The Wormhoudt Massacre 80 Years Ago


The heroism of a small band of British troopers in northern France is remembered worldwide 80 years after they had been murdered by Waffen SS troops in what is named the Wormhoudt Bloodbath. On Could 28, 1940, about 100 troopers from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the Cheshire Regiment and the Royal Artillery had been locked in a small barn and killed after managing to defend the world across the city of Wormhoudt for a minimum of 5 hours.

The lads made a brave final stand. Not not like the legendary 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, the small group efficiently beat again an onslaught of German troops to permit British forces to flee from Dunkirk.

“It wasn’t a lot a gathering engagement because it was a deliberate defensive place by the British to carry that route level for so long as potential,” Lt. Col. Keith Kiddie (Ret.) of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers informed Navy Historical past in an interview. “Individuals all the time know concerning the retreat to Dunkirk and the combating on the beachhead, and the way they acquired the Military off the seashores—everyone is aware of that story,” he mentioned. “However no one is aware of the bits of that story that got here collectively to make it occur.”

Firm Sergeant Main Augustus Jennings threw himself on a German grenade to save lots of his comrades in the course of the Wormhoudt Bloodbath.

Kiddie helps set up visits on behalf of the Fusiliers Affiliation to the previous bloodbath website, which immediately holds a shrine and memorial with bushes planted in reminiscence of the fallen. The shrine stands on the positioning of the barn the place the British troopers had been killed by the Waffen SS. The partitions inside are coated with poppy wreaths and tributes to the deceased.

At about midnight on Could 26 the courageous group of troopers obtained their orders to defend the Wormhoudt space, in response to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum in Warwickshire, England. The troops had solely about one hour of sleep, but fought magnificently.

“They had been hopelessly underequipped. They had been nearly out of ammunition earlier than they even began—and but they managed to carry off the SS for a substantial time,” mentioned Graham Minshull, a former sapper within the Royal Engineers. “They managed to get much more individuals away from the seashores than they’d have executed if Wormhoudt had fallen.”

The lads actually held off the enemy till they spent their final bullets. Winston Churchill’s well-known phrase, “By no means within the area of human battle was a lot owed by so many to so few,” may also be utilized to the British rearguard at Wormhoudt, whose actions enabled an estimated 360,000 British and Allied troops to evacuate from Dunkirk.

“It reveals the tenacity which the British soldier is famend for,” mentioned Kiddie. “British troopers combating in defensive positions are well-known for being very powerful to shift.”

Afterwards the boys had been taken prisoner by the infamous 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. The Nazi regime favored the Waffen SS for his or her bestial extremism and propagandized them as “Hitler’s best troops.”

“First they took all our private results—my letter, my images of my mum and pop and my two sisters, even the {photograph} of Elizabeth, my spouse,” recalled survivor Albert “Bert” Evans, then 19 years outdated and a non-public within the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. “The [items] had been torn up and burned. They didn’t need any of us recognized.”

Plotting homicide, the SS troopers marched the group of about 100 males into an remoted space and crowded them right into a small cowshed. After making certain the troopers had been incapable of defending themselves, the Germans threw two grenades into the barn, then opened hearth with machine weapons. They then shot wounded survivors behind the pinnacle.

For all their cruelty, the Nazis failed to interrupt the spirit of the British troopers, who banded collectively to save lots of their comrades of their remaining moments.

Firm Sergeant Main Augustus Jennings and Sergeant Stanley Moore threw themselves on grenades to guard their brothers-in-arms. Their heroism suppressed the influence of the blasts and contributed to the survival of a handful of males within the barn, together with Evans.

Within the wake of the explosion, Captain James Lynn-Allen, probably the most senior officer within the group, noticed a possibility to flee. As an alternative of fleeing alone, Lynn-Allen valiantly rescued one in all his males—Evans, badly surprised and with a mangled arm.

“He might have gotten away. However he didn’t go away me,” Evans recalled 70 years later.

Lynn-Allen dragged Evans away from the barn in a 200-yard sprint to security. They had been cornered by a Waffen SS officer in a pond. The German shot them each at pointblank vary.

“And that’s how he died. That’s how my captain died. Saving my life,” Evans remembered. “He was a wonderful man and a wonderful soldier.”

Though Lynn-Allen misplaced his life, he was victorious in his final mission—towards all odds, he did reach saving Evans. Evans managed to crawl away from the bloodbath website and was picked up by a German ambulance unit. He survived the warfare as a POW and handed away in 2013 at age 92.

Captain James Lynn-Allen, probably the most senior officer within the group, gave his life to save lots of 19-year-old Personal Bert Evans. / Picture courtesy of Maj. David Seeney (Ret.)

The heroism of the British towards the Waffen SS was equaled by a close-by French soldier, Personal Robert Vanpee, a neighborhood depot guard. Vanpee surrendered to the Germans to save lots of the lives of a French household at a close-by farmhouse who had been being threatened at gunpoint. Vanpee was shot and buried in a mass grave with the British troopers close to the barn. The our bodies had been later recovered and are buried at Esquelbecq Navy Cemetery. The inscription on Vanpee’s headstone reads: “Mort pour la France (He died for France).”

Like most criminals, the Waffen SS troops who perpetrated the murders in and round Wormhoudt refused to confess accountability for his or her actions. Survivors and witnesses testified that officer Wilhelm Mohnke was concerned in ordering the bloodbath. Mohnke, who died in 2001, spent his life shirking blame for what occurred.

“They all the time maintained that there was by no means an order to execute POWs. They all the time maintained that principally, it by no means occurred,” mentioned Minshull.

The SS hoped to erase these courageous males from reminiscence by stripping them of identification and burying them in a hid spot.

Nonetheless, the other has occurred. The troopers who defended Wormhoudt reside on within the hearts and minds of the many individuals who bear in mind them immediately. Native French authorities estimate that hundreds of veterans from varied nations have visited the shrine at Wormhoudt to honor the braveness of the boys who gave their lives for others. Moreover, native French residents maintain annual remembrance companies for the fallen heroes.  MH

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