Leadgate Community History Club


The Fall of the Low Countries and France & Evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk

The end of the Phoney War

World War 2 in Europe was slow to start, since Britain and France declared war on Germany on the 3rd September 1939 there was little fighting action until the German invasion of France and the Low Countries on 10th May 1940. Coincidently the 10th May was the day that Winston Churchill became Prime Minister.

Despite the preparation of defences over the Winter of 1939 the German Blitzkrieg  (Lightning War) quickly broke though the allied line and advanced deep into France, almost cutting off the British forces in Northern France. On the 23rd May the German Forces halted, one of the drawbacks of Blitzkrieg was out-running the supply chain. This halt meant that the Channel port of Dunkirk was still available to the allies and Operation Dynamo  was launched and between the 26th May and the 4th June 1940 around 338,226 soldiers were rescued. This later became known as "The Miracle of Dunkirk" and on the 4th June, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his now famous "We Shall Fight them on the Beaches"  speech to the Nation.

The Miracle of Dunkirk

The Battle of Britain

The "Battle of Britain" , 10 July until 31 October 1940, followed on quickly after Dunkirk. The German forces attempted to knock Britain out of the war using their  Air Force (Luftwaffe)They hoped to knock out the Royal Air Force and thereby destroy the British Air Defences. Despite heavy losses the RAF inflicted a significant blow to the Luftwaffe who lost many aircraft and crew. Far from knocking Britain out of the war, the battle stiffened British morale and lead to another of Churchill's famous rallying speeches "" Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few",

War Time Poster

The Blitz

Towards the end of the Battle of Britain the German Airforce began to bomb British cities and infrastructure in what became known as "The Blitz"  7th September 1940 to 11th May 1941.

Heinkel He 111 bomber over the Surrey Commercial Docks in South London and Wapping and the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London on 7 September 1940.

Having lost the battle of Britain in which the Germans had hoped to gain daylight Air Superiority the Luftwaffe had to switch to night bombing from October 1940 to minimise their losses.

Despite the destruction and loss of life once again, instead of weakening the will of the British people the Blitz brought about a resolve to see the country prevail despite the seemingly desperate position they were in.

Children in London's East End during the Blitz

East African Campaign

The East African campaign  June 1940 to November 1941 was fought between the British and colonial troops against Mussolini's Italian Army. The East African campaign was the first Allied strategic victory in the war, which ended with the Battle of Gondar  13–27 November 1941.

One Leadgate man, Thomas Craig was killed during this campaign, his entry is on the 1941 database.

Interactive Database of Leadgate Fallen 1940

Corporal Wilfred Curtis MID aged 33. Son of William Curtiss and Elizabeth Dixon of Leadgate Co Durham. 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry  Died during a German counterattack near the village of La Tombe (Tomme),  about 15 miles south east of Brussels on 15th May 1940. Buried Leopoldsburg War Cemetery  Belgium. Leadgate Remembers.

Private Joseph Armstrong aged 23, son of Joseph and Jane Armstrong of Tees Grove Leadgate. 2nd  Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died on the 28th May 1940 defending the line to Dunkirk. Buried  St. Pol War Cemetery.  Leadgate Remembers.

Corporal Sidney Vine aged 30, son of Joseph and Barbara Vine of Plantation Street Leadgate. 2 G.H.Q. Coy  Royal Army Service Corps Sydney was last seen on 29th May 1940 and was categorised as missing presumed dead. Commemorated Dunkirk Memorial.   Leadgate Remembers.

Private Joseph Anthony Holland aged 30, son of Patrick and Margaret Holland of 54 Plantation Street Leadgate.  9th battalion Durham Light Infantry Died on 30th May 1940 as his Unit reached the outskirts of Dunkirk attempting to escape from the beach. Buried  Bulskamp Cemetery Leadgate Remembers.

Private Thomas Turnbull Temple aged 24, son of George and Annie Temple of 335 South Cross Street Leadgate. No. 2 Field Bakery Royal Army Service Corps . Died when the Luftwaffe sunk the  HMT Lancastria at St Nazaire,17th June 1940. Buried Pornic War Cemetery.   Leadgate Remembers.

Aircraftman 2nd Class Joseph Dukes  aged 23, son of Robert and Elizabeth Ellen Dukes of 28 New Tin Street Leadgate.  Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Died 2nd October 1940 in The RVI in Newcastle having become ill serving with the RAF. Buried Leadgate St. Ives Churchyard.   Leadgate Remembers.

Leadgate Remembers World War 2

Leadgate Remembers World War 2  is a Facebook Project compiled by Andy Plant. We have worked closely with Andy on all the Leadgate Remembers projects and he has done a magnificent job of researching the fallen of Leadgate in both world wars. His World War 2 project was designed to use a one year calendar view of the fallen on the date they died, regardless of which year.

Acknowledgements & Sources

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Leadgate Remembers WW2 - Andy Plant

Copyright Notice

Leadgate Community History Club do not claim any copyright over the any of the photographs on this page. The photographs are all either Public Domain or licenced as Free to Use and Share on the internet. All are referenced here for educational purposes only.