Cassel 28th May 1940

 

Battle of Cassel

Although there were no major infantry or tank assaults on Cassel on the morning of 28th May, there was heavy and continuous shelling.  German aircraft also dropped their iconic propaganda leaflets on the town (below) urging the defenders to surrender.

German Propaganda leaflet

 

Massacre at Wormhout

A few miles to the North of Cassel, the British garrison at Wormhout was overrun and another massacre took place, at the hands of SS troops, resulting in the death of 90 men, mainly of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Operation Dynamo underway

At Dunkirk, another 17,804 B.E.F. troops were evacuated on the second day of Operation Dynamo.

140th Regiment’s Commanding Officer wounded in action

By now the main German force had crossed the main road from Dunkirk to Cassel and 367 Battery’s northernmost troop was in action for a large part of the day defending the town.  The troop was positioned near to the modern Jardin des Mt Recollets.

The Regiment’s Commanding Officer, Lieut. Colonel C.J. Odling, was wounded here at about midnight 27th/28th May and thereafter Major Christopherson was put in command.  Lt-Col Odling  was incapacitated by his injury and unable to participate in the garrison’s breakout on 29th May.  He was subsequently captured in Cassel.

Panzers attack again

From 08:00 on the 28th May German infantry could be seen transported in troop carriers to the west of Cassel.  Low-level air attack preceded a tank attack at 10:00.  ‘C’ Troop of the Worcester regiment under Lieut. Bob Hutton-Squire, quickly destroyed three tanks.  By changing gun positions constantly to alternative sites, his Troop avoided casualties and managed to destroy further tanks.  Sadly, Lt Hutton-Squire was killed two days later, at the age of 31 years, during the breakout and while resisting capture.  Lt. Hutton-Squire is buried at Proven Churchyard, about 3 miles North-east of Watou.

German tanks destroyed

The German attack developed on a wide front, but the resistance of the British guns destroyed another 25 enemy tanks during the afternoon.  The German attack made some progress towards the D948 road down to Steenvoorde, but at 16:30 the attacks ceased.

Possible counterattack 

One Troop, commanded by Major Mercer arrived to reinforce the Battery.  Mortaring and air attacks continued, but there was no general attack.  Mercer’s visit, just after mid-day, raised the hopes of the defenders that a British counterattack might develop.

 

War Diary, Ox & Bucks Light Infantry Regiment

‘The Brigade was ordered to hold defensive positions at Cassel and Hazebrouck at all costs, to protect the withdrawal of the rest of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.). 1 Bucks were attacked in earnest on 27-28 May and suffered so many casualties that they had ceased to be an effective fighting force.

Their Battalion HQ and HQ Coy were surrounded and eventually overrun on the evening of the 28th. 4 Ox & Bucks and 2 Glosters were also being subjected to enemy attacks at Cassel from 27 May until 29 May, by which time the town was surrounded and the Germans were penetrating the area.

Withdrawal in daylight was impossible, but an evacuation during the evening of 29-30 May was attempted.

However, increasing difficulties in keeping contact during the night and continuing enemy attacks resulted in the majority of the remaining personnel being captured or killed before reaching Dunkirk.

 

140th Regiment’s War Diary, 28th May 1940

‘The enemy carried out no attacks during this day. The Northernmost Troop fired continuously on enemy Troops seen digging in mortars N.W. of CASSEL. There was no other enemy movement seen during the day. The Commanding Officer, Lieut. Col. C.J. Odling, T.D., had been wounded about midnight 27th/28th May and I was therefore now in command. of the Regiment and I spent most of the day with the 145 Brigade Commander [Somerset].