CAPTAIN MICHAEL VALENTINE PAUL FLEMING
Service Number: 68350
Regiment & Unit/Ship: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, 4th Bn.
Son of Maj. Valentine Fleming, D.S.O., Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars (killed in action in France 20th May, 1917), M.P. for South Oxfordshire 1910-1917, and Evelyn B. Fleming; husband of Letitia Fleming, of Nettlebed, Oxfordshire.
He served with the 4th (TA) Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment (Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry) which in 1940 delayed the German advance on Dunkirk allowing others to return to England.
Michael Fleming was Adjutant of the local Territorial Army battalion. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he raised a whole platoon for the Battalion from workers on the Fleming’s Nettlebed estate and the local Henley district, who fought beside him. In 1940 the Battalion formed part of the British Expeditionary Force supporting the French army in an attempt to stem the tide of the German Army sweeping westwards across Belgium into France.
During the retreat and evacuation from Dunkirk the 4th Oxf and Bucks LI, 2nd Glosters and 1st Bucks were ordered to defend the perimeter of the Dunkirk area in the towns of Hazebrouck and Cassel whilst troops were embarked on hastily assembled naval, merchant and private craft.
The 4th Oxf & Bucks LI and 2nd Glosters set up defences in the ancient hill top town of Cassel 20 miles from Dunkirk. They withstood fierce German bombardment for three days. The Territorials acquitted themselves bravely with Captain Fleming, although seriously wounded, courageously riding his motor bike around the defensive positions to lift the spirits of his men, now very tired and hungry. Michael Fleming was mentioned in despatches on three occasions. On the fourth day, the Battalions were ordered to head for the beaches- “every man for himself”.
Many of the wounded including Michael were unable to make the journey and were captured, spending the rest of the war in POW camps. Michael died from his wounds in a hospital in Lille in October where he is buried.