Second World War 1939-1945

The fourth set of battle honours concern the Second World War. At the outbreak of which on September 3rd 1939, both regiments were equipped with the Mark VI Light Tank but neither formed part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) sent to France. When the Germans swept across Belgium and France in May 1940 the Bays were sent in haste to Cherbourg. By this time the enemy had reached the Channel Ports and attempts by the Bays to break through to the BEF in Belgium failed. Eventually after some heavy fighting the Bays reached Brest and were evacuated from France to England where they were refitted. For their actions with the BEF, the Bays were awarded the battle honour France 1940.

KDG Marmon- Herrington armoured cars – siege of Tobruk November 1941

The KDG meanwhile were posted to the Western Desert in North Africa and were re-roled as a reconnaissance regiment equipped with South African built Marmon-Herrington armoured cars. They arrived in the Western Desert in time to take part in the last battle of Wavell’s campaign at Beda Fomm. The KDG were the first to come into contact with the German Afrika Korps under Rommel and took part in the Siege of Tobruk. They were engaged in all the major desert battles including the Relief of Tobruk, Gazala, Bir Hacheim, the Defence of the Alamein Line, Alam Halfa, and then the Advance to Tripoli, the Tebega Gap, El Hamma, Wadi Akarit and the final push to Tunis. The Bays arrived in the Middle East in November 1941, equipped initially with the 2 pounder Crusader Tank. They fought at the Cauldron and Knightsbridge during the battle of Gazala, and were continuously in action for 19 days. They went on to take part in the battle of El Alamein, the Tebaga Gap, El Hamma, the Mareth Line and the advance on Tunis. The two regiments then moved across the Mediterranean to take part in the Allied invasion of Italy.

The KDG landed at Salerno in September 1943 and were the first to enter Naples. They fought on the River Volturno, at the battle of Monte Camino and at the crossing of the River Garigliano During the advance up Italy during 1944 they took part in the capture of Perugia and Arezzo; moved through Florence and fought at the Gothic Line. Whilst in the Po Valley in December 1944, they were ordered to Greece to combat the communists’ attempt to take over the country. The Bays arrived in Italy in May 1944 and were first engaged in the battle of the Gothic Line. They then fought in the battle of the Coriano Ridge where they lost all but three of their tanks in B and C Squadrons.

They suffered 98 casualties in a matter of minutes when they were sent against a screen of German anti-tank guns including 88mms. The Bays also fought: in the Po Valley, at the Crossing of the River Lamone, at Rimini and at Cesena. Towards the end of the Italian campaign the Bays helped force the Argenta Gap and found themselves at Ferrara when the Germans Surrendered.

Lieutenant Colonel Draffen commands the Queen’s Bays from a deck chair at the Battle of Gazala 1942