Calais 1940 by Terence Cuneo
The Defence of Calais 1940
by Terence Cuneo

On 22nd and 23rd May 1940 a small British force was disembarked in Calais. It's orders were to keep the port open and establish lines of communication with Dunkirk. The 30th Infantry Brigade consisted of the 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps, the 1st Rifle Brigade, the 1st Queen Victoria's Rifles and the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment. On the afternoon of the 23rd, the Germans began shelling the town and the next day surrounded it and opened a heavy bombardment. Fighting continued in and around Calais until the 26th when short of food and ammunition and with numerous casualties the Brigade was overwhelmed.

On 4th June 1940, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, made the following statement in Parliament: "The Rifle Brigade, the 60th Rifles and the Queen Victoria's Rifles, with a battalion of British tanks and one thousand Frenchmen- in all about four thousand strong-defended Calais to the last. The British Brigadier was given an hour to surrender. He spurned the offer, and four days of intense street fighting passed before silence reigned over Calais, which marked the end of a memorable resistance. Only thirty unwounded survivors were brought off by the Royal Navy, and we do not know the fate of their comrades. Their sacrifice was not however, in vain. At least two armoured divisions, which otherwise would have been turned against the British Expeditionary Force, had to be sent to overcome them. They have added another page to the glories of the Light Division and the time gained enabled the Gravelines Walnlieu to be flooded and to be held by French troops; and thus it was that the port of Dunkirk was kept open."

There is a Green Jacket Calais War memorial on the Western Jetty of Calais Harbour commemorating the heroic stand of the 30th Infantry Brigade.

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