We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to ICM Creative, and in particular Director Maria Wild, for being instrumental in bringing Everyone’s War to life for so many years, and for assisting us in producing the journal ourselves. This is the first issue we are creating in-house, using the ICM-designed layout familiar to all our readers.

BEF 1940

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France, 1940, is the cover theme of this issue, introduced by author James Goulty.

After the evacuation from Dunkirk in May and June 1940, Winston Churchill issued a statement that the last of the BEF had left France. There were, however, many thousands of British troops still fighting a rear-guard action. John Dixon of the East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry was one of those men. His wartime diary tells of his part in one of the Allies most significant rear-guard actions, the defence of the town of Cassel which lay on the evacuation route to Dunkirk. During this action, he was captured and remained a prisoner until the end of the war.
Chandos Blair also fought in rear-guard action. As a platoon commander with 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, he was ordered to help hold the line of the river Somme. Facing overwhelming odds, the battalion was forced into a repetitive sequence of withdrawal on foot. At Saint-Valery-en-Caux, the Division faced an overwhelming enemy advance. The remaining troops, including Chandos, surrendered on 12th June 1940.
Signal Sergeant and Radio Operator Frederick ‘Freddie’ Hunn, who had enlisted in the Army while underage, served with the 12th Royal Lancers. While covering the retreat of the BEF, the regiment was heavily engaged and orders were given to fight to the last man. Freddie survived and was lifted off Malo- les-Bains by a London mud dredger and evacuated back to Britain. Less fortunate was Henry Pettit of the Royal Army Service Corps who found himself at Saint Nazaire aboard the ill-fated HMT (RMS) Lancastria when the ship was sunk by German bombers while still in harbour.
To conclude our cover theme, we have Allan ‘Tony’ Younger who joined the BEF in France in March 1940 as commander of No. 2 Section, 61st Chemical Warfare Company. Tony’s section was tasked with blowing bridges including those over the Béthune-La Bassée Canal. While at Mont de Cats, he was ordered to abandon his position, marching to Dunkirk through territory now occupied by the enemy. On the way, he rescued a wounded padre of the Somerset Light Infantry (SLI).

Normandy to St Nazaire

For William ‘Bill’ Partridge’s SLI platoon in France in 1944, their padre was their ‘greatest friend’ as ‘faith played an important part.’ Bill gives a gripping account of fighting against the 10th Panzer Division in the Battle of Hill 112, during which Bill’s Company was reduced to a fraction of its original strength. Bill’s story of his ‘grimmest days of war’ evokes the realities of warfare in his description of heavy causalities, exhaustion, and the corresponding emotional toll: ‘Yes, I wanted out.’
Back in France in 1940, we have the story of French refugee Peter Dax who escaped from France to join the British in fighting the Germans. Enlisting in the Royal Navy, he served on a destroyer escorting convoys, and a mine sweeper, until recruited by M-I6 to translate French intelligence. Still in France, this time in 1941, we have an account of the daring Combined Forces Saint Nazaire Raid, told from the perspective of two Royal Navy personnel through an extract of an autobiography and a prisoner of war diary.

Force Z & Moonshine

Our other articles in this issue include the sinking of Force Z in 1941 when one of Britain’s greatest battleships HMS Prince of Wales was ingloriously sunk by Japanese aircraft, recounted by Midshipman Graeme Allen. Twenty-year-old Graeme survived not only this sinking but another barely three months later when his next ship was also sunk by the Japanese during the Second Battle of the Java Sea.
Chief Officer Edward Ruffman was also lucky to survive a sinking, this time in the Skagerrak straits between Norway and Denmark. While delivering supplies to the Danish Resistance in the blockade- running Moonshine mission of February 1944, disaster occurred while deep inside enemy-occupied waters.


Amanda Herbert-Davies