The sacrifice of thousands of Highland soldiers, who surrendered to overwhelming German forces in 1940 at St Valery on the Channel coast, has been remembered by MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.
12th June 2020 will be the 80th Anniversary of the 51st Highland Division’s surrender at St Valery and the occasion will be marked by pipers and other musicians joining up to play The Heroes of St Valery, a piping tune composed by a veteran of the battle.
Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron, who proposed a motion to the Scottish Parliament highlighting the commemoration, said that St Valery was, in some respects, the “forgotten Dunkirk”.
“Hundreds of pipers across Scotland and indeed the world will join together on Friday to remember events at St Valery in 1940. Unlike at Dunkirk a few days earlier, it proved impossible at St Valery to evacuate the troops due to the weather and the proximity of German artillery."
“As a result, thousands of soldiers, who had spent weeks fighting gallantly, went on to spend years as prisoners-of-war."
“Winston Churchill called it a ‘most brutal disaster’, and the loss of so many of our young fighting men was felt keenly across the Highlands and Islands, with very few communities left untouched. Five years later, the reformed Highland Division re-entered St Valery as liberators, appropriately to the sound of the pipes."
“It’s surely equally appropriate on Friday that we commemorate this anniversary with a tune composed by Donald Maclean, a piper with the 51st Highland Division, who was himself captured at St Valery and spent years in captivity.”
Donald Cameron’s motion to the Scottish Parliament is: Remembering Saint-Valery-en-Caux
That the Parliament acknowledges that 12 June 2020 will be the 80th Anniversary of the 51st Highland Division’s surrender at St Valery in 1940; remembers the sacrifice of the soldiers of that Division, many of whom died or spent years as prisoners of war; recalls that the soldiers involved were forced to surrender to German forces at 10am on 12 June 1940 and included men of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, the Black Watch, the Gordon Highlanders, the Seaforth Highlanders, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, RAMC, RASC, RA and other supporting and attached troops from other parts of the UK, and supports the calls made by the Legion Scotland, Poppy Scotland and the Royal Caledonian Education Trust for pipers and other musicians to play The Heroes of St Valery at 10am on 12 June in recognition of the sacrifice made by those who died.