84th Anniversary Battles of Ficheux & Mercatel
84th Anniversary of the Battles of Ficheux and Mercatel 20th May 1940 Northern France

On the 20th of May we mark the disastrous engagement near Arras in Northern France in 1940 when the three Battalions of the 70th Infantry Brigade the 10th and 11th Durham Light Infantry and the 1st Tyneside Scottish the Black Watch (formerly the 12th Durham Light Infantry) were ambushed by several German armoured columns.

The Panzers struck unexpectedly while the Battalions, minimally equipped and under-trained, with no Artillery or Signals support, were in the course of moving between defensive locations in accordance with orders from Higher Command.

Essentially these 2500 men were sacrificed, with the vast majority killed or wounded and captured spending the next five years as Prisoners of War - or hastily buried by local French civilians, for later recovery and interment in Cemeteries such as Bucquoy Road, near Beaurains.

Only a few hundred escaped via Dunkirk, having delayed the German advance for some five hours, to reform the Brigade at Launceston with many new recruits.

They moved on, from defending the coast of South Devon in Summer and Autumn 1940, to garrison the rugged fastness of Iceland until Christmas 1941 and eventually returned to Western Europe to deal a critical blow to Panzer forces on the left flank of the Allied advance at Rauray in July 1944 described in detail in the War Diaries set out on the Website at under the List of Units. The price they paid was always high and will never be forgotten the local War Memorials scattered throughout the North East pay testimony to that sacrifice.

Did you have a relative who served in the Unit? Search the database of names at and let us know of any more information you have on him contact

We would be very pleased to hear from you.