Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

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    Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Battalion Colours on Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:56 pm

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    RAF - No. 242 (Canadian) Squadron

    "The first Canadian from No.242 Squadron to die in action was Flight Lieutenant John Lewis Sullivan of Smiths Falls, Ontario. He was shot down on the 17th of May 1940, while providing air cover for the evacuation of the beaches at Dunkirk France. [the CWGC: Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) John Lewis Sullivan, RAF 37643, 607 Sqdn., age unknown, 14/05/1940, Perwez Churchyard, Belgium]"

    Were there any Canadians serving in the BEF who were evacuated from Dunkirk?


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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by pylon1357 on Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:06 am

    I did an advance search using only the date 17 May 1940, in the Canadian Virtual Memorial website...Came up with 7 names....4 were RCAF, 1 RCE and the two mentioned below.

    Funny but John Lewis Sullivan is not listed as having died 17 May 1940, but rather 14 May 1940.

    In memory of
    Serjeant
    GEORGE ALFRED WILLMOTT
    who died on May 17, 1940
    Military Service:
    Service Number: 6654230
    Age: 29
    Force: Army
    Unit: Princess Louise's Kensington Regt
    Division: 1st Bn.


    JAMES JOSEPH GRIERSON
    who died on May 17, 1940
    Military Service:
    Service Number: 44976
    Force: Air Force
    Unit: Royal Air Force
    Division: 82 Sqdn.


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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by pylon1357 on Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:19 am

    This from the Virtual Memorial website which is part of the Canadian Veteran's Affairs site.

    In memory of
    Flight Lieutenant
    JOHN LEWIS SULLIVAN
    who died on May 14, 1940

    Military Service:

    Service Number: 37643
    Age: 21 However, the newspaper clipping has him listed at 26 years of age
    Force: Air Force
    Unit: Royal Air Force
    Division: 607 Sqdn.

    Additional Information:

    From Smith Falls, Ontario.

    Commemorated on Page 604 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance.

    As I do not wish to violate any copyright laws, there is a great photo of Sullivan here
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    Last edited by pylon1357 on Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:24 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : additional information)


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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Battalion Colours on Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:36 pm

    Thanks for your input Cliff.

    The actual evacuation of Dunkirk to place between 27 May 1940 and 4 June 1940. 338,00 soldiers were successfully evacuated. Among the BEF troops rescued from Dunkirk, were there any Canadians?


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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by GCR817 on Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:54 am

    I thinks the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment was present for the evacuation of Dunkirk. If I recall, they went very briefly to France and then came back, having to leave most of their vehicles and Regimental mascot behind (a giant Pewter Indian).

    See Farley Mowat's book "The Regiment". It has been years since I read this one and don't have a copy in my library to confirm dates.

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    1 Brigade

    Post by Bill on Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:09 am

    1 Brigade of 1 Canadian Division was dispatched to Brest/Brittany on June 8th, but they were recalled almost immediately. There were no Canadian units at Dunkirk.

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Battalion Colours on Sat Dec 25, 2010 8:55 am

    Cliff and Bill you are both correct. Even though Canadians troops were ordered to France in the wake of Dunkirk, only the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment actually arrived on the Continent and were then immediately ordered back to England.

    My question is this:

    Were there any individual Canadians [not Canadian units] serving in British units who were evacuated from Dunkirk?



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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Bill on Sat Dec 25, 2010 11:01 am

    Hello Adam, The other two regiments of the 1st Bde also landed in France, along with elements of the RCHA. There may have been some supporting arms as well.
    Sorry, can't help with the question about Canadians serving with British forces.

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by GCR817 on Sat Dec 25, 2010 2:35 pm

    Adam,

    I found this link which you might enjoy:

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Battalion Colours on Sat Dec 25, 2010 4:59 pm

    Thanks Geoff! ! ! That's a great start. Even though Robert Timbrell wasn't a member of the BEF who was evacuated from Dunkirk, he was a member of the Royal Canadian Navy personally responsible for evacuating 900 soldiers from Dunkirk.


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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Battalion Colours on Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:05 pm

    For those who are interested, here's a little more history on Robert Timbrell:

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    The then Sub-Lieutenant Robert W. Timbrell of the Royal Candian Navy having recently been promoted was stationed at Whale Island, Portsmouth, in May 1940 when he was ordered to an old Royal Navy Captain sitting at his desk with a pile of paper infront of him. Some twenty young officers had been told to report rather hastily after collecting their gas masks, toothbrushes and shaving kit, obviously all of then were very curious as to what was happening.

    Timbrell knew better than to ask an irritable old Captain for details when he told him to join the Llanthony. He had no idea what kind of a ship she was and was amazed when he realised he was to command her. He was even more astonished to find that she was a rather expensive yacht built for Lord Astor of Hever Castle and she was obviously very ill-equiped for naval duty. Her compass had not been swung and the only armament was a 1914 Colt 45 hanging from his belt.

    His crew consisted of two civilian diesel engineers from London Transport and six sailors from Newfoundland (They were really Lumberjacks). They were ordered to sail to Ramsgate where the yacht was re-fuelled and Timbrell was given charts. Trimbrell was then told to set course for Dunkirk. There he would anchor off the beach and embark as many troops as he could using two tenders hanging from her davits.

    On the way across the English Channel, they passed a strange variety of craft from sailing yachts to mud hoppers to Thames pleasure steamers. They found one of the craft broken down in the middle of the channel, she was loaded with troops so they towed her back to Ramsgate.

    In 1980 Admiral Timbrell told what happened to the Canadian Broadcasting Service:
    Quote:
    "It was a very shallow beach and at low tide, the water went out a long way. We were being shelled by the Germans, the town was in flames and after we had anchored, I sent the Petty Officer in with the boats; I stayed with the yacht. We could take about 120 on each trip and our instructions were were to return as soon as we were loaded. We did that for a couple of trips. Then on the third or fourth trip, we got bombed. Although the RAF were doing a marvellous job, the odd German got through. We were hit on the fo'cs'le. I lost about five of the crew and both my anchors snapped. The fuel tanks were forward of the engine room and the fuel pipes were severed so that both engines died. We drifted up on the beach. It all happened so quickly - one minute we were there and the next we were damaged , drifting and running aground.

    It was a sunny afternoon and there were shells falling all the way down the beach with thousands of soldiers asking to be taken back to England. It was day four of the evacuation and a stream of ships were going in and out. We drove some trucks into the water to form a small jetty. Then, at high tide, we could go alongside the trucks and men could walk on top of them and jump aboard.

    While I was high and dry, I heard the English voice of a Sergeant marching some troops down, calling out his order to halt. He was tired and his uniform was not parade ground standard, but he was still smart. He turned out to be from a Guards regiment. He asked if he could help and I told him to get a Bren-gun carrier and drive it out as far as he could in the water until the engine stopped so that I could use it to anchor by. That is what he did and my two civilian diesel engineers repaired the fuel pipe, got the capstan going and winched us off. They put a plate over my bombed fo'cs'le and we sailed back to England.

    By then I was an 'old hand', in the eyes of the authorities, so I was given four trawlers to add to my fleet. They had come down from Scotland and their old skippers had twenty years experience - more sea time than I will ever get in my life. I told them the form: 'We'll sail from Ramsgate. You stay close to me and we'll go straight into Dunkirk, anchor, load and come back.' As simple as that. We sailed by night and loaded by day because at night the German E-Boats were coming down the coast. My Guards Sergeant had got me some Bren guns and anti-tank weapons so now the Llanthony was armed with something more than my Colt 45. The trawlers stayed close to me-almost too close-and the port one went over a mine. She disappeared in a flash and we were not able to pick up survivors. The rest of us did two or three more trips. On one of them we had a fight with an E-Boat. Thanks to my Sergeant and his troops we were able to hold it off and they were surprised at our volume of fire. The Guards Sergeant stayed with me the whole time. While we were on the beach, one of the soldiers came towards us on a zig zag course which miraculously avoided all the German shells. This was not good fieldwork, but due to a whole day spent in a French pub! He was drunker than anyone I have ever seen and he told us not to go back to England without him. He said he would come back with his ticket. He staggered back to his pub and returned with a case of Brandy. 'Here's my ticket, Sir, to get back to England. Don't leave me behind.' With this he shoved his case of Brandy aboard and feel asleep in the wheelhouse.

    Our last trip was the tightest. The Germans had started to enter the town and to close the ring around Dunkirk. There was no way we could return anymore. Back at Portsmouth I had a job to find anyone who could take over Llanthony from me. She was beaten up with bullet holes in her funnel and her boats were smashed. We took off the Bren guns and anti-tank weapons as well as our case of Brandy and tried to get back to Whale Island, three and a half miles away. I stopped a bus and asked the conductor the best way to get back to our ship. The conductor said, 'Have you just come back from Dunkirk?' and when I told him we had, he walked around the front of the bus and told the driver to take us there - with apologies for the detour to the civilian passengers. We got back to Whale Island complete with the Brandy despite some protests concerning our army crew from the duty officer."
    The Llanthony rescued some 280 troops from Dunkirk and Sub-Lieut. Timbrell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The Guards Sergeant (Who I'm hoping Diane can find) was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

    Llanthony is now called Golden Era and she is available for charter in the Med around the Greek and Turkish coast.

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Battalion Colours on Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:11 pm

    Here is Robert Timbrell's obituary:

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    Rear-Admiral Bob Timbrell
    12:03AM BST 27 Apr 2006

    Comment:

    Rear-Admiral Bob Timbrell, who has died aged 86, was a young Royal Canadian Navy officer still at the gunnery school on Whale Island, Portsmouth, when he was summoned from his class and told to take a boat to Dunkirk in May 1940.

    Aged 20 he was given command of Lord Astor's motor yacht Llanthony with a crew of six Newfoundland woodsmen, two London bus mechanics and an RN petty officer whose equipment consisted of a First World War pistol, an uncorrected magnetic compass and a minefields chart.

    Having taken on board barrels of fresh water for the troops waiting to be evacuated from the beaches, Timbrell immediately ran into a broken-down Thames pleasure steamer laden with troops, and towed her to Ramsgate.

    After reaching the beaches on his second trip, he was taking 16 men at a time into Llanthony's two small dinghies when a German shell exploded by the port bow, severing both anchor cables, breaking the fuel lines and stranding the ship. Timbrell had dug the propellers and rudder out of the sand when a sergeant, with eight guardsmen, offered help in return for a lift.

    The sergeant commandeered a tank in the town and drove down the beach and into the sea until its engine stopped; it was then used as an anchor to winch up Llanthony while her engines were repaired.

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    For his next trip Timbrell was given command of a flotilla of Scottish trawlers, whose skippers all seemed to have been at sea before he was born. One of the boats hit a mine and disappeared in a flash, leaving flotsam but no survivors.

    On the next crossing Timbrell's guardsmen, whom he had persuaded to stay with him, drove off air attacks and surprised two E-boats with a Bren and two anti-tank guns.
    Returning for the last time to Dunkirk, he was greeted by a drunken soldier staggering down the beach as he dodged the German shell fire; the man insisted on paying for his passage with a case of brandy purloined from a French inn, then fell asleep in the wheelhouse.

    Timbrell returned to Portsmouth with a sorry-looking Llanthony - her boats were smashed, her funnels riddled with bullet holes - and stopped a bus outside the dockyard gates.
    Looking at the dishevelled and dirty crew, still with their anti-tank guns and brandy, the conductor asked: "Are you just back from Dunkirk, sir?" The civilian passengers were still on board as the bus took them to Whale Island.

    Sub-Lieutenant Timbrell was personally responsible for the rescue of some 900 troops from Dunkirk, and was the first Canadian of the war to be awarded the DSC.
    The son of a British railway engineer in Canada, Robert Walter Timbrell was born at Tavistock, Devon, on February 1 1920 and went to West Vancouver High School, British Columbia.
    At 15 he became a cadet in the training ship Conway on the Mersey, and then a midshipman, RCN, in the monitor Erebus and the cruiser Vindictive. He served in the battleships Barham and Warspite and the battle cruiser Hood in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic.

    After the Dunkirk evacuation Timbrell was in the destroyer Margaree when she was run down in rough seas by a freighter, and was rescued with a handful of survivors.
    For the rest of the war he specialised in anti-submarine warfare duties on convoy, serving in the RCN ships Annapolis, Ottawa, Qu'Appelle and Micmac, first as second-in-command and later staff officer to various escort commanders. He was mentioned in dispatches for his part in the destruction of U-621 in the Bay of Biscay on August 18 1944 and of U-984 two days later.

    After the war Timbrell commanded the frigate Swansea and then the cruiser Ontario, when she took Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip from Prince Edward Island to Sydney, Nova Scotia.
    He was vice-commandant of Royal Roads Service College, British Columbia, and, after a staff course at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, was appointed captain of the new destroyer St Laurent.
    Three years on the staff of the Supreme Allied Commander at Norfolk, Virginia, was followed by command of the aircraft carrier Bonaventure when she ferried Canadian troops to Cyprus in the mid-1960s.
    Timbrell had two years as commander of the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff in Washington, and then at Maritime Command (1971-73); but these were unhappy years for an RCN officer in Canada's unified forces who was made to wear a gaudy green uniform.

    He came into conflict with the Chief of the Defence Staff, and retired a year after being appointed Companion of the Canadian Order of Military Merit in 1973.
    In retirement Timbrell was president of the Dominion Marine Association until 1985, when he left Ottawa to settle in Chester Basin, near Halifax.

    He returned to Dunkirk in 2000, aboard the British destroyer Somerset, for the final commemoration of the evacuation. Llanthony, which had been restored to her original condition, was unable to make the ceremonies because of bad weather. "Timbrell," said one contemporary, "was a no-fuss sort of fellow who never tooted his own whistle. "

    Bob Timbrell died on April 11. He married, in 1946, Patricia Jones, who survives him with their daughter; a grandson is now a sub-lieutenant in the RCN.


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    canadians at dunkirk

    Post by lynnegoddard on Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:02 am

    My dad was in the canadian army. He died in 2005. He always said he was part of a group that got left nehind at dunkirk and had to make their way baco england by another route. But I cannot find evidence that tere were Canadians at dunkirk in 1940. Does anyone know anything that can give me more information?

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Bill on Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:23 am

    No Canadian units were at Dunkirk, but elements of 1 Canadian Division were landed in France in June and almost immediately withdrawn. Lynne, do you know your father's unit? That would help research the question.

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by lynnegoddard on Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:52 pm

    Hi Bill,

    I checked with my brother. He says that Dad told him he was with the Canadian 1st Division, that he was in France before Dunkirk, and later served in Sicily and Italy and took part in the battle of Monte Cassino. Is it possible that some Canadians were in France before June 1940? Dad always seemed certain he was there before Dunkirk, but didn't get evacuated there, as his unit was, I think, left the other side of the German lines. I know he joined up at the earliest opportunity. He enlisted in London, in Ontario, probably at the Armoury (which is now the Delta Armouries hotel)

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by Bill on Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:08 pm

    Hi Lynne, Yes the elements of 1 Cdn Div were in France before Dunkirk, but they were further south, dis-embarking in Brest and moving inland from there. This was in essence "behind" the German lines at Dunkirk. Those landed in France included 1 Fd Regiment RCA, and the regiments of 1 Cdn Inf Bde, the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, the Royal Canadian Regiment, and the 48th Highlanders. As well there were elements of the RCASC and RCE landed. This was during June 12 to 16. There were no other full unitsof the Canadian army in France, though there may have been some individual Canadians there with British units.
    Being your father enlisted in London, he was likely with the Royal Canadian Regiment.
    **My mistake, the elements of 1 Cdn Div were not in France until after Dunkirk. Dunkirk was over well before the Cdns embarked for Brest.**


    Last edited by Bill on Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:35 pm; edited 1 time in total

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by pylon1357 on Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:32 pm

    I find the whole "jaunt into France" from the port at Brest, very interesting. I had 2 uncles both in B company, Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, who both were involved in this. We, the family, always assumed they were helping in the evacuation there. It was not until I was reviewing the service records of Alvin Neil, who was also in B Company that I realized this was not the case.


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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by lynnegoddard on Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:10 pm

    Thanks Bill, and Cliff. Cliff, your mention of service records makes me wonder if its possible to trace my father's? Does anyone have any records of him? His name was John Albert Chapman, of Marmora Street, London, Ontario. Would be great if anyone has records of him.

    Lynne

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by dave1212 on Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:14 pm

    Since 2007 I’ve been researching the story of how nearly one hundred young Canadians (mostly from Nova Scotia), prior to the start of the Second World War (February 1938 to September 1939) were involved in a unique recruitment drive which lead the majority to enlist in the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment (M.G.). Others went to other infantry units, the RASC, RA or the RAF.

    I grew up knowing this story as a result of three of my uncles being among the first to enlist. I always wondered while reading the old newspaper clippings from that time: who are these other guys?

    I have over sixty men ‘confirmed’ as to taking part in this story & I believe the final tally will be close to one hundred thus the title of the project: ‘Halifax Hundred’. Besides the last surviving veterans(sadly of which only one remains), I have talked with the widows, siblings, sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews & friends of these men. It has been a privilege to do so. Entering our sixth year together I am in contact with the families of over thirty of these men. It has been a wonderful journey so far.

    The 2/Manchesters was the Divisional Machine Gun Battalion in the British 2nd Division attached to 4th, 5th & 6th Brigades. They reached Cherbourg, France September 23, 1939.

    Aside from a handful who remained back in England as Instructors I know the majority of these Canadian lads were in the front lines when the German offensive commenced on May 10, 1940. As the overall Allied situation crumpled their actions altered to that of a rearguard responsibility & were among the last to be evacuated at Dunkirk.

    Between May 10, 1940 & the beginning of June 1940, of the lads in the ‘100’ story, 2 were KIA, 1 DOW (RAF), 5 wounded & 4 were taken POW (3 2/Manchesters, 1 RASC). Two of these POW’s later died (one in 1944 the other in 1947 from TB contracted while POW).

    About a dozen of the men served the duration of the war in the British Army but by 1942 the majority had transferred to Canadian units. Regardless of the sights & sounds they would later experience in the war none of them ever forgot the turmoil at Dunkirk.

    I have much more detail (names, photos, newspaper clippings etc.) to share if you’re interested. Once I learn how to post an item here, I will do so.

    Cheers

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    Re: Canadians and Dunkirk 1940

    Post by dave1212 on Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:52 pm

    This is the article that I've read since childhood that inspired me to pursue this story as well as proving a little more background to how it began...

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