October 24, 2016

Field, Harry Isaac Theobald

Service number: 5824730 | Rank: Private | Regiment: 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment

Died, May 29, 1940.
Remembered at DUNKIRK MEMORIAL, France.  Column 46.

Aged 26.  Son of Isaac Field, and of Mabel Field, of Brandon. Suffolk.

WHAT I KNOW ABOUT HARRY …

At the outbreak of war, in September 1939, the 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, were recalled from Malta and the following month were shipped over to France.  By virtue of Harry being in this battalion would indicate that he was a career soldier, already serving in the British Army before the war.

In January 1940 they were deployed along the Maginot Line to deter any thoughts the Germans had of invading France.  During this time they endured deep snow and occasional German sniping.  When the Germans invaded Belguim in May 1940 the Suffolks were redirected to Louvain, just east of Brussels.  It was hoped they could help stall the German’s progress.  In scenes reminiscent of WW1 they dug trenches, laid barbed wire and set anti-tank guns in place.  Three days later, as Belguim became overrun by the enemy, the Suffolks were ordered to withdraw.

Over the following days the Suffolks continually withdrew along the east side of the river Schedlt, enduring constant sniping and small arms fire from the Germans on the opposite bank.  On the 23rd May the 8th Army, of which the Suffolks were part, were ordered to attack Germans positions in an effort to wrong-foot the enemy and stall their advance into France.  Heavy mortar fire and machine guns accounted for 70 Suffolk casualties.

27th May and the order for a full scale withdrawal was given.  All non-essential equipment was to be left behind.  On the 29th May the Suffolks’ flank became exposed, which the German Army exploited with heavy mortar and small arms fire and crossed the river.  Despite the Suffolks trying a counter attack the Germans were too strong.  It was probably during this that Harry Field was killed.

The following day (30th) the Suffolks reached their rendezvous point, but so had everyone else!  The road was jammed for two miles with vehicles and movement was painfully slow.  A head count revealed 200 men , wounded, killed or missing.  This made for easy pickings for German aircraft.  More casualties resulted the next day from German artillery shelling the jam.  The sands of Dunkirk beach was the only respite for those able enough to get there.  The following day those Suffolks were had made it to the beach were evacuated by the steam ship ‘Ben Macree’, a ferry more accustomed to carrying passengers between Liverpool and the Isle of Man.