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2nd Lt Raymond Cyril Le Tissier (3920)
He was a member of EC from 1929 to 1935
Recently, a fellow amateur historian interviewed a grandchild of the elderly man shot by British soldiers in Bertem. As I suspected, the people of Bertem were ordered to leave the village. I assume the order was given by the Belgian police. The old man, his wife and son fled to the nearby village of Meerbeek. Being halfway, the old man decided to return on his steps and returned to Bertem to look after his animals.
Shortly afterwards, he was arrested together with two fellow villagers who had stayed behind. The three were loaded onto a truck and interrogated by the British.
The old man being confronted with soldiers speaking a different language tried his utmost best to explain himself. Remembering WWI he began explaining himself in broken German – after all, didn’t the British fight the Germans before.
The majority in Belgium speaks Flemish. Bertem is situated in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium. A lot of Flemish words have the same meaning in German. I guess the old man wasn’t able to explain himself in French and thus might have thought why not try German.
This made him even more suspicious. The two fellow villagers were released. The old man was shot.
It looks like there wasn’t any Belgian Policeman, or Belgian Liason Officer present to explain the British why the old man did his best trying to speak German. In short, a tragic misunderstanding which led to the death of an innocent civilian.
The people of Bertem were forced to leave their homes on the 14th of May 1940 as Bertem was to become Battle Zone. Rumour has it that the old man refused to leave his house and consequently was shot.
People living in the villages along the river Dyle Line
were forced to evacuate their homes and villages.
On the back of their passport they received a stamp that read “verplichte weggevoerde” (deportee by force). Some of these villagers fled to family in the nearby village, and naively returned the next day to their home and farm on bicycle worrying about the milkcows not being milked as it was the case with the parents of a man I know.
This man’s parents returned to their farm situated in the village of Korbeek-Dijle (Corbeek-Dyle) near Leuven (Louvain) which was held by the 2nd Bn. North Staffs. Their sole intend was to milk the cows. Once they entered the village of Korbeek-Dijle, his parents were dragged against a wall by soldiers of the 2nd Bn. North Staffs. The soldiers reacted nervously and his parents were considered to be fifth columnists and threatened to be shot as spies.
Luckily, Liaison Officer 2nd Lt. R. C. Le Tissier recognized the man’s parents, as he had met them a day or so before at their farm. Lt. Le Tissier saw what was happening and intervened. He told the soldiers that they were mistaken and managed to persuade the soldiers to convey the man’s parents back from where they came. So his parents together with their bicycles were put onto an army vehicle and transported in the direction from where they came.
Unfortunately Lt. R. C. Le Tissier was killed as a result of enemy artillery or mortar shelling on the 16th of May 1940. His final resting place is the Korbeek-Dijle churchyard.
2 North Staff’s diary may explain why the soldiers were on edge. The entry for the 15th May shows two officers being blown up by a booby trap in a house alleged to have been placed there by civilians. I’ve also added the details of Lt Le Tissiers death with the location of his original burial.
On the 13th of May 1940, 9th Infantry Brigade HQs set up its offices in an empty house at Oude Baan 822569. The old man who initially had fled but decided to return to his home lived at Oude Baan and was executed at Oude Baan. So I suppose 9th Infantry Brigade HQs had something to do with the man’s death.
The following is mentioned in the War Diary with reference to the enforced evacuation of the civilian population on the 15th of May 1940 (the day the elderly man was executed), and with reference to a Belgian soldier loitering around:
“Oude Baan, 15 May 1940, 0720 hrs: Message received from 3 DIV HQs A. stating that all civilians will be compulsory evacuated from the following area by 2359 hrs tonight. local commanders will issue the order to civilians in their area and see that it is enforced. Area – all incl. – HERENT 8461 VELTHEM-BEYSSEM 8160 – SCHOONAERDE 7859 ACHTER-DEN-BERG. 7557 BERTHEM 8156 front line”.
“Oude Baan, 15 May 1940, 1600 hrs: Belgian soldier found loitering in nearby fields brought in for questioning by B.I.O. sent on to 3 DIV after receiving ???? orders from 3 DIV by phone”.
The elderly man, he too was interrogated, and I suspect this was done by the same Brigade Intelligence Officer who had interrogated the Belgian soldier. The elderly man was’nt sent to 3 DIV but shot and buried in the direct vicinity of 9th I B HQs at Oude Baan.
On page 8 of Appendix I named: Lectures by Brigadier W. Robb DSC. MC., Operations in Belgium, May 1940, 9th Infantry Brigade the following can be found under the tittle Rumours:
“5. Fifth Column. Nuisance value as everyone suspect in back area. Time waster if nothing else. Little good sending suspect to Bde. or Div. unless you can send real evidence too. Arrows in grass”.
From the War Diary of Intelligence Summary of 2nd Battalion Staffordshire Regt:
May 13th. The morning was spent in digging in – 6 Gordons were on our right and 1K.O.S B’s on our left. No contact was made with the enemy, part of the Dyle (River Dyle) had been flooded. The Bridge and causeway at Cobeek Dyle were prepared for demolition at both ends. The Carrier Bn under Lt Scoffings held an outpost position on the enemy side of the Dyle and a Pl of ‘A’ under Lt Wright held a bridge head on the enemy side of the causeway.13/18 H were in touch with the enemy some miles east of the R. Dyle.
May 14th. During the morning there was great enemy air activity, the Bn was bombed and machine gunned but there were no casualties. Bn HQ was established in a sunken lane about 300 yd from the front line, this being the only place available owing to the country being so bare. The whole of the Bn position was overlooked by the enemy from the wooded slope on their side of the river. The 13/18 H were due to withdraw over the river at 1800 but owing to enemy pressure they commenced to pass through at 1330 and were clear with the exception of two banks by 1430. These two tanks wirelessed to say they were coming, the blowing up of the bridge was therefore held up for one hour after which period the 13/18 comdr stated that it should not be delayed any longer and the demolition was finally carried out at 1530. Enemy patrols were later observed. The night passed quietly.
May 16th. In the early morning heavy gunfire was heard on the Bde’s right – hardly ant enemy activity was seen on the Bn front up to 1200. The Colonel and Capt Sweetman Comdg ‘A’ Coy whilst carrying out a recce entered a house and were blown up by a booby trap, severely wounding in the neck, this booby trap must have been set by one of the civilians, several of whom still remained at the village. At about 1400 ‘D’ Coy was ranged on by enemy Artry and 6” mortars and a small concentration put down – the ranging gradually switched to Bn HQ and a small concentration was put down on it. At the time an enemy cyclist patrol arrived at the end of the causeway and an Officer and one man tried to cross and were shot by the bridge head Pl of ‘A’ Coy. A quiet night from 1700 to 2030 then followed. A very heavy barrage was put down on Bn HQ ’B’ and ‘D’ Coys at about 2045 and also on the village of Cobeek Dyle – this lasted until 2130 when there was a further lull and all alarm posts were able to be manned. Heavy small arms fire broke out along the whole Bde front and a further barrage came down at 2145 and lasted till 2330 – about the time Lt Wright and L/C Davenport brought in the German Officer who had been wounded on the causeway, the other man being dead.
May 16th. Stand-to at 0345 was unnaturally quiet – nothing happened till about 0800 when the enemy Arty again opened on Bn HQ – this fire had the lane completely enfiladed (direct a volley of gunfire along the length of target) – spasmodic firing continued till 1145. 2/Lt R C Le Tissier was killed and four men of Bn HQ wounded (2/Lt Le Tissier was later buried in an orchard at the road and track junc. At 820534). At 1200 the Colonel moved Bn HQ into the village of Cobeek Dyle. Arty fir was still being put down in ‘D’ and ‘B’ Coys. At 1400 the Colonel was sent for to Bde. From 1430 to 1600 a very heavy concentration was put down where Bn HQ had been, the whole of the lane and equipment in it was blown to pieces. At 1900 the Colonel returned and gave out orders for a withdrawal to the line of rd east of Brussels from exvl rd junc 709519 to rd junc 714536. The withdrawal commenced at 2130 and was carried out without casualties but under considerable Arty fire. ‘B’ Ech during the previous 4 days had been dispersed in wood east of Tervueren 7252. Rear parties from the 3 fwd Coys had to hold the river line until 2200.
May 17th. The Bn arrived at the end of the withdrawal at about 0200 and occupied the line of road from excl rd junc 706519 to rd junc 7`4536 which was to be held until 0800 when a further withdrawal was to be carried out through Brussels to Zobbeek 5451. This withdrawal commenced at 0900 and the Bn marched 14 miles through Brussels arriving at Zobbeek at 1600, where a hot meal was issued. At 1700 orders were received for a further withdrawal. At 2200 a conference was held and the Colonel gave out orders for the withdrawal to Eyseringhem 4754. The withdrawal commenced at 2300.
May 18th. The Bn arrived at Eyseringhem 4754 at about 0400 and occupied the line of the road from incl rd junc 467531 to excl X rds 473546 – this line was to be held till 0800. At 0645 a conference was held and the Colonel gave orders for a further withdrawal to Lust 3452. The withdrawal was commenced at 0800, the Bn moving down the main rd to Ninove as far as rd and track junc 403542, thence by the track south-west to Lust where the Bn arrived at about 1500 and occupied the line of the river Dendre with a company on each side of the rd from Santbergen 3451 to Lust 3452 with FDL’s on the line of the river. Defensive positions were occupied by 1730 and hot meal issued. At about 2300 the Colonel and Adjt were sent for to Bde HQ at Voorde 3354 where the Brigadier gave out orders for a further withdrawal – the general idea was that the Bn should withdraw its main force from the river line and move to an assembly area in the village of Voode the main party being covered during its withdrawal by a rear party of an officer and 1 sec per fwd coy remaining on the river line.
P/O John William Lecky (3863)
Pilots of 85 Squadron RAF pause for a photograph between sorties at Lille-Seclin at 9am on 10th May 1940, the first day of the German invasion of France. They had been intercepting German formations since 4.15am and were to continue to do so until 9pm that evening, claiming a total of seventeen enemy aircraft destroyed for the loss of four Hurricanes.
Back row L to R: F/Lt. JRM Boothby, F/O TG Pace, S/Ldr. JOW Oliver (CO), P/O JH Ashton, P/O JW Lecky, F/O SP Stephenson, Sgt. G Allard, Sgt. LA Crozier, WO Newton
Front row L to R: F/O KH Blair, Sgt. J McG Little.
Cambridge Daily News – Friday 10 February 1939
DEBDEN COURT MARTIAL
Pilot-Officer’s Alleged Low Flying
Allegations that he carried out stunts over the home of his mother—Mary Clare, the actress —were denied at a Debden court martial yesterday by 19-years-old Pilot-Officer David Mawhood.
Before the court was Pilot-Officer John William Lecky, who was accused of flying low at Storrington, Sussex, on September 12th, in a manner likely to cause annoyance.
Lecky also denied that he was piloting the plane at the time.
Mr. Romney Towndrow, an artist, said he thought the machine was going to hit the roof of his house.
Commander Moore, R.N., said that after doing a number of turns at about 500 feet the plane made a series of dives over cottages in Fir Tree-lane, West Chillington, where one of the occupants waved.
NOT LOWER THAN 1,000 FEET.
Pilot-Officer Mawhood, giving evidence, said that on the return journey the pilot was Lecky. He did not think the machine came down lower than 1,000 feet over Storrington. After picking out his mother’s house he waved to someone on the lawn.
Mawhood admitted that Lecky and he had arranged to fly over his mother’s house although he knew she would not be there.
The decision of the court will be promulgated.
Birmingham Mail – Wednesday 22 February 1939
PILOT OFFICER SEVERELY REPRIMANDED
LOW FLYING SEQUEL
It is announced to-day that by sentence of the court-martial held Debden R.A.F. Station on February 9, Pilot Officer John William Lecky is to be severely reprimanded and that his seniority is to count as from the date of the court-martial.
Pilot-Officer Lecky, who is 19, was accused at the court-martial of low flying at Storrington, Sussex, on September 12, in a manner likely to cause annoyance. On that occasion he went up in an R.A.F. machine with Pilot-Officer David George Mawhood, son of Mary Clare, the actress, and it was alleged that low flying took place over her Sussex home.
Worthing Gazette – Wednesday 01 March 1939
PILOT SEVERELY REPRIMANDED FOR LOW FLYING AT STORRINGTON.
Accused of low flying in a manner likely to cause annoyance, at Storrington on September 12th last, Pilot Officer John William Lecky, of No. 85 (Fighter) Squadron of the Royal Air Force, stationed at Debden, Essex, has been sentenced by court-martial to be severely reprimanded and to have his seniority count as from the date of the court-martial, February 9th.
Pilot-officer Lecky is 19, and his seniority dated from July 9th, 1938.
His companion on the flight was Pilot-Officer D. V. G. Mawhood, son of Mary Clare, the actress, and it was alleged that the offence was committed in the neighbourhood of her house at Storrington.
Sadly, there is a CWGC entry for Pilot Officer John
William Lecky, of No. 85 Squadron. He died on the 18th May 1940.
The RAF Commands Forum shows that he was killed in France in a car crash:
40308 P/O LECKY, John W Pilot 85 sqn FR Killed in a motor accident returning to his unit after a spell of leave; F/Lt J.R.M. Boothby injured in same accident.
This was on the run up to what became known as the Dunkirk evacuation.
He is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery which is in the Pas de Calais.
LECKY, JOHN WILLIAM
Service Number 40308
85 Sqdn. Royal Air Force
Son of William and Jessie Muriel Lecky, of L’Ancresse, Guernsey, Channel Islands.
Buried at ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY – Pas de Calais, France