Wormhoudt, May 1940

About the time Harry was captured at Cassel the SS rounded up 80 Allied soldiers and herded them into a barn a short distance away at Wormhoudt (although the site is accessed from Esquelbecq). They threw a number a stick-grenades into the barn which caused many deaths and terrible injuries, the survivors of that being brought out five at a time and shot one by one. Amazingly 15 survived, including Bert Evans who had been brought out and shot after being injured by a grenade. The survivors were found in a very poor state by the Wermacht, treated, then incarcerated in prison camp. Some, including Bert, were repatriated before the end of the war because of their injuries. SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Mohnke was believed to be the perpetrator but was never brought to trial. The case was reopened in 1988 but a German prosecutor came to the conclusion that their was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

There are several memorials in the area, including 'The Sacred Tree' which stands near the site of the old barn on the Rue des Dunkirk Veterans, which is off the D17 as you exit Esquelbecq towards Wormhoudt.

As you can see, the paths on the site form a 'cross of sacrifice', with the mound at its centre.

Thanks to David Dunn for telling me about this, and to Mike Scott for supplying the following two pictures and the text of the BBC Midlands Today item:

The 'Sacred' Tree, adorned with poppies, nailed wooden crosses, barbed wire, wreaths and coats of arms.

Memorial about 1.5km from the massacre site.

Survivor Bert Evans, who had an arm shattered by a stick grenade but survived that and being brought out of the barn and shot, was still battling in 2000:

Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
War veteran refused operation
A World War II veteran who was denied a cataract operation by the NHS has had to have the operation carried out in private. Bert Evans, who only has sight in one eye, feared that the delay in his operation would result in the loss of his independence. The Warwickshire Regiment Benevolent Fund came to his rescue and paid for the operation to be carried out privately.

The 80-year-old, who is originally from Birmingham, first went to see a consultant about at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch in January 2000. He returned to the hospital in April this year, but was turned down for the operation.

Mr Evans, who survived a massacre by the SS in a French field in 1940 which resulted in the loss of his arm, said he had been "upset" when he was refused the cataract operation. He told the BBC's Midlands Today programme: "It made me a bit upset but what can you do?"

A spokesperson for the Alexandra Hospital said that for clinical reasons, the operation had not been worth the risk.

Bert passed away in October 2013, his obituary from the Birmingham Mail.

More pictures from Mike Scott of the memorial, sacred tree and barn. The barn is a modern reconstruction containing the plaque accusing Wilhelm Monhke:

Video of the site commencing with the entrance off the Rue des Dunkirk Veterans, Esquelbecq, and the nearby military cemetary on the Rue du Souvenir off the D17 on the west side of Esquelbecq

Links:
An account from 'The Worcestershire Regiment'
Another from 'Dunkirk 1940'
The personal experience of Brian Fahy, for many years arranger and conductor for Shirley Bassey
An account of many Waffen SS atrocities including Wormhoudt
SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Mohnke from 'Canadian Soldiers'
Questions still being asked in the UK Commons in 1998/99 and 1990/91