48 Hours in Boulogne: Part 1

While all was going wrong for the Allies in France in 1940, the desperate defence of one port was the concern of the 20th Guards Brigade and a group of aging destroyers. In part one of this special feature, Lt-Cmdr Frank Donald RN (ret) and Capt John Rodgaard USN (ret) detail the defiant 48-hour defence.


British troops disembark from Mona’s Queen at Boulogne on 22 May 1940. Taken by Lt Peter Kershaw RNVR from Venomous. (ALL IMAGES VIA AUTHOR UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE)

When Frank Donald was growing up, the 1943 book HMS Wideawake was the equivalent of the family bible. It’s the semi-fictional story of a destroyer from November 1939 to the end of July 1940, and vividly describes the real-life battle in Boulogne harbour between eight destroyers, including the Wideawake, and German panzers. Wideawake’s task was to rescue a brigade that had been landed to defend the port.

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