Operation Dynamo - 80 years ago in May
Shortly after the first Blitzkreig strike on 10 May 1940, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was in disorganised withdrawal before the tide of German Panzers, and Operation Dynamo jolted into action. A 60 mile escape corridor was organised to buy time for the BEF to evacuate from Dunkirk. The 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion and the 4th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the TA Battalions of 145 Brigade, were deployed to fight rearguard actions at Hazebrouck and Cassel, two of a number of strongpoint hubs on the corridor’s south-west perimeter.
The heroic last stands of the two battalions between 25 and 29 May won priceless extra time for the evacuating forces, but both battalions were decimated in the process. Of the 1st Bucks, overrun at Hazebrouck, 340 officers and men were captured and became prisoners of war. 56 men were killed in the defence of Hazebrouck, with less than half the battalion’s strength returning home via Dunkirk.
Surrounded and heavily bombed at Cassel, the 4th Oxfords lost half the battalion. 21 officers and over 180 men became prisoners of war, of whom 20 were to die in captivity.