Daily Archives: 9 June, 2010

70 years ago: the fighting after Dunkirk

After the Dunkirk evacuation ended on 3 June 1940 British involvement in the Battle of France changed dramatically. While thousands of troops were evacuated back to England, many were still trapped in France, particularly the 51st (Highland Division). Also, a second BEF was being sent to France, and was based around Normandy and Brittany. In addition, the RAF was still operating over French skies.

Sergeant (Wireless Operator) Ronald Astbury, aged 20 and from Cosham, was killed on 11 June 1940. A member of 77 Squadron of the RAF, Astbury was flying in Whitley Bomber N1362 on a raid on Turin in Italy. On the return flight the Whitley crashed in flames at 2230. All of the crew were killed. Astbury is buried at Lignieres-Orgeres, France. Italy had entered the war when it became clear that France was going to fall.

Sergeant (Pilot) Leslie Keast, 25 and from North End, was killed on 11 June 1940. A member of 10 Squadron of the RAF, Keast was piloting Whitley P4954, which crashed ‘in the battle area’. This suggests that he was flying in an operation in Northern France against the German Army. He is buried at Abbeville, France.

Private Edward Niven, 1st Bn Black Watch, was one of the oldest Privates from Portsmouth in the Second World War, at the age of 37. He was killed on 12 June 1940. The 1st Battalion of the Black Watch were a regular army unit who were part of the 51st (Highland) Division. Not encircled at Dunkirk, the Highland Division was left in France, largely as a political sacrifice to the French Government. The Division was eventually trapped at St Valery on the Channel Coast, and forced to surrender on 12 June 1940. However Private Niven is buried at Houdetot, nearer Le Havre. This suggests that he had been evacuated away from the front line.

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Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized, World War Two