The Battles of Ficheux and Mercatel 1940
On 20th May we mark the 79th Anniversary of the Battles of Ficheux and Mercatel in Northern France in 1940. The 70th Infantry Brigade - in transit between locations and scattered over local villages and minor roads - was ambushed, unexpectedly, by no fewer than three Panzer columns - one of which was commanded by Rommel. The Brigade was only lightly equipped, with no Signals or Artillery, and only small-arms with which to defend itself.

Despite the major disparity in equipment, the three Battalions delayed the German advance for an estimated five hours - according to enemy sources - a time factor which was invaluable in assisting the retreat towards Dunkirk.

The price in casualties, killed, wounded and captured, was extremely high - the Tyneside Scottish in particular suffering some 134 men killed in the engagement and around 450 men taken prisoner - many with wounds sustained in action. Heavy casualties were also inflicted on the other Battalions - 10th and 11th DLI. The story is set out in the War Diaries of the Brigade, and the three Battalions, as well as that of 23rd Division - all of which can be found on the NEWMP Website.