Breakout from Cassel, 29th May 1940

As Harry writes Major Cartland made a speech in which he explained our position and said the Brigade would leave Cassel on foot and attempt to reach our lines. No mention was made that the evacuation was already taking place at Dunkirk. He also said it was an "every man for himself" situation and any man who wished to make his own way was free to do so. All elected to follow the Major and armed with rifles, Brens and Mills bombs we set off through the burning town of Cassel.

John West, who's father was an infantryman at Cassel and was also captured, has created a website to commemorate his father and his regiment 140th Field Rgt. RA. for the 80th anniversary of his captivity. He has made an extensive study of events and made contact with a number of descendants including the grandchildren of Brigadier Nigel Somerset as well as children and grandchildren of other ranks that served there. He has visited the area more than once and together with others and particularly local historian Jan Daschot have traced the likely route of the breakout from Cassel, up to the point of capture and the deaths of Major Cartland and Mt Hutton-Squire. This is documented here on his website but with his permission I have extracted the following:

Sketch map from East Yorkshire Yeomanry’s War Diary showing the intended escape route from Cassel toward the Dunkirk beaches:

But at some point when travelling North East they encountered enemy forces so veered east to Watou and 2km beyond. Jan Daschot has estimated the column's track from Watou shown as an orange line, shown on the satellite map below:

Using local Flemish wartime records, Jan Daschot has localised the site of the final action to the crossroads between the Douvieweg and Stoppleweg roads - the red and white rectangle, and Major Cartland's initial burial place at the red and white circle:

The above and John's and Jan's photos of the immediate area show fields, gates and deep ditches that could well have been used as Harry described. Cartland's view when approaching the crossroads:

The view from the crossroads towards Cartland's approaching column:

A typical ditch in the area, this just north of Watou opposite a temporary burial site:

The temporary burial ground, Watou, about 250m north on Houtkerkestraat. A plot of land that was purchased by the Mayor of Watou in 1940 for the town’s military and civilian casualties and which has been left sacrosanct since: