His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, will join commemorations for the 80th anniversary of St Valéry tomorrow.
His Royal Highness, who is known as The Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, will take the salute from a piper at Birkhall to mark the anniversary. In a message of support for the commemorations, His Royal Highness said: “On 12th June 1940, after a gallant stand, the 51st Highland Division with supporting arms and services, including elements from English regiments, was forced to surrender to the German army at St Valéry-en-Caux on the Normandy coast of France.
“At 10am, on this year’s 80th anniversary, pipers throughout Scotland and further afield will be on their doorsteps playing the celebrated march, the Heroes of St Valéry, in honour of the fallen and to remember a battle in which those of the Division displayed the greatest courage and tenacity.”
The Duke of Rothesay added: “I warmly encourage all pipers, whether skilled or learning, to take part in this moving tribute to one of the United Kingdom’s most legendary fighting formations. We remember all who served and who sacrificed so much.”
The piping performance at Birkhall will be echoed all over Scotland and throughout the world, with more than 450 pipers taking part in tomorrow’s poignant occasion. It is thought the level of participants is a record for the greatest number of pipers playing simultaneously. Pipers from as far afield as Peru and Kathmandu will be performing the Heroes of St Valéry, which was composed by Donald MacLean after his capture at St Valéry in June 1940, and the subsequent four years he endured as a prisoner of war.
The events have been developed by three leading Scottish Armed Forces charities: Poppyscotland; Legion Scotland; and RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity. As well as streaming a live broadcast featuring pipers across the world performing at 10am, there will also be a virtual classroom lesson for school children broadcast at 11am. At 3pm there will be an online screening of the critically acclaimed play The Beaches of St Valéry, which is written and directed by Dr Stuart Hepburn, and will be followed by a question and answer session with the cast and director.
Dr Hepburn will then join other notable historians for an online panel discussion at 7pm, before a tribute concert at 9pm featuring performances from Celtic-rock legends Runrig, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and many others who have recorded tracks especially for the St Valéry commemorations. A twilight tribute will close out the day at 10pm. All of the broadcasts can be viewed live from the charities’ Facebook pages, and also from Poppyscotland’s YouTube channel.
Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin KCB CBE, who is the President of Royal British Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland and a Vice-President of RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity, said: “St Valéry represents a hugely significant moment in our nation’s history, and it is quite right that the bravery and fortitude of the great 51st Highland Division should be marked in this moving way.
“It is a great honour for us all that His Royal Highness, The Duke of Rothesay, will take the salute, especially given his own close association with so many of the Highland regiments that served in the 51st Highland Division. We should pay tribute also to all those who reformed the 51st Highland Division and who later fought with such distinction in North Africa, Sicily and after D-Day all the way to victory in Germany.”
At 10am tomorrow (Friday, 12th June 2020), pipers up and down Scotland and all over the world will take to their doorsteps to play Heroes of St Valéry. Pipers, and other musicians, of all ages and abilities are being invited to download the sheet music and learn the piece.
The public is being asked to support the St Valéry tribute through a fundraising campaign which will support the work of the three charities. To donate £5, please text PIPER to 70007. Standard network rates may apply but the charities will receive the full donation amount.
To register interest in taking part, and to access the sheet music, pipers are being asked to visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk/st-valery.
The live broadcasts of Heroes of St Valéry can be viewed at the following sites:
Pipers across Scotland are being invited to join a poignant tribute to thousands of Scots who were killed or captured during “the forgotten Dunkirk” 80 years ago. The lesser-known battle of Saint-Valéry-en-Caux is being memorialised by three leading Scottish Armed Forces charities, and pipers are being asked to play a leading role.
On the 12th June 1940, just days after the successful mass-evacuations at Dunkirk, thousands of British troops remained on continental Europe under French command. Largely comprised of men from the 51st Highland Division, they fought almost continuously for ten days against overwhelming odds until eventually surrounded at St Valéry.
However, a combination of fog and the proximity of German artillery above the town prevented the awaiting flotilla of ships from reaching shore. Those who were not killed in the fierce fighting, or fell to their deaths from the cliffs trying to escape, were captured and marched hundreds of miles to Prisoner of War camps in Eastern Europe, where they endured appalling conditions for five long years.
At 10am on 12th June 2020, pipers up and down Scotland will take to their doorsteps and play the haunting pipers march, Heroes of St Valéry. Pipers, and other musicians, of all ages and abilities are being invited to download the sheet music and learn the piece over the coming weeks.
Legion Scotland, Poppyscotland and RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity have joined forces to organise the tribute, which will also include online learning resources for young people, virtual tributes and a fundraising campaign to support the vital work of these important military charities.
Dr Claire Armstrong, Chief Executive of Legion Scotland, said: “It was incredibly moving to see the country join together to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day last week – particularly in such challenging circumstances. While this was a day to celebrate, it is vital that we also remember less triumphant periods of our history. The ‘Forgotten 51st’ should be forgotten no more.”
The first piper to sign up was Pipe Major Ben J Duncan, from The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Pipes & Drums, who previewed the Heroes of St Valéry from the doorstep of Edinburgh Castle at the weekend, which, like other public buildings across the country, is currently closed due to the lockdown.
Ben, who is based at Leuchars and lives in Edinburgh, said: “As soon as I heard about the plans to mark the 80th anniversary of St Valéry I wanted to get involved. While the country may still be in lockdown, this is a great way for such a significant but little-remembered event in our history to be properly commemorated, while still staying safe at home.
“Piping is something that brings people across the world together, and while we aren’t able to do that in person at the moment, it’s wonderful to think that we can all be part of this important tribute virtually.”
Brigadier Charles Grant, a retired British Army officer and historian of the 51st Highland Division website, said: “The 51st Highland Division – initially about 20,000 strong – comprised nine battalions of the Highland infantry regiments with supporting arms and services, including elements from England.
“They had been detached from the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and therefore managed to escape encirclement around Dunkirk. Instead, from 4th June they were conducting a fighting withdrawal west from the Somme under French command. The speed of the German advance was such that they, and part of the French army, were cut off, despite hopes that they would escape through Le Havre.
“Part of the Division did get to Le Harve to secure it for evacuation and escaped, but the remainder were cut off and surrounded at the little fishing town of St-Valéry-en-Caux. Not unlike Dunkirk, a flotilla of 67 Merchant ships and 140 small vessels were organised and despatched from British Ports, but the inclement weather and the German artillery overlooking the town meant any evacuation on the night of the 11th June was impossible.
“General Fortune commanding what remained of the Division considered all the options – a counter-attack, further resistance, retaking the town, but, against this, there was no possibility of evacuation or support. The men had been fighting almost continuously for ten days against overwhelming odds. They were exhausted and virtually out of ammunition, with no artillery ammunition at all. Shortly before 1000hrs on the 12th June, General Fortune took the most difficult of decisions – to surrender.”
Brigadier Grant added: “There can hardly have been a town, village or hamlet in the Highlands and beyond which was not directly affected by the loss. While events such as Dunkirk, D-Day and VE Day are rightly commemorated, it is time that the memory of those who fought and fell at St Valéry are remembered in a national tribute for the first time.”
The public is being asked to support the St Valéry tribute through a fundraising campaign which will support the work of the three charities. Poppyscotland provides life-changing support by providing tailored funding and assistance. The charity also funds services in advice, employment, housing, mental health, mobility and respite. Legion Scotland is the largest ex-Service membership charity in Scotland and provides services covering remembrance, comradeship and befriending. RCET is Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity. The charity funds services in family support, respite, education, youth participation, wellbeing and policy work to ensure that all Armed Forces children in Scotland can reach their full potential.
To register interest in taking part, and to access the sheet music, pipers are being asked to visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk/st-valery. And for more information on the 51st (Highland) Division at St Valéry please visit https://51hd.co.uk/history/valery_1940.
Photograph: Pipe Major Ben J Duncan, from The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Pipes & Drums, previews the Heroes of St Valéry from the doorstep of Edinburgh Castle. Credit: Mark Owens/Poppyscotland.
At the Headquarters of the 51st Infantry Brigade, 51st Brigade Sergeant Major and Deputy Chief of Staff are seen here raising the 51st Highland Division flag at 0800 hrs on VE Day Honouring our Veterans on VE75 and in particular, those who served in our antecedent formation, The 51st Highland Division. 8 May 2020.
At a number of recent conferences, several attendees were under the impression that no attempt had been made to evacuate the Division from St. Valery in June 1940, however, this is not the case. We have added an extract to the St. Valery page from an official report (dated 13th June 1940) into the attempts made by the Navy between 10-12th June to reach the Division. The report notes the difficulties faced and the "profoundly regret" in only having succeeded in bringing off approx. 1500 British and French from the St. Valery area.
“Glory from Defeat” by June Goodfield was published by Tommies Guides in 2019. It tells the story of the 51st Highland Division retreat to St.Valery and the brave Sussex fisherman who attempted to rescue 20,000 Highlanders from Veules les Roses. It also records those events marked by commemorations held at Veules les Roses with its twin town of Alfriston in Sussex in 2014 and 2015.
To quote from the Foreword “June Goodfield has brought to life those last days of the 51st Highland Division in June 1940, in a wonderful account combining both past and present and the rich link between Alfriston and Veules les Roses.”
The book has been personally endorsed by Dame Vera Lynn.
Copies of the book can be obtained by emailing [email protected]
Some years ago we were very kindly contacted by John Brotherston who enquired as to whether we were aware of a reel-to-reel recording of a broadcast documenting a ceremony held to commemorate the unveiling of the memorial at Beaumont Hamel. Research by John and ourselves produced no definitive confirmation of the recordings origins, however, a chance encounter by John revealed that it is likely to be from a radio broadcast in the 1980s. If anyone has more information about the recording we would love to hear from you - [email protected]
We have another extract to add to the El Alamein section of the site.
An extract detailing the return to St. Valery in September 1944 has been added to the site.
An extract from "The Story of the 51st Highland Division Signals - June 1944 to July 1945" has been added to The Victory in Europe chapter of our history account.
The direct descendants of 51st Highland Division, 51st Infantry Brigade, are currently planning to conduct acts of commemoration in 2020 in support of the anniversaries of the surrender and liberation of the 51st Highland Division in St Valery-en-Caux.
Although it is too early to confirm the precise details, the heroism and sacrifices made by this remarkable group of fighting forces will be suitably honoured on the weekend of 12-14 June 2020 with representatives from the Brigade attending events in both Scotland and France. This will build on the already strong relationships which the Brigade has with the local community in St Valery En Caux.
Further details can be provided by the Lead Project Officer – Major Owen Punter – on the following email address: [email protected].
We have added extracts from the personal account of Colonel John Sym DSO to the Battle of El Alamein section of the site. The account was published in the Queen's Own Highlander magazine winter 1992 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of El Alamein. Col. J.Sym DSO was 21C of 2nd Bn Seaforth Highlanders and then Brigade Major of 152 Brigade during El Alamein. His book, "Seaforth Highlanders" by Colonel John Sym (editor) was Published by Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot (1962) and can still be obtained from second hand book sites.
A personal account by Major E.R.C. Walker, R.A.M.C. dealing with the Medical History of 500 British Wounded Prisoners of War from June 1940 to June 1941 has been added to our WWII POW Experiences section of the site.
The account was kindly provided by Andrew Brown, written by his late uncle (by marriage) Edward Walker. Andrew wrote "While drily factual, it includes much medical detail which my uncle, being in the RAMC, was uniquely positioned to provide, and there are places where his characteristic humanity and generosity shine through. Incidentally he had a distinguished medical career after the war, in time becoming Chairman of the BMA for Scotland.
The following 2nd Bn. Seaforth Highlanders' War Diary extract been received from Allan Macintyre, the son of the late Major Donald Macintyre MC.
The extract covers the period 17-18 February, 1945 during the Attack on Goch during the concluding stage of Operation Veritable. The diary references the wounding of Major Donald Macintyre MC at 2100hrs on 18th.
A copy of this Military Cross citation was sent to us, with thanks, by Allan Macintyre, the son of the late Major Donald Macintyre MC. The citation details Donaldson's comand of 'B' Coy. 2nd Bn. Seaforth Highlanders during the night of 23/24 March 1945 and has been added into our account of the Rhine Crossing - Operation Plunder.
We have replaced the sketch map from "Churchill's Sacrifice" by Saul David, showing the attack of the 4th Camerons at Huchenneville, with a scan of the original sketch map. I have only recently come across the original on which it was based in the Highlanders Museum at Fort George. It is in a manuscript account in an exercise book written in a prisoner of war camp. The book does not say who the author was but there is a loose letter in it to Major W A Macleay, 4th Battalion Q.O. Cameron Highlanders, commending a L/Cpl for his actions on the Somme on 4/5th June and I have assumed that Major Macleay was the author of the diary and map.
I have recently been given a copy of the diary of Major Rory Mackintosh Walker who was commanding the 4th Battalion Cameron Highlanders at St.Valery and Major Tom Rennie, Black Watch who was on the Divisional Staff. It makes a fascinating read. Major Mackintosh Walker (who already had an MC and two bars from the 1st World War) would go on to command 227th Brigade of the 15th Scottish Division and was killed on 17th July 1944. Major Tom Rennie commanded the 51st Highland Division and was killed during the Rhine Crossing in March 1945.
From 1st January 2019 The Museum of The Royal Regiment of Scotland will take over the ownership of the 51st Highland Division and Ross Bequest Trust website. The Royal Regiment of Scotland is fiercely proud of a history which extends back to 1633 and it continues to maintain important golden-thread links with its antecedent regiments, many of whom served in the 51st Highland Division. The Regiment very much sees itself as one of the key custodians of the martial history of the military in Scotland and taking on the stewardship of this website through its/our museum is another step in securing the Nation's military heritage for future generations.
In other respects the website will remain largely unchanged with the webmaster and Divisional Historian continuing as before.
Battle patches as worn by units of the 51st (Highland) Division. Extract from war diary of 1/5th Gordon Highlanders, National Archives WO95/2881
New content has been added to our WWI section.
Items include a sketch of the Battle Patches as worn by units of the 51st, found within the war diary of 1/5th Gordon Highlanders in the National Archives; extracts from a number of sources summarising the last month of the war for the 51st; and finally the Armistice signal received on the 11th Nov. instructing the cease fire that would end the war.
On Wednesday 15 August 2018, Brigadier Alastair Dorward, the Chairman of the 51st Highland Division Trust, made a short address to members of Clan Donnachaidh at Bruar near Pitlochry before the statue of the piper of the 51st Highland Division was handed over to the clan for safe keeping.
The statue was received by Gilbert Robertson of Struan, the 23rd Chief of Clan Donnachaidh.
Additional photographs have been added of the Beaumont Hamel memorial page including photos showing: Pipers from the 93rd Highlanders at the unveiling ceremony and dedication of the Beaumont Hamel memorial in 1924; the Guard of Honour marching to Victoria Station, London, en route for France; and Marshal Foch inspecting the Guard of Honour after the unveiling ceremony.
New content has been added to the section on WWI including: an interesting synopsis of the Division from "From History of the Great war - Order of battle of Divisions, Part 2a" detailing Mobilization, Battles, and Engagements in WW1; notes on the departure of Maj. General Harper; The German Offensive, 21-26 March 1918; the Battles of the Marne July 1918; and the Second Battles of Arras, 26-30 Aug 1918;
The intention is to add brief accounts of the other 1918 actions. For those who wish to know more I strongly recommend "The History of the Fifty First (Highland) Division" by Major F W Bewsher D.S.O. , M.C. This was first published in 1920 but is still available from The Naval & Military Press.
I am delighted to add to the accounts of the Division's withdrawal to St. Valéry, The War Diary of Captain R.A.A.S. Macrae, Adjutant to 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, covering the period of 27th May to 12 June 1940.
I am indebted to his son Malcolm who has passed the diary, complied by his brother Christopher, to me with permission to put it on the website. It is a lengthy document and I have not at the time put on the website the Annexes mentioned in the introduction. The diary is a fascinating read and makes another great contribution to understanding those last days of the Division in 1940.
"The Black Watch – Fighting in The Front Line 1899-2006" by Victoria Schofield is the second part of The Black Watch regiment history (The first volume was The Highland Furies). As the title of this second volume suggests it covers both the First and Second World Wars, and consequently those battalions of the Regiment that were in the 51st Highland Division.
Victoria Schofield does not just tell the history but uses personal accounts from diaries and letters of those serving. At over 800 pages it is nevertheless extremely readable and provides some wonderful insights into the soldiers of the Division in the two wars.
"The Black Watch – Fighting in The Front Line 1899-2006"
by Victoria Schofield
Published in 2017 by head of Zeus Ltd. Price £40
(also available from The Black Watch Museum)
Over the last year an independent film producer, Craig McAlpine, has been researching the withdrawal of the 51st Highland Division from the Maginot line to Abbeville and ultimately St. Valéry. Criag's grandfather and great uncle were both Argyll's who were captured. Craig interviewed a number of veterans, two of which have sadly since passed away. He also visited the ground from the Maginot line back to St. Valéry and returned to the latter with one of the veterans. I attended a preview of the resulting film (called DUNKIRK – THE FORGOTTEN HEROES) on Monday 25th June along with a couple of the veterans, families and former soldiers. The film is EXCELLENT. The veterans are the stars and I cannot fault it. Craig has told the story really well and done the Division Proud.
The documentary was screened on Channel 4 on the 15 July 2018 and should remain available via catch-up (through the Channel 4 website or TV apps) until the 14th August.
The Regimental Museum of the Highlanders and Queen's Own Highlanders Collection have very generously provided a scan of the diary compiled by Major Grant, 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, while a prisoner of war. Major James Murray Grant's account, endorsed by a number of those officers present as the Battalion War Diary, covers the withdrawal and final action of the Battalion at LE TOT and ST.SYLVAN to the west of St. Valéry.
The Scans of the pages of this diary, including his excellent maps, covering the period 9 to 12 June have been provided on the website along with a transcript.
This graphic account is a real treasure and I wish to thank the Museum for making it available.
WEB SITE HISTORIAN
New Book - St. Valery and its Aftermath – The Gordon Highlanders Captured in France 1940
By Stewart Mitchell
Published by Pen & Sword. Price £25
Stewart Mitchell became a Volunteer Researcher at the Gordon's Museum, Aberdeen in 2005 after a career in environmental protection. He is also the author of Scattered Under the Rising Sun - The Gordon Highlanders in The Far East 1941-45 (Pen and Sword Military, 2012) describing the horrific ordeals of the officer and men of the 2nd Battalion between 1942 and 1945
The fly sheet describes the book as follows: During the German May 1940 offensive, the 51st Highland Division, including the 1st and 5th Battalions Gordon Highlanders, became separated from the British Expeditionary Force. After a heroic stand at St Valéry-en-Caux the Division surrendered when fog thwarted efforts to evacuate them.
Within days, scores of Gordons had escaped and were on the run through Nazi-occupied France. Many reached Britain after feats of great courage and tenacity, including recapture and imprisonment often in atrocious conditions in France, Spain or North Africa.
Those imprisoned in Eastern Europe were forced to work in coal and salt mines, quarries, factories and farms. Some died through unsafe conditions or the brutality of their captors. Others escaped, on occasion fighting with distinction alongside Resistance forces. Many had to endure the brutal 1945 winter march away from the advancing Allies before their eventual liberation.
This superbly researched hook contains many inspiring stories that deserve and merit reading.
A new statue has been erected in the garden of the Black Watch Museum to commemorate the 51st Highland Division. There are plans for an official unveiling on the morning of Wednesday 21 June - please contact the Black Watch Museum for further details.
The Third Ypres, also know as Passchendaele, was fought between 31 July – 10 November 1917. The 51st Highland Division was involved in two of the battles in the earlier stages. These were Battle of Pilkem (Passchendaele) which was the opening battle (31 July) and Poelcappelle (20 September) both involving the 51st Highland Division, have not been added to the website. With the centenary commemorations of both these battles anticipated this year  it is time to put this right.
The accounts have been largely drawn from 'The History of the 51st Highland Division 1914-1918' by Major F W Bewsher D.S.O., M.C. and précised. Some additional accounts have also been included from regimental histories. It is hoped to add more during the year.
We have collated the set of tactical numbers and colours used by the various units within the 51st Highland Division during WW2. These markings were painted onto vehicles, signs and flags to distinguish the units and formations in the field.
This information should hopefully prove useful to those attempting to identify Battalions found in photographs left by relatives.
We have been extremely fortunate to be given a transcript of the War Diary of Capt. J.P.P. Taylor who was the Intelligence Officer of the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlands. The Journal covers the withdrawal of the 51st Highland Divison to St. Valéry in 1940.
In Captain Taylor's own words:
The following notes are based on what I saw and remembered and do not contain detailed accounts of actions by Companies, Platoons or Sections.
I am hugely indebted to Captain Taylor's son Mr M P Taylor who has made this available. Reading through the transcript made reference to a number of maps. Following this up Mr M P Taylor let me borrow the original manuscript which enabled me to scan the maps. These were in the exercise book in which the account was written. I have subsequently followed the Division from the Somme with a battlefield tour and the maps and account provide a wonderful insight to the actions.
Mr Taylor was keen that the whole account should be included. I have done this but to make it easier to relate to events I have broken it into sections so, that for example, the section dealing with the attack on the Grand Bois is in that section. At the bottom of each extract you can also find a link to the next section of Capt. Taylor's War Diary.
I am delighted with this find which makes a great contribution to the website.
The full list of extracts :
While the website does not normally publish obituaries we feel that it is important to mark the passing of Dr Tom Renouf. MBE MM. Tom was born in 1925 and, like his father before him, joined the army to see action in France against the Germans. He joined the Black Watch as a private and was awarded the Military Medal in 1945 for his actions during the Rhine crossing when the Black Watch led the British Army into the heart of Germany. He was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant. On his return to Scotland he graduated in Physics from the University of Edinburgh and went on to become a lecturer at the Royal Military College. He subsequently returned to the University of Edinburgh where he became a research fellow and completed his Ph.D.
Tom was the right hand man of General Derek Lang, Chairmen of the 51st Highland Division Veterans Association and organized reunions and pilgrimages for the veterans of the 51st Highland Division. When General Derek passed away Tom took up the mantle of running the Veterans Association, continuing to run pilgrimages and promote monuments to the Division in Scotland, France, Belgium and Holland.
Tom was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List just a few weeks before he died.
Tom told his own story in “Black Watch” published by Little Brown in 2011. Accounts of many pilgrimages may be found in the new revised version of “The History of the 51st Highland Division” by JB Salmon published by Librario Publishing Ltd in 2014. In this edition Tom has added the story of the post war Division and accounts of the pilgrims and reunions up to 2013.
Tom will be missed by all who knew him. His pride in the 51st Highland Division will continue to be remembered in the memorials to the Division which he played such a large part in creating.
A NEW WAY TO EXPLORE OUR SITE CONTENT
We are extremely pleased to say our new map tool is now available on the site.
It is hoped the interactive map will provide users with an intuitive navigational path through the history, personal accounts and photographs of the 51st Highland Division whilst reinforcing the link between our history and its geographical context within the world around us.
Simply head to the map tool and click on a marker to view its title and description, below which you'll find a link to 'view related content' associated with that key event or location.
Mr A.Trigg has sent details and a number of photographs of his father, Gunner Robert (Bob) Alfred Trigg - 1137967 - who was in the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment in the 51st Highland Division. Bob Trigg served from 1942 to 1947. After completing his basic training at Catterick he sailed to North Africa on the Queen Mary as a reinforcement after Alamein. From there he served in North Africa, Sicily, and North-West Europe.
A couple of Naval accounts of the action off St. Valéry have come to our attention which make interesting reading.
We have been extremely fortunate to be able to obtain the official description of the "THE FIGHTING IN THE SAAR AND SOUTH OF THE SOMME" prepared by the Historical Section of the Cabinet and now declassified. We will be including extracts on the website. The first is 4 JUNE - 51 DIVISION AND FRENCH - ATTACK ON ABBEVILLE BRIDGEHEAD
The same document also gives the orders given to ARK FORCE and they have also been added to the site.
The 7 Scots Battlefield Study [June 2015] spent a day studying the attacks at Abbeville on 4 June . We are indebted to Saul David, author of "Churchill's Sacrifice of the Highland Division" for giving us permission to quote verbatim from his book. For those wishing to follow the movements and actions of the Division there is no better handbook to guide the visitor through the various actions of the Division on the withdrawal to St.Valéry than "Churchill's Sacrifice of the Highland Division – France 1940", by Saul David and published by Brassey's in 1994.
We are therefore able to add two new extracts to The B.E.F. section detailing the attack by 4th Camerons from Huchenneville and the attack by 1 Gordons on the Grand Bois; both extracts are accompanied by photographs of the battlefield from the 7 Scots' study.
An interesting account of the withdrawal to St.Valéry by Lieutenant Colonel Honeyman commanding 1st Battalion The Black Watch from the Black Watch Museum archives has been added to the site.
In the archives of The Black Watch Museum Brig. Charle Grant came upon an original copy of the original Operations Order for the attack at Beaumont Hamel by 1/6th Battalion the Black Watch. This fascinating document, providing a real insight into the way an attack was conducted, has been included in the Beaumont Hamel accounts.
In June 2015 Brig. Charles Grant was fortunate to be asked to assist 51 Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, in conducting a battlefield study of the withdrawal of the 51st Highland Division on the Somme in 1940 back to St. Valéry. The tour consisted of five days of battlefield study and two days of commemorative events. The party of 20 plus was hosted by the town of Veues-les-Roses, just to the east of St. Valéry.
The impute to this website will concentrate on the battlefield study part but no mention of the visit can be made without commenting on the wonderful hospitality of the people of the people of Vueles-les-Roses and the other places that hosted commemoration events. The latter part of the exercise was marked by moving commemoration events, parades and functions that reflect the warmth and thanks of all who we met.
A highlight was the dedicating of the path up the cliff from of Vueles-les-Roses to Captain Derek Lang. The path was opened by Sarah Hunt, daughter of Sir Derek.
I will just briefly recap the battlefield study program here but there will be more detail in the relevant section of the website.
2nd Seaforth at Le Tot
2/7th Duke of Wellington’s at Veules-les-Roses
I will be adding to the website with photographs of some of the battlefields and further accounts during the year.
A new chapter has been added to the 51st Highland Division's World War One History section detailing the Division's advance during the Battle of Cambrai (Nov 1917) in addition to an account of the advance by the Gordon Highlanders during that same battle.
With kind permission from the Imperial War Museum, we've been able to trace several IWM archive photographs to compliment our recently added personal accounts and extracts. Clicking on a thumbnail below will take you to the corresponding account...
An account of the opening Artillery fire by 128th Field Reg. has been added to the El Alamein section. The account is taken, with kind permission, from "THE QUIET GUNNER AT WAR" (El Alamein to the Rhine with the Scottish Divisions) by Richmond Gorle MC RA. Published by Pen and Sword Books in 2011.
Newly added to the Sicily Campaign - the personal account by Dell Porchetta of 'A' Company, 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, of their attack on Gerbini and his capture on the night of 20th July 1943.
An extract has been added to the St. Valery section of the Divisional History, with kind permission of the Andrew Bradford, describing the movements of the Black Watch during the retreat on the 11th/12th June 1940. The extract is taken from "Escape from Saint Valery-en-Caux - Recounting the Adventures of Captain B C Bradford".
Two new extracts have been added to the site from Driver MacAskill's Memoirs. The first details his lucky escape from France with "Arc Force" during the B.E.F. on 13th June 1940; the second describes his logistical support in the Battle of El Alamein, North Africa, Oct 1942.
An extract from "The Fifty First in France" by Capt. Robert R Ross, Gordon Highlanders, first published in 1918, has been added to the Battle of the Somme section. Capt. Ross's account details the 2nd Attack on High Wood on the 30th July 1916.
Newly added to The B.E.F. section of the Divisional History, with kind permission of the author, we are able to bring you an extract describing the battle for Abbeville and the German counter attack, taken from "A LONDONER IN THE 51st HIGHLAND DIVISION – JACK DRINKALL’S STORY" by Mike Drinkall.
Two new brief history pages have been added to the Battalions section, summarising the history of the 8th and 9th Battalion Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment).
J.B.Salmond's classic History of the 51st Highland Division has been reprinted by librario.com with additional material on the post war activities and reunions of the veterans written by Dr. Tom Renouf.
You can purchase a copy from Librario Publishing
Once publication costs have been recovered the proceeds will go to the 51st Highland Division Trust.
After publishing the photos kindly sent to us by the Van Wulfften Palthe Brothers, Georges Laloux, who originally sent us the information about "Castle Embourg" (his family home in Dec '44), got in touch to say his younger sister had found a photo of some of the men who had stayed at the Chateau. That photo, now added to the Castle Embourg page, matches the scene of one of B.R. Van Wulfften Palthe's photos below, taken near Mook in March '45.
Many thanks to Georges and his sister for helping to add to the story.
We have very kindly been sent a great set of photos from Bert & Ric van Wulfften Palthe, many of which we have been able to incorporate into various locations across the site.
Bert & Ric got in touch after stumbling upon an earlier addition to our website from Georges Laloux who, in 2009, had sent us a handwritten list of the men who had stayed in "Castle Embourg" (his then home nr. Liege) which 152 HQ commandeered during Dec '44. To their surprise they discovered their Father's name, B.R. van Wulfften Palthe, noted on the list.
Palthe had been attached to 152nd Infantry Brigade as a Dutch Interpreter (Corps. Tolken) between Nov '44 (shortly after the liberation of Eindhoven, his home town) and Apr '45 (when he was badly injured by shrapnel during the push for Bremen).
Many thanks to Bert & Ric for contacting [email protected] and for allowing us to share in such a fascinating story and set of photos.
Official ceremony unveils statue of a Black Watch Soldier at "Black Watch Corner", Ypres, Belgium, marking the centenary of the outbreak of WWI.
Our memorial page includes details of the First Battle of Ypres and the defence of Polygon Wood by 1st Black Watch, 1st Scots Guards and 1st Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. The South West corner of the Wood subsequently became known as "Black Watch Corner".
Glasgow Museums' are holding an exhibition to mark the centenary of WW1 at the People’s Palace on Fred A. Farrell, a War Artist attached to the 51st (Highland) Division during 1918.
Farrell was originally a sapper but was discharged due to ill health. Farrell, a skilled artist, was later commissioned by Glasgow City to document the war. Farrell made two trips to The Front as a war artist. In November 1917 he went to Flanders with the 15th, 16th and 17th Highland Light Infantry. These were volunteer battalions raised by the Corporation of Glasgow and the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. In late 1918 he spent two months attached to the 51st (Highland) Division in France.
The exhibition is a powerfull collection of Farrell's sketches and watercolours and offers a first hand glimpse of WWI through the eyes of a former soldier.
This exhibition is on the top floor of Glasgow's People's Palace and runs from Friday 30 May to Sunday 23 November 2014.
More information on the exhibition can be found on glasgowlife.org.uk
The short film extracts recently placed on the website are taken from a DVD entitled
51st HIGHLAND DIVISION “The Legendary 51st”
The DVD gives an illustrated history of the Division, covering both wars, and concludes with film and commentary of some of the veteran pilgrimages to the battlefields. The DVD is available from the museums of The Black Watch, The Highlanders and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It costs £10 plus postage and packing and for each copy sold £5 goes to forces charities.
We are very excited to announce the addition of five short video clips to the site to compliment our history section. The scenes all come from a documentary film entiteld '51st Highland Division "The Legendary 51st"' which was produced and directed by William Sleigh in 1991 on behalf of the 51st Highland Division Officers' Club. The short clips have been reproduced here with the kind permission of the 51st Highland Division Officers' Club. We hope to be able to add more scenes from the documentary to our history section in the coming months... Watch this space or follow our twitter feed (@51hd) for more info...
Here are links to the 5 pages containing the new video clips :
Thanks must go to George Bee and Martin Healey who individually sent us photographs of copies of two sketch maps detailing the movements and firing positions of 492 (Highland) Field Battery (128th Field Regiment) between August 1942 and the North Africa campaign and "VE" Day in 1945. Both George and Martin's fathers had served in 492 Field Battery throughout the period.
We have been able to transcribe the annotations which detailed the towns or areas moved to and added these details in a table for easy reading. Both maps can be seen in higher resolution that shown on the site but clicking on the links noted.
Both maps and details make a fine addition to the history of 128th Field Regiment.
A new account of the attack by 152 Brigade at Beaumont Hamel has been added to the World War One section. This is from a book entitled "The Spirit of the Troops is Excellent – The 6th (Morayshire) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, in the Great War 1914-1919". The book by Derek Bird was published by Birdbrain Books in 2008. (ISBN 978-0-9560223-0-1). The section on Beaumont Hamel has been reproduced (less photographs) with the author's kind permission. The book is sadly out of print but if you can get hold of it you will not be disappointed. It is a wonderful history, with many photographs, of this battalion.
To accompany Derek Bird's book he has created a Roll of Honour to commemorate the fallen of the 6th (Morayshire) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders in the Great War. This can be found - here.
We are extremely priviledged to be able to bring you extracts from a wonderful first-hand account of the 51st Highland Division in the First World War from the Diary of Active Service of 351128 Pte. A F. Macpherson, 9th Royal Scots, 154 Brigade (November 1915 to May 1917). The diary was presented to the 51st Highland Division by A F. Macpherson for retention in their archives and was recently redescovered.
Several extracts have been taken from the diary including a description of Private Macpherson’s part in the attack on High Wood on the Somme in July 1916 and his wounding at the Battle of Arras in April 1917.
We have been able to include hand-drawn sketch maps by MacPherson and have added supporting photographs from the Imperial War Museum Collection.
We have recently been able to gather together photographs and supporting information on the 6 men of the 51st (Highland) Division to be awarded the Victoria Cross during World War One and have brought these accounts together into a new WWI VC section in the Divisional History.
You can head to the VC section for a summary or click on each photo below to read about each of the 6 men in turn.
We've also been able to add a few supporting photographs from the Imperial War Museum Collection including :
We are pleased to be able to announce the addition of a new page in the Memorial section featuring the Monument at Beaumont-Hamel (Somme) to the 51st (Highland) Division. The page includes several photos showing the monument and the Programme from the Unveiling ceremony in September 1924.
The web site was reviewed at the 51st Highland Division and Ross Bequest Annual Trustees Meeting in April and funding agreed for the forthcoming year. The Trustees were most complementary and agreed a program of further work on the site.
New content will include the following:
Finally I would like to thank all those who have contributed using our email address y[email protected]. As the Anniversary of World War One approaches, and that of the various battles involving the Division, I will be particularly keen to hear from anyone who has photographs or records relating to World War One.
51st Highland Division Web Site Historian
The Black Watch Museum, housed in the dramatic and historic Balhousie Castle in Perth, reopened in June after an extensive renovation and extension. The Castle is set in its own beautiful gardens and grounds. A visit to this ancestral home of The Black Watch brings this glorious Regiment's past vibrantly to life.
The Museum houses a wonderful collection of uniforms, fine paintings, medals, photographs, diaries, weapons and military equipment, together with film and reminiscences bring to life the proud military heritage of this family regiment. The collection contains significant items that have been gathered by the Regiment throughout its history, right up to the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of particular significance for this web site is the fine display of 51st Highland Division uniforms and artefacts, some of which are shown in these photographs.
The museum not only displays and describes the history of the Regiment with the latest visual and interactive technology but now has a fine café, shop and research facilities. Details of opening hours and facilities can be found on the museum website
The Highlanders’ Museum reopened 29th March 2013 after an 18 month major refit and re-interpretation of the collection.
The collection has been improved to give focus to education and learning for future generations. The story includes the history of Seaforth Highlanders, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, Queens Own Highlanders, Lovat Scouts, Volunteers & Militias’.
The museum is located inside Fort George on the Moray Firth, 12 miles east of Inverness.
The Learning Centre has a research facility aimed at assisting those carrying out family historical research.
Of particular significance for this web site is the fine display of 51st Highland Division uniforms and artefacts, some of which are shown in the photographs below.
Entry to the Museum is free of charge but you must pay an admission fee to Historic Scotland to gain entry to the Fort.
Further details can be found on their website:
Caron Paterson sent us scans of a large set of incredibly interesting photographs that belonged to her Grandfather, Pte. Harry Knox of the Gordon Highlanders, taken during his time as a P.O.W. at Stalag IXC, Bad Sulza, Germany between 1940 and 1945.
You can view the photographs on a new page within our POW Accounts section.
The set includes a number of photographs of men from Stalag IX-C including several photos depicting an elaborate evening of 'POW Entertainment' in the form of amature dramatics & comedy performances by the men. Pte. Harry Knox actually appears as 'Stan Laurell' in one of the comedy sketches. These photos offer us a unique glimpse of what must have been an evening of fun and laughter that raised spirits in hard times.
Many thanks must g to Caron for sending these scans into us at [email protected].
Many thanks to Russel Gatehouse for sending scans of these photos belonging to his Father, John Cuthbert Gatehouse.
Prior to his capture at St. Valery in June 1940, John Cuthbert Gatehouse was a Royal Army Service Corp. motorcycle scout / message runner attached to the 51st Highland Division.
John was held at a POW camp in Schubin Poland (Stalag XXI B) until eventually being transferred, as the Russians moved west, to Stalag 383 nr. Hohenfals, Germany at some point prior to Summer 1944.
The 4 photos Russel sent to us where annotated; 3 reference Schubin and the 4th states "Summer 1944 Stalag 383, JCG cutting hair" which is assumed to show John Cuthbert Gatehouse himself.
Major Hugh Robertson's Daughter, Linda McLean, very kindly sent us a few photographs of her Father featuring him taking part in Highland Games organised by the Men at a training camp, presumed to be in England in 1941 - 1942 prior to embarkation to North Africa.
Major Hugh Robertson features on several occations within Alastair Borthwick's account of the 5th Seaforth's "Attack on Groin" during Operation Plunder and the Crossing of the Rhine in which Hugh features in his role as O.C. "C" Company.
Tom's account describes his movements from the 4th June 1940 as his Division began their retreat. Tom becomes seperated from his Division and his account helps give a sense of the confusion felt on the ground during the fall back. Tom eventually makes the beach cliffs beyond St. Valery on the night of the 11th and, after heading along the beach under heavy fire, is lucky enough to find a Brittish Soldier in a Rowing Boat heading out to a Tramp Steamer off-shore.
Thanks go to Jim Garside, Tom's Son, for sharing this personal account with us.
We were very kindly sent a collection of photographs of George Watt Drummond (4th Black Watch) by his Niece, Beth Marshall. An accompanying descriptive providing details of George's time as a POW in WWII was compiled by Drummond's Great Great Nephew (Shaun Finnigan).
Dave Clark, whos Father was in the 5/7th Gordons, kindly sent a set of photographs depicting a parade and ceremony handing over a drum of the 5th Gordons lost in 1940. It is assumed the photographs are c.1945/46 and the city is possibly that of Munich. These photos have been added to a page under the 'pipes and drums' area of the Battalions section.
This photograph was kindly sent to us by Janet Cardigan, the Niece of George Edward Stone who was a Royal Engineer with 239th Field Park Coy. This photograph appears to show the unveiling of the memorial on Sferro Hill in November 1943.
Several new photographs and scaned documents have been added to the site in recent weeks.
Program for the 32nd Reunion Dinner of the 51st Highland Division – 1949. This program, donated by Mr E Kingston, has a splendid carton on the reverse. Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein and Field Marshal The Earl Wavell were among those present.
A new photograph of Brig. James Oliver has been added to the page detailing his DSO Citation
The 9th Battalion Royal Scots joined the 51st Highland Division in 1916 and the first photograph shows two men of the 1/9th Royal Scots (c.1916). The second photograph shows men of the 1st or 2nd Highland Brigade. R.F.A., 51st Highland Division. C.1918/19. Both photographs are from the collection of Bob Marrion.
Two books were published last year which will be of interest to those who use this site.
By Tom Renouf, published by Little Brown.
Tom Renouf will be known to many as the Secretary of the 51st Highland Division Veterans Association. After the war, working closely with General Sir Derek Lang, Tom has been responsible for a number of veteran pilgrimages and fund raising for memorials to remember the 51st Highland Division. Tom’s personal reminiscences both before joining up and from D-Day through to the end of the War make a fascinating and enjoyable read.
Edited by John Donovan and published by Pen and Sword.
Horatius Murray was commissioned into the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in 1932. 'Nap’, as he was known transferred to the Cameron Highlanders in 1935. He went to Staff College before training with the German Army in 1937. He was a staff officer in the 3rd Division under Montgomery in 1940 before Being sent to North Africa with the 51st Highland Division where he commanded the 1st Gordon Highlanders. Despite being badly wounded at El Alamien, his career flourished and he returned to the 51st Highland Division in which he commanded the 153rd brigade in Tunisia, Sicily and Normandy. He left the Division to go as GOC 6th Armoured Division in Italy. 'Nap’ commanded no less than four divisions culminating with that of the Commonwealth Division during the closing stages of the Korean War. After becoming GOC Scottish Command he was promoted to Commander in Chief Allied Forces Europe.
The whole book is fascinating but the insights into the Division and in particular the frank assessment of the Division in the early weeks in Normandy will be of particular interest. This excellent memoir, edited by `Nap’s` nephew, will fascinate any military historian interested in this period but it is a must for those interested in the 51st Highland Division.
We are very pleased to be able to announce that a new area has now been added to the 51st Highland Division's History section containing information relating to 51HD during World War One.
The WWI section now includes a general overview with chapters on Battle of the Somme at High Wood, Battle of Ancre (Beaumont Hamel) and the Battle of Arras. There are lots of supporting photographs in those sections too.
We hope to be able to add to the WWI section of the site with more history pages, photos, extracts and personal accounts in the not too distant future.
We have been kindly sent a copy of an account from the 8th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regimental History detailing the action leading up to the capture of 'C' Coy. between 5th - 7th June, 1940. The account is from Capt. J.D. Inglis and has been sent to us by his Grandson, Capt. T. Inglis.
This account compliments the description of the 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders at Franleu during that time.
Two new accounts / extracts have been added (with kind permission) to The B.E.F. (1940) History section.
The first details The Battle of Abbeville which is a description taken from 'The Highland Division' by Eric Linklater.
The other extract relates to 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders at Franleu, a description detailing action during 5th - 7th June 1940 taken from 'The History of the 7th Argylls - From El Alamein to Germany' by Ian C Cameron of the 7th Argylls & Sutherland Highlanders.
Photographs of the stained glass memorial windows to the 51(H) Reconnaissance Regiment that can be found in Nairn Old Parish Church have been added to the Memorial section. There is also a photograph of the Leslie A Meek Memorial Window.
Thanks go to Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) R J Towns MBE for the photographs.
The BBC Landward programme is planning to run a piece on the 51st Highland Division in this weeks show. The show includes a contribution from our website historian, Brig. Charles Grant, and looks at the story of the 51st Highland Division and the contribution its soldiers made in the two World Wars.
The programme will go out on BBC Two (in Scotland only - although anyone can watch it for a week after it's aired via the BBC iplayer) on Friday, 11th November at 8pm. To find out more, visit the BBC Landward website.
You may also be interested in watching a short piece on the Lovat Scouts which went out last Friday and is still available on the BBC iplayer until the end of the week - go to the BBC iplayer
In October 2011 Brig. C Grant accompanied Colonel Dave Chapman MBE, Commandant of 2nb Bn Highlanders Army Cadet Force, and a party of just over 50 cadets and adult instructors to France for a battlefield study. Organised by Col Chapman who had, in the previous year, helped organise a similar tour for Aberdeen University Officer Training Corps, the aim was “to study the actions of the 51st Highland Division between 04 and 13 June 1940 in order to identify the enduring lessons from defense and withdrawal operations again a better understanding of the realities of war.” The tour included following the withdrawal of the Division and the actions at the River Somme, the River Bresle and finally around St.Valéry en Caux.
The exercise was extremely enjoyable and provided a wide range of lessons. For many, it improved an understanding of what their parents and grandparents had experienced. The time at St.Valéry en Caux concluded with a commemorative service in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at St.Valéry where wreaths were laid on behalf of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the 2nd Battalion the Highlanders ACF.
On the return journey they took the opportunity to visit part of the World War One Somme battlefield including a visit of the 51st Highland Division monument at Beaumont Hamel.
The exercise was extremely successful, the administration was first-class and most importantly everyone left knowing their links to the 51st Highland Division and with a real understanding of the individual and collective sacrifices made by those who served in the Division.
We're please to say that we have been gaining a great selection of photographs and journal extracts from members of the public and we hope to publish some of that content in early 2012.
We should also have a brand new chapter from our site historian, Brig. Charles Grant, to add to the History section which will detail the 51st Highland Division in the First World War.
Watch this space for more news...
Every photograph on the site now has supporting information included on the page (which you can view by clicking on the 'i' icon below each photo). We have also recoded the site to allow visitors to 'launch' larger versions of each photograph by clicking the image or by clicking on the icon of the magnifying glass below the photo. If a high resolution image is available we'll include a link to it within the 'supporting information'.
We've also tried to more clearly highlight sections of the history that have more information for you to click through to by display '[Chapter]' or '[Account]' indicators next to links into other sections of the site.
Finally, we've made it easier for those of you who are interested in reading through the history of the 51st Highland Division in a chronological thread by including dates in page titles and menu links and by adding 'previous' and 'next' links at the bottom of the page which also list their corresponding page titles.
We've gone to great lengths to make the information held within the various sections of our site more accessible to visitors. We're currently in the process of painstakingly re-indexing ALL of the content, including the Divisional History pages, Personal Accounts, Extracts and Photographs, to allow us to more easily link related content via a new 'Content Tag' system.
This should now allow visitors to simply and easily follow threads of content relating to keywords that particularly interest them, such as viewing all content relating to the 'Seaforth Highlanders' or 'North Africa' for example.
Re-indexing everything in the site is taking some time. If a tag you view appears a little sparse, please bare with us - we hope to have all content correctly 'tagged' within the next few days so do check back next week.
We hope you like the new site and enjoy finding out more about the history of the 51st Highland Division.
P.S. Don't forget to follow our Twitter feed for fresh updates on new site content or info on any upcoming Radio or TV broadcasts we think you might find interesting... Follow us at: twitter.com/51HD
BBC Radio Scotland will be broadcasting a documentary programme titled 'The Forgotten 51st' as part of their Remembrance Day schedule. The programme will be broadcast on Thursday 11th November @ 15:30 and will be repeated on Sunday 14th November @ 00:00. The programme will be available on the BBC iPlayer for an additional week.
Thank you to Sandy Reid for sending in 4 great photos of the 4/5th Seaforth Highlanders TA pipes & drums taken during the inter-war years - these have now been added to the Pipes & Drums section.
Andrzej Gilewski has kindly sent us two photographs of the memorial which now stands on the site of Stalag XXb Marienburg (now Malbork). This POW camp happens to be one of those in which Henry Owens was held in 1942 and is described in his personal account published in our POW Experience section.
Thanks to James Gillies for sending us this photograph of the 51st Highland Division, R.A.S.C., Officers' Training Company taken in December 1939. The photo has been added to the Mobilisation section as it was possibly taken whilst the Division was at Aldershot, prior the eventual embarkation to Le Havre from Southampton in January 1940.
Mr H. Jemmeson has kindly sent in two photos of his Father, Edward Jemmeson. One photo is of 152 Brigade in Sicily before embarkation to the UK and the other is thought to be of the with 152 Light Aid Detachment.
Mr P. Hooton sent us a photo of the Memorial Stone at Sferro, taken in August 2010. Mt. Etna can be seen in the background.
A description of the reformed 51st Highland Division in 1940 after St. Valery now includes a photograph of the 9th and 51st shoulder flashes and the Orders of Battle.
Major Davidson DSO recalls the fight for Point 198 at the centre of the Roumana Ridge at Wadi Akarit, taken (with kind permission) from "Operation Scipio - The 8th Army at the Battle of Wadi Akarit" by B.S. Barnes.
PTE Angus Cummings, a Medic with 175 Field Ambulance 153 Brigade, tells of his difficult job as a stretcher-bearer under fire at the foot of the Roumana ridge at Wadi Akarit, taken (with kind permission) from "Operation Scipio - The 8th Army at the Battle of Wadi Akarit" by B.S. Barnes.
Major Andrews (later Brigadier) retells an account of the operation to take a ridge called Djebel Roumana at Wadi Akarit, taken (with kind permission) from "Operation Scipio - The 8th Army at the Battle of Wadi Akarit" by B.S. Barnes.
Personal memories of Wadi Akarit from PTE SHAW and SGT MACDONALD, taken (with kind permission) from "Operation Scipio - The 8th Army at the Battle of Wadi Akarit" by B.S. Barnes.
Read a new extract on the Attack on Le Havre during September 1944, taken (with kind permission) from 'The History of the 7th Argylls' by Ian C Cameron.
"Operation Scipio" by B S Barnes, published by Sentinel Press in 2007, provides personal accounts of the Battle of Wadi Akarit from the perspective of the 4th Indian, 50th Northumbrian and 51st Highland Divisions. The chapter on the 51st Highland Division has over 100 pages with a host of personal accounts by all rank and covering not only the infantry but other divisional troops. It also has the appropriate extracts from battalion war diaries for the battle. It is an outstanding read and provides many fascinating and personal insights.
I am delight that the author has very kindly agreed that I can use extract and sections from the book. I will therefore be adding a number of these accounts to the website but I can assure you that it will still be worth buying this excellent book.
Charles Grant (Website Historian)
This short account has been provided by Ms Mary Duffus. It was given to her father in the Battery Office on disbandment at the end of the war. He served with the 51st Highland Division, 301/127 (H) Fld Regt RA, as a fitter seeing service at El Alamein, Sicily, Normandy and right through to Bremerhaven. After the war he rejoined the TA and was commissioned in the REME.
One of the St.Valery veterans present on Thursday 10th June 2010 when Provost Jimmy Grey of Inverness hosted a reception in the Inverness Town House to honour the veterans was John Matheson (4 SEAFORTH).
In the course of talking with him his companion Barbara loaned me his photograph album. In it I discovered an account of his prisoner of war experience told to the Ross-Shire Journal (November 14, 2003).
This fascinating account has now been added to our POW EXPERIENCE section of the site, by kind permission of the Ross-Shire Journal along with a number of photographs from the album.
Charles Grant (Website Historian)
This account of the “Movements of 51(H) Div. and Attached Tps. since leaving Lille Area” was provided by Mr Michael Thomson of Perth who provided me with various artefacts from his uncle, Major David K Thomson who was in the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) in the Divisional Supply Regiment. The account is on foolscap paper and appears to be contemporary. Although unattributed, the only person mentioned by name in the account is Major C.P.R.Johnston and as the account from 10 June relates specifically to ARK force it may be that he was the author and escaped. I would be grateful for any further details.
Charles Grant (Website Historian)
In addition to personal accounts of life as a POW from Henry Owens that we were able to upload to the site earlier this month, we've been able to upload a number of photos and stories that we've received via [email protected]
We were sent a very interesting story from George Laloux who was a young boy living in "Embourg Castle" near Liege at the time of the Ardennes Offensive who recalls 152 Infantry Brigade HQ (Seaforth Highlanders) were based at his home during the early part of the Ardennes Offensive. You can read this story and see a list of Officers who stayed at George's home by clicking here.
We also have a photograph of a memorial to the fallen of the 51st Highland Division at La Roche (also during the Ardennes Offensive) which was kindly sent to us by Didier Renard. The photo can be seen in our Memorials section
Richard Sands, who's Father (Sgt George Sands MM) served with the 51st, kindly sent us a scan of a photograph his Father had of the Sergeants and Warrant Officers of the 51st (H) Reconnaissance Regiment, taken in June of 1942 before their departure to Egypt where they would join the 8th Army in preparation for the battle of El Alamein.
Sgt George Sands served with both 2nd and 5th battalions. Sailing to North Africa, January 1942, as reinforcements/replacements for 2nd battalion at Tobruk. Before he had finished acclimatisation, Tobruk had fallen and 2nd battalion went into captivity. He fought for a few months with 4th Indian Div. He then joined 5th battalion when they arrived in Egypt some 6months later. He fought with 5th battalion from Alamein to Bremen.
Paul Witty, who's Father (Jim Witty) served in North Africa and Sicily with the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment, very kindly sent us a disc of scanned photographs of his Father's, taken during various periods of his service. We have been able to incorporate a number of these photographs into pages in our history section within - Brief History of 242 (Oban) Anti-Tank Battery
We would like to thank Robert Owens and his family for sharing these detailed and moving memories of their Father's experience as a POW from 1940 in St. Valery to liberation in 1945.
Henry Owens' accounts include many photographs, extracts from personal letters of the time and of course, Henry Owens own words which have been compiled by Robert Owens in November 2001.
These accounts have been placed into chapters within the POW Experiences section of the site.
We hope you find these accounts, alongside those of Corp. Jack Kidd, as interesting as we did.
A series of reports and events have marked the 70th Anniversary of the capture of the 51st Highland Division at St.Valéry-en-Caux on 12 June 1940. Several radio reports were followed by coverage by STV of veterans of the surrender preparing to leave for the commemoration at St.Valéry.
On Thursday 10th June Provost Jimmy Grey of Inverness hosted a reception in the Inverness Town House to honour the veterans. Present at the reception were Mr John Matheson (5 Seaforth), Mr Peter Black (RASC), Alec Wiseman (4 Camerons), Mr Donald Ross (4 Cameron Mr Alec Mackenzie (4 Seaforth), Mr Alec Murray (5 Seaforth), Mr Neil Wilson (5 Seaforth), Mr David Ross (5 Seaforth).
On 12 June at St.Valéry veterans and families were joined at the 51st Highland Division memorial and at the cemetery for a service and wreath laying, by dignitaries from France and Scotland. These included Bruce Crawford MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business, the Provost of Inverness, Jimmy Gray and the Commander of the 51st Scottish Brigade, Brigadier David Allfrey.
Leading the veterans was Dr. Tom Renouf, Secretary of the St Valery Veterans Association - you can read an account given by Dr. Tom Renouf (then Private Renouf) of his experience with 7 Platoon, "A" Company, 5th Black Watch during the Ardennes Campaign within the History section of our website.
A Service of Remembrance was held in the town's church, which has the stained glass window given by the people of Inverness in memory of the 51st Highland Division and the veterans were guests of honour at a civic reception.
To coincide with the Anniversary a group about 40 students and staff from the Aberdeen Universities Officer Training Corps (UOTC) were at St.Valéry to commemorate the event and take part in a battlefield tour. Their Drums and Pipes played at all the formal events. They also played in the town square where UOTC dancers did the Reel of the 51st before encouraging the locals to join in. STV and a number of papers have provided very good coverage of the events of the day. A picture of the Divisional Memorial at St. Valery has been added to the Memorials section. The photo shows wreaths laid during commemoration events - more photos of these events to come...
On the Monday the UOTC battlefield tour continued visiting various parts of the final battle around St.Valery. On the ground held by the 1st Black Watch at St.Pierre-le-Viger we were met by the Mayor who had arranged a small exhibition and refreshments. It was here that Andrew Bradford, who had taken part in Saturdays commemorations and whose late father was with the 51st Highland Division for both the capture and, having escaped, the liberation of St Valery, described how his father, then a young captain, found himself commanding two companies of the Battalion. Andrew Bradford, is the author of the book “Escape from St Valery-en-Caux.”
After other stands the tour concluded at Veules-les-Roses where, while some escaped, many more perished as they attempted to descend the sheer cliffs or waited in the sea for the ships that did not come.
To conclude, the Anniversary of St.Valéry had been properly marked. The students from Aberdeen had enjoyed memorable visit enriched by the opportunity to talk with the veterans about their individual experiences. I intend to put more on the website about the Anniversary visit and veteran experiences in the coming months but I would like conclude by thanking Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Wardner and the staff of Aberdeen Universities Officer Training Corps for all their arrangements, hosting many visitors and keeping the memory of St.Valéry alive.
We'd like repeat the details of our new twitter.com/51HD feed and the [email protected] feature which has resulted in many site visitors picking up the Radio Scotland interview on the BBC iPlayer in the week after it was broadcast.
You can follow that twitter feed and find out as and when new content becomes available - twitter.com/51HD
Or you can bookmark its RSS Feed to receive automated updates directly to your web browser (provided your web browser has an RSS reader).
Brigadier (Ret'd) Charles Grant OBE, the site historian, was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland's 'Good Morning Scotland' show on the 28th May 2010. The show is available via the BBC's iplayer for the next seven days and Charles is interview at 1:39hr into the show.
Link to the show - click here
Firstly We would like to thank everyone who has been in touch to provide first hand accounts or stories of their relatives, photographs, maps and scans of newspaper clippings. We're currently working through all of your submissions and we plan to add as much of your content to the site as we can in the coming months. If you have artifacts, note books, scans of photographs or journal transcriptions that they feel would be at home on the 51st Highland Division website, please contact - [email protected]
In this latest set of updates we have a number of new accounts and extracts relating to the 128th Field Regiment (Royal Artillery), the 7th Argylls and the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment (Royal Artillery) in addition to an extension to Jack Kidd's account of his POW experience. (more details below)
The first account is from Captain J T Lang who served with 128th (H) Field Battery RA (TA) in El Alamein. Captain Lang's account is entitled El Alamein - A Gunner's View and details the movements and action from 128 Field Reg. from 1st September 1942 through to early November of that year.
We also have a short history of the 128th Field Regiment written by John Lang. The account was originally entitled "The story of an artillery Regiment of the 51st Highland Division" and was privately printed in 1989.
Another extract relating to the 128th Field Regiment is taken from the Regiment records relating to Battles for Gerbini, Sferro Hills, Catania Plain and Biancavilla.
There are also two separate extracts taken from 'The History of the 7th Argylls' by Captain Ian C Cameron.
This first reference is a description of the 7th Argylls in the Battle of Wadi Akarit in March/April 1943 during the North Africa Campaign.
Another addition to the site is an extension to the accounts from Jack Kidd in our POW Experience section which was part of the last site update. This new account is of the arduous Thousand Mile March that the POWs were forced to endure in late 1944 as Germany attempted to relentlessly move its prisoners from the advancing Russian forces and the prospect of liberation.
Last, but not least, we have added a short note listing the various Commanders of the 51st Highland Division during the post war years between 1946 and 1967.
More photographs, artifacts, extracts and accounts, in addition to new content from our website historian, Brigadier (Ret'd) C S Grant OBE, will be added to the site in the coming months so please do check back here to see what is new.
Many thanks, once again, for all of your stories and photographs - please do keep them coming.
On behalf of the he trustees of the 51st Highland Division Trust Fund
& the Highland Division Ross Bequest Fund
In this latest update on the website we must start with the sad news of the death of one of the 51st Highland Division and Ross Bequest Trustees. The following obituary is taken from 'The Red Hackle' by kind permission of Lieutenant Colonel R Riddell.
MAJOR G H PILCHER MC died on the 27th of March 2009 aged 92. He was one of a special band of Territorial Officers who served the Regiment with such distinction and courage during the 2nd World War.
Graham was born in Dundee on the 15th of June 1916 and went to Prep school in Fife before going to Clifton College in Bristol. He was a talented sportsman who particularly enjoyed his cricket. Sport was a part of bis life that he was able to enjoy into his old age. He celebrated his 80th birthday by playing tennis with his grand children and his 90th with a round of golf!
In 1935, after leaving school, he joined Jute Industries Ltd. He was the fourth generation of his family on his mother's side to work in the industry and his father was director of the company.
Graham like so many of his generation joined the Territorial Army and after attending his commissioning course at Sandhurst joined the 4th/5th Battalion The Black Watch, his father's old battalion.
At the outbreak of war he was mobilized with the 4th Battalion and went to France. He was wounded and evacuated in June 1940 before the catastrophe at St Valéry and then after recuperating, rejoined the 4th Battalion in Gibraltar.
On 14th June 1944 he joined the 5th Battalion just after the Battle of Breville, arriving at a time when experienced officers were at a premium. He took command of C Company and was soon involved in the abortive Divisional attack on Collombelles. Hard fighting followed and by the end of October the battalion were close to Hertogenbosch. It was near here that his courageous action led to the award of a Military Cross. During an advance, he and his Company came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire and found themselves pinned down, with snipers trying to pick them off. Realizing that quick action was essential, he ran across open ground despite the intense fire and led an assault on the German positions 200 yards away. Two machine gun posts were wiped out. His citation noted that "his conduct and courage were an outstanding example to all rank under his command". He was awarded his MC by Field Marshal Montgomery on 15 December 1944.
In February and March more fierce fighting took place during the Reichswald offensive and the battle of Goch but on 16 April 1945 he was badly wounded by shellfire near Dotlingen. His injuries were so severe that he did not return to the war.
Graham married Rosamunde in 1946 and returned to the textile business, managing the Camperdown, Bow Bridge, Maxwelltown, Coldrum and Manhattan factories. He gave up production duties in 1954 to concentrate on cloth sales. Jute Industries was renamed Sidlaw Industries in the early 1970s and he was latterly Chairman of the hardware division before retiring in 1979. He also served as Chairman of the British Jute Trade Federal Council.
Graham was very involved with the 51st Highland Division Veterans Association and as Chairman in October 2006 he unveiled a bronze statue of a piper at Bruar in Perthshire to commemorate the actions and sacrifice of that famous formation.
He was also a devout and committed Christian and was greatly involved in the Diocese of Brechin as well as in his local church.
A fine soldier, Graham was an enthusiastic supporter of the web site and provided encouragement and praise for it in equal measure. A true gentleman, his support and enthusiastic presence will be much missed.
Brig. Charles Grant
The Trustees have agreed to advance the work, originally planned for next year, on "The Prisoner of War Experience" and the subject is introduced under that heading. I will be very pleased to receive (through Thornton's Solicitors or via our new email address - [email protected]) any first hand accounts and photographs to support this section.
The section on Piping and Drumming has also been started. Over the coming year it is hoped to add considerably to this section. I am indented to Pipe Major Alistair Duthie whose considerable knowledge of piping history is proving invaluable.
I would also like to draw attention to a new book '"Escape from Saint Valéry-en-Caux", The adventures of Captain B C Bradford' details of which will be found in the Credits Section.
The website has just been updated to include some new material. I would like to thank all those who have commented so favourably on the site and where there are areas as yet uncovered I hope to be able to address them in the future.
You will find that work has just started on the Memorials section. There is a front page listing some of the 51st Highland Division Memorials. Over time each of these will have a link to its own section with a description and photograph. I have begun with Highland Division Window St Valéry en Caux and Sferro.
I have started to address the Supporting Arms and Services and you will find in the "online" museum a page on the Royal Artillery listing those units that were with the Division. I have been given a short (one page) history of 242 (Oban) Anti-Tank Battery, part of 61st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery which I have included. If anyone possess similar short histories of attached Arms or Services I would be very grateful for them.
You will also find a piece in the "online" museum on "Piobaireachd" which was the name given to the 51st Highland Division newsletter. I am indebted to Tommy Smith, the Archivist at the Black Watch Museum, for bringing this material to my attention.
I would like to thank those who have contacted me through Thorntons with offers of material for the website. Contributions, both financial to support its continued growth and of material are most welcome and should be made to me through Thorntons.
With this update the concluding section Victory in Europe, bringing the Divisional history up to the end of World War Two, has been added. There is also some additional material on the Rhine Crossing.
Work is now in hand to provide a section on Preparation and Mobilisation - 1939. Once this is completed it is intended to provide details of the Divisional supporting arms and services as well as more supporting material on the earlier sections.
On 8th June this year a reunion of wartime veterans and members of the 51st Highland Division took place in Perth to mark the dedication of a new 51st Highland Division Tapestry which will be hung in St.John's Kirk, Perth. It is intended to include details and a picture of the tapestry on the website and work will start shortly on the Memorials section.
I am very grateful to those who have made contact as a result of seeing the site and provide financial contributions or material ? both are very welcome. I would like to repeat that if, having explored the site, you would like to help us achieve our aim, which is to provide a complete and authoritative history of the 51st Highland Division as a memorial and source of reference then your contribution would be very welcome.
The Web Site Historian
Since the site was launched in October 2007 a considerable amount of progress has been made and we would like to update you on this and to ask for your support.
Firstly, you will notice that we have added two more campaigns, the Ardennes and the Reichswald. To support this a number of new photographs and maps, along with supporting documents have been added. Work is now in hand on the next section which is on the Rhine Crossing and it is hoped to put this onto the website, at least in outline, by Easter.
The Trustees met in January to consider a Three Year Plan prepared by the Web Site Historian and Web Site Designers and have approved the plan in outline and authorised Year One which will complete the World War Two element, create the "Memorials" Section, develop "Online Museum" to include additional photographs, a piping section, audio/visual extracts and expand the Regimental/Battalion Histories including other units. (RA, RAC, RE, RSigs etc.) In addition there will be some preliminary investigation on the "Battlefield Tours" and "Education" sections.
This is all exciting stuff but funding remains an issue. The Trustees have therefore decided to launch a campaign to raise the money to fund the whole three year plan - some £75,000 in all.
If, having explored the site, you would like to help us achieve our aim, which is to provide a complete and authoritative history of the 51st Highland Division as a memorial and source of reference then your contribution would be very welcome.
This website has been sponsored and funded by the Highland Division and Ross Bequest Trusts. The Trustees have recognised that, in addition to the splendid sculptures and memorials that exist to commemorate the exploits of the Division, there is pressing requirement to make the Division?s history more accessible and, in so doing, to create a living and educational memorial.
The aim of this website is to capture, present and preserve the glorious history of the Division in a dynamic and enduring memorial. In so doing it has set out to provide a layered history of the Division. At the first level there is, on one page, a brief overview of the Division. Simply clicking on the "History" section on the top left of the overview will take you into a list of campaigns and theatres of action, which appear down the left-hand side. Once again, by clicking on "North Africa", for example, it will take you to an overview of that campaign with a menu allowing you to read in more detail each action. Clicking on the crossed swords icon by the name of the action will take you to the description. Within each action there are further areas marked in red, which provide more detail with examples of personal accounts, operation orders, unit diaries and reports. If at any stage you wish to return to the main menu on the front page, click on the HD badge.
The website has been illustrated throughout with photographs and, by clicking on a particular picture, will take you to the "On Line Museum" which will give full details of the picture, copyright and where appropriate, the negative number. The "On Line Museum" will grow over time and it is our intention to include audio/visual extracts and pipe music. Other sections will be developed in due course covering "Monuments", "Battlefield Tours" and, very importantly, "Education". This is an exciting project and, we believe, one which will be of lasting value as more history and information is recovered and added.
The Trustees are extremely grateful to the many Museums, Regiments, other institutions, and the large number of private individuals who have so generously provided a wealth of information, photographs and documents. We have included details of our benefactors on the credits page and invite you to view that.
We must also pay tribute to the website designers Those Media Guys Ltd whose design and technical advice have been invaluable, and to our historian, Brigadier (Ret'd) C S Grant OBE without whose wealth of knowledge, passion for the subject, and immense hard work we would not be able to bring this to you.
Thank you for visiting the website of the 51st Highland Division - we hope that you find it a memorable and enjoyable experience.