Faughs; first contact with the Germans

Event
Saturday, 18 May, 1940

As the French Maginot Line did not extend along the Belgian border, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was deployed on this vulnerable left flank. On 4 May 1940, the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers (1st Faughs) moved to Amiens to become part of 25 Infantry Brigade which then moved on 17 May into reserve across the Belgian border. The British and French had advanced forward to the River Dyle (in Belgium) following the German invasion of the Low Countries.

During the 1st Faugh's move forward, refugees crowded the routes and plans were changing as information concerning the enemy was 'hazy'. A general withdrawal was obvious from the volume of echelon vehicles moving west on the night of 17/18 May. The Fighting Echelon groups also started to withdraw through the Battalion's positions along a Belgian anti-tank obstacle. As a rearguard armour element withdrew, declaring they had just broken contact with the Germans, the Faughs caught sight of forward German infantry and motor-cycle detachments. The Battalion, on the afternoon of 18 May, was ordered to withdraw to new positions west of the River Dendre. As the Faughs concentrated in a large orchard to the rear, some eight or more Luftwaffe aircraft shot down an observation Lysander and then proceeded to strafe the area. This was an invitation to the Faughs to return ground fire, which they did with enthusiasm.

The action involving contact with the Germans along the front of withdrawal from the River Dyle on the 18/19 May 1940 was recognized by the award to The Royal Irish Fusiliers of the Battle Honour WITHDRAWAL TO ESCAUT but was not selected to be emblazoned on the Queen's Colours. It is therefore not carried on the Queen's Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.