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Gentleman's Military Interest Club
Hugh

Captain Leah is captured - 1st Bn, Cameron Highlanders, Dunkirk

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For some time now, I've been following an interesting blog - World War II Today, which has provided a day-by-day commentary on the war.  I suspect many of you already know of it.  I was struck by today's entry on a diary entry by Captain Leah of the Cameron Highlanders, and especially by the blogger's end comment:  At present we have little more information about Captain R. Leah whose short diary was deposited with the War Office sometime after the war.  I'd be very surprised if someone on this forum couldn't unearth "the rest of the story" and provide it to the blogger.  Unfortunately, I don't have access to the material, but several of you have been most helpful in the past.  Let's help spread this brave soldier's story.  

 

Best,

Hugh

 

Callander-Cameron-Highlander-uniform1.jp

2nd Lieutenant David Callander in the full dress uniform of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders at his graduation from Sandhurst in 1939. He won the Military Cross at La Bassee, near Dunkirk, as commander of the 1st Battalion's anti-tank platoon. Their three two pounder guns accounted for 21 German tanks.

A working party of the 1st Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders at Aix in France, November 1939.

A working party of the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at Aix in France, November 1939.

Men of the 1st Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders digging trenches at Aix, France, November 1939.

Men of the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders digging trenches at Aix, France, November 1939.

Captain Leah’s remarkable diary of just eighteen days in the movements of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in France 1940 is representative of many in the British Expeditionary Force. The move forward from France into Belgium, the attempt to establish new positions and then the confusing and exhausting retreat as they sought to avoid being outflanked. The transition from peacetime army to experiencing shellfire for the first time and then rapidly on to full scale murderous battle, with the loss of many friends and colleagues.

In just one respect the The 1st Battalion the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders were different, they were members of the Highland Brigade in France 1940, the last unit of the the British Army to fight in kilts.

There were many examples of successful British actions like the counterattack at Escaut that might well have have led to further successes had the whole British force not been completely outflanked by the German breakthrough to the coast. They were not a beaten army. Captain Leah’s diary reveals just how lucky some were to get away to Dunkirk and how only slightly less luck led to long years as a prisoner of war:

From the Diary of Captain R. Leah, 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders :

28th May

Floundering about in mud and water and crossing last wire fences. Kilt badly torn. However we covered about 7 1/2 miles and dawn found us on outskirts of Laventie. By this time we were more or less clear of enemy except for odd motor cyclists but very tired and hungry. Here made unfortunate mistake of deciding to lay up for another day until dark. Poured with rain and had to take to houses – for a few hours but got out again about 8 a.m. Spoke to Frenchman and family who had seen no enemy and then took cover in orchard. In afternoon surrounded by Coy of enemy. Half of us asleep at this time. Henderson hit and several enemy. Kerr’s platoon got clear away and are home.

[Captain Leah was taken prisoner by the Germans]

Taken to H.Q. either of Bde or Division. Asked if we told troops that Germans shot all English and French prisoners. Pr. civilians. Given a plate of noodle which I badly needed. Searched by probably Intelligence Officer and left with equipment. Raining hard all afternoon and spent unpleasant hour on motor bike before getting into truck, soaked to the skin and troops not much better. Travelled back along column to Reception Camp.

[space] police – given bread and three bars of chocolate amongst us. Three Royal Scots and several French here. Buchanan threw a fit. Embussed again and taken on to Bethune. Still soaked but fire of sorts going and got dry by following morning. Extremely hungry this evening and went to sleep at 8 p.m.

Here separated from troops but still in same camp.

[added note] Turner and Nicholson hit on 27th in field outside La Bassee. Henderson hit Laventie.

28th. 8 miles [marching].

[Entry No.19, for the first entry see 10th May 1940]

See TNA WO 217/15

At present we have little more information about Captain R. Leah whose short diary was deposited with the War Office sometime after the war.

- See more at: http://ww2today.com/captain-leah-is-captured-near-la-bassee?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+WorldWarIIToday+(World+War+II+Today*+)#sthash.4aUGAyMR.dpuf

Edited by Hugh

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Captain Ronald William Leah's army number was 66177, his Prisoner of war number was 311, He was held at Oflag 1V-C Colditz, Saxony, Mentioned in dispatches 1st November, 1945, ( Escape and Evasion and Special Operations) Leah arrived at the castle on 2/6/43 and did not successfully escape so possibly his MiD was for evasion on capture? or maintaining contact with the SOE during capture?.....

 Capt. R. W. LEAH (66177) h.p. list (late Camerons) retires on retired pay on account of disability, 8th Feb. 1947.

 

Edited by dante

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