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Banffshire area honours St Valery soldiers

By Kyle Ritchie

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Tributes have been paid to those who fought in the World War II battle at Saint-Valery-en-Caux on its 80th anniversary.

The conflict in northern France in the aftermath of the evacuation from Dunkirk mainly involved the 51st Highland Division and resulted in the deaths of 1000 men, at least 4000 soldiers were wounded and 10,000 were taken prisoner.

On Friday at 10am piping tributes across Scotland and further afield were held to mark the event and at Macduff war memorial the Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire Andrew Simpson led a two-minute silence with piper Melissa Philip, a former Banff Academy pupil and member of Banff Castle Pipe Band.

She was joined by grandfather Rab Philip and James MacGillivray, both members of the Royal British Legion and former Gordon Highlanders, and Troup councillor Mark Findlater.

A commemorative ceremony was held at Macduff war memorial to mark the 80th anniversary of the battle.
A commemorative ceremony was held at Macduff war memorial to mark the 80th anniversary of the battle.

Mr Simpson said: “The courage and bravery of the troops of the 51st Highland Division stands out in the history of World War II.

“Since Friday morning I have heard from several descendants of soldiers from this area who were captured at St Valery-en-Caux and learnt more about their remarkable fortitude both in the battle and afterwards as prisoners of war.

“They deserve our enduring respect and we must always remember them and others who sacrificed so much.”

The soldiers had continued the fight on the continent in support of the French after the Dunkirk evacuation had been completed.

However, it proved impossible at St Valery to evacuate the troops due to fog and heavy German artillery on the cliffs above the beach.

As a result, the British were forced to surrender to German forces at 10am on June 12, 1940.

They included men of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, the Black Watch, the Gordon Highlanders, the Seaforth Highlanders, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Artillery and other troops.

Five years later, marching to the sound of the pipes, the reformed Highland Division reentered St Valery-en-Caux as liberators.

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