740.

Motor-Cycle Battalion: Organised as headquarters, a headquarters company and three motor-cycle companies and equipped with eleven scout cars, ninety-nine motor-cycle combinations (side-car) and forty-three motor-cycles. The battalion, about 550 strong, was armed with forty-three light machine guns, seventeen anti-tank rifles and nine 2-inch mortars, and had as personal weapons 227 pistols and 355 rifles.



In the Royal Air Force specialised services are not organised as distinct corps. It must therefore be mad clear that in addition to the fighting formations shown in the following list, there were also in the British Air Force in France signals, balloon, maintenance and servicing units and medical and other services.


Air Officer Commanding in Chief
Air Marshal A. S. Barratt

Senior Air Staff Officer
Air Vice-Marshal D. C. S. Evill

Headquarters—North: Group Captain S. C. Strafford
                    East: Squadron Leader R. Cleland


Air Vice Marshal C. H. B. Blount

No. 14 Group—Group Captain P. F. Fullard
No. 60 (Fighter) Wing—Wing Commander J. A. Boret
Nos. 85 and 87 Squadrons
No. 61 (Fighter) Wing—Wing Commander R. Y. Eccles
Nos. 607 and 615 Squadrons
No. 70 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Wing—Wing Commander W. A. Opie
Nos. 18 and 57 Squadrons
No. 52 (Bomber) Wing—Wing Commander A. F. Hutton
Nos. 53 and 59 Squadrons
No. 50 (Army Cooperation) Wing—Group Captain A. R. Churchman
Nos. 4, 13 and 16 Squadrons
No. 51 (Army Cooperation) Wing—Wing Commander A. H. Flower
Nos. 2 and 26 Squadrons
No. 81 (Communication) Squadron

Air Vice-Marshal P. H. L. Playfair

No. 71 (Bomber) Wing—Air Commander R. M. Field
Nos. 105, 114, 139 and 150 Squadrons
No. 75 (Bomber) Wing—Group Captain A. H. Wann
Nos. 88, 103 and 218 Squadrons
No. 76 (Bomber) Wing—Group Captain H. S. Kerby
Nos. 12, 142 and 226 Squadrons
No. 67 (Fighter) Wing—Wing Commander C. Walter
Nos. 1 and 73 Squadrons
No. 212 (Photographic Reconnaissance) Squadron



Groups principally concerned in Air Fighting in France and Belgium


Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding

No. 11 Group—Air Vice-Marshal K. R. Park
Nos. 3, 25, 32, 54, 56, 64, 65, 74, 79, 92, 111, 145, 151, 253, 501, 600, 601, 604, 609 and 610 Squadrons
The following squadrons were also temporarily under operational command of No. 11 Group:
(from No. 12 Group)—Nos. 17, 19, 66, 213, 222, 229, 264, 266, 504, and 611 Squadrons
(from No. 13 Group)—Nos. 41, 43, 72, 242, 245, 605, and 616 Squadrons

Air Marshal C. F. A. Portal

No. 2 Group—Air Vice-Marshal J. M. Robb
Nos. 15, 12, 40, 52, 82, 107, 110 Squadrons
No. 3 Group—Air Vice-Marshal J. E. A. Baldwin
Nos. 9, 31, 37, 38, 75, 99, 115 and 149 Squadrons
No. 4 Group—Air Vice-Marshal A. Coningham
Nos. 10, 51, 58, 71, 77 and 102 Squadrons
No. 5 Group—Air Vice-Marshal A. T. Harris
Nos. 44, 49, 50, 61, 83 and 144 Squadrons

Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill

No .16 Group—Air Vice-Marshal J. H. S. Tyssen
Nos. 22, 48, 206, 220, 235, 236 and 500 Squadrons
With the following temporarily under operational control:
(from No. 17 Group)—No. 248 Squadron
(from No. 18 Group)—No. 254 Squadron
The following squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm were also temporarily under operation control of No. 16 Group:
Nos. 801, 812, 815, 816, 818, 819, 825, and 826 Squadrons



The following notes refer only to the position during the campaign in France and Flanders in 1939–40. They have no relevance to any later campaign.


Group: A formation comprising any number of units, grouped for administrative, training or operational purposes.

Wing: Two or more squadrons grouped for operations purposes.

Squadron: The number of aircraft in a squadron varied according to function—from six in the case of flying boat squadrons of Coastal Command to sixteen in the squadrons of Fighter Command.


Bombers: The aircraft used in this campaign consisted of the following: Battle, Belheim, Hampden, Wellington, and Whitley. Their normal flying speed was about 200 miles an hour for a round flight of from 1,000 to 1,500 miles. The average bomb load carried was 1,000 pounds though the heavy bombers could carry up to 5,000 pounds for shorter distances. All were armed with ·303 Browning machine guns for their own protection, the number varying from two in Battles to six in Wellingtons. They carried a normal crew of four though Battles had only two.

Fighters: The aircraft used consisted of Blenheim, Defiant, Gladiator, Hurricane and Spitfire. Their speeds varied up to 350 miles an hour, with 'service ceilings; of 27,000 to 37,000 feet and a climbing rate of 20,000 feet in about eight and a half minutes. They were armed with from four to eight ·303 machine guns. Normally fighters were single-seated.

Coastal Command Aircraft: The bomber aircraft used were Anson, Blenheim, Hudson, Wellington and Whitley; torpedo bombers Beaufort and Vildebeeste; flying boats London, Stranraer and Sunderland. The flying boats were able to cruiser up to twelve hours, according to the type of aircraft, at speeds from 86 to 150 knots. They were armed with three to seven ·303 machine guns and carried crews of similar numbers, according not only to the type of aircraft but also to the task on which they were engaged.


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1 Light Machine Gun. (Bren.) Gas operated and air cooled. Fired either from the shoulder and bipod, or from a tripod mounting. Capable of maintaining a high rate of fire—120 rounds a minute—with accuracy. fed from magazines holding 30 rounds of ·303 ammunition. Weight with bipod 23 pounds. Overall length 45½ inches. Effective range up to 1,000 yards.

2 Anti-Tank Rifle. (Boys.) Calibre ·55 inches, weight 36 pounds, length 5 feet 4 inches. Bullet capable of penetrating light armour up to 500 yards. It had similar firing mechanism to that of the service rifle and was not regarded as specialist weapon.

3 The following general characteristics of the tanks referred to may be noted: they varied in detail according to whether they were earlier or later versions.

Weight Speed per hour Armour Crew
Light Tank 4–5 tons 30 miles 12–14 mm. 3
Cruiser Tank 12–14 tons 18–23 miles 14–30 mm. 4–5
Infantry Tank I 11 tons 8 miles 60 mm. 2
Infantry Tank II 25 tons 15 miles 78 mm. 4

The infantry tank was the 'Matilda'.

4 Carrier. A lightly armoured, open, tracked vehicle designed to carry a light machine gun with a crew of two men and a driver. Having a good cross-country performance carriers provided highly mobile fire-power and they were incorporated in both armoured and infantry units. As they proved to be a valuable means of cross-country transport they were also use for many other purposes.

5 Rifle. The rifle used by the army at this time was the short magazine Lee-Enfield rifle, Mark III. It fired ·303 ammunition and had a bayonet with a 17-inch blade.

6 3-inch Mortar. Weight, with mounting, 125 pounds. Range 275–1,000 yards. Weight of bomb 10 pounds.

7 2-inch Mortar. Weight 23½ pounds. Capable of firing high-explosive bomb weight 2½ pounds, or smoke bomb weighing 2 pounds, at a high trajectory. Ranges from 100 to 500 yards.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by David Newton, HyperWar Foundation