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Cassel and Hazebrouck 1940 (Paperback)

France and Flanders Campaign

WWII Battlefield Guidebooks Dunkirk

By Jerry Murland
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Battleground Books: WWII
Pages: 168
ISBN: 9781473852655
Published: 5th June 2017

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This is the first detailed account of the rearguard action that took place between 25 and 29 May 1940 at Cassel and Hazebrouck on the western perimeter of the Dunkirk Corridor. By 25 May the decision to evacuate the BEF via Dunkirk had already been taken, Lord Gort, commanding the BEF in France, had given instructions to Lieutenant General Sir Ronald Adam to relinquish his command of III Corps and prepare a perimeter of defence around Dunkirk. As part of the western defensive line of the Dunkirk Corridor, 145 Brigade were deployed to Cassel and Hazebrouck with the instructions to hold the two towns until the last man. Under the command of Brigadier Nigel Somerset, the brigade occupied Hazebrouck with the infantry of 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion and Cassel with the 4/Ox and Bucks Light infantry together with the regulars of the 2nd Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. Attached to Somerset’s meagre force was a number of units that had previously been part of two of Gort’s ad hoc formations - Macforce and Woodforce, and it was with these men that the two towns were fortified against the advancing German armoured divisions.

While Hazebrouck was overwhelmed very quickly, the hilltop town of Cassel held out for much longer with German forces failing to consolidate any penetration of the perimeter. The book looks closely at the deployment of units in both towns and focuses on the individuals involved in the defence and the subsequent break-out, which ended in capture or death for so many. There are two car tours that explore the surrounding area of Cassel and the deployment of platoons within Hazebrouck. These are supplemented by two walking tours, one in Cassel itself and the second further to the west of the town around the area controlled by B and D Companies of the 2nd Gloucesters. The book is illustrated with ten maps and over 100 modern and contemporary photographs.

The latest addition to the Battleground range is a welcome one, focusing on one of the lesser-known facets of the Dunkirk story. The format will be familiar to those who regularly use battleground guides; this particular guide seems to have a higher proportion of first-hand accounts of the fighting at tactical level. These personal stories combined with a really generous amount of maps and pictures make this an ideal tour companion.

Guild of Battlefield Guides

...Jerry Murland has written a comprehensive and readable history of the action. This action is well-rehearsed, objective and Murland does not jump to conclusions...

...This is a welcome addition to the Battleground Europe series and I look forward to future ones...

Wargames Illustrated, August 2017 – reviewed by Dom Sore

This is the first detailed account of the rearguard action that took place between 25 and 29 May 1940 at Cassel and Hazebrouck on the western perimeter of the Dunkirk Corridor...

The book is illustrated with ten maps and over 100 modern and contemporary photographs.

Read the complete review here.

RECOLLECTIONS OF WWII - MEMOIRS & BOOKS WHICH SHOULD BE ON YOUR BOOKSHELF

I am a great fan of this Battleground series and author Jerry Murland has done a good job on this one covering an element of the fighting of the BEF in 1940. They are also a handy size to keep in the car or in a backpack when you visit the area. I will certainly take this with me next time I am in the area. For those who do want to visit the area, I would add a personal note that there is also a site from later in the war a short way west of Hazebrouck, near Morbeque, where a V1 site remains largely intact in the Foret de Huit Rues so an interesting area to tour and only a short drive from the Channel Tunnel as well.

Click here to read the full review

Robin Buckland - Military Model Scene

About Jerry Murland

Jerry Murland served in the Parachute Regiment. He is the author of Departed Warriors and Aristocrats Go To War (Pen and Sword Military). He lives near Coventry.

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