Corp. Jack Kidd's Road to St. Valéry
Jan 1938 - June 1940
Jack Kidd was born in Scone and joined the Territorial Army in January 1938 and was accepted into the Military Police. He was 19 years old and it was shortly before general mobilisation. His unit was soon posted near Farmborough where he was issued with a brand-new BSA motorbike (he recalled the registration number was 3930644) and then posted to Aldershot. In December of that year they moved to Borden and then to Southampton where they embark on the Ben MacCree (he would remember this because he was transported home on the same ship).
Jack was with 51st Highland Division Military Police and moved up with them to the Maginot line and then the Somme. Subsequently, as they fell back Jack's unit receives order to clear the roads which were packed with refugees: there were woman pushing prams, old wifies, children, babies crying all able-bodied men and women were pulling carts, all carrying as much of their possessions as they could, using any and every possible means of transport and all wearing expressions of abject misery and dread - it was terrible. Jack's job, though, was to keep the road open so that our convoys could get through which was essential so, although Jack's heart went out the refugees he had to guide them to the side of the road and overlook the suffering which was hard.
Jack arrived in Dieppe a week or so later. There was a boat there with officers and men on board, and someone who had heard him asked, "Are you coming on board jock?" to which he replied "No, I'll have to get back to my unit."
They arrived at St.Valery-en-Caux. A Brigadier was directing traffic to the left. Naval guns were firing and the noise was deafening. By two o'clock a wee German spotter plane came over. Shortly afterwards dive bombers came over in stukkas. They were terrifying things, dropping bombs all over the place. In the melee Jack lost his bike which had all his kit attached to it so he was left only what was standing in. Machine-gun tracer bullets must have hit a power cable because it was sparking green and white and lashing around like a whip. If he touched it he added the cable was just a red hot iron.
Despite the chaos around him Jack made his way back to the unit. They regrouped. An Officer came and told to be read to move off at 10 o'clock. Nothing happened. Back he came at 9.30 to say that the embarkation hade been postponed until 12 o'clock then it was postponed until the next day.
The unit spread out a wee bit. Every building was in flames and there were dead and wounded and dying people everywhere it was horrific and terrifying. Early next morning the French General, Ihler, raise the white flag but General Fortune demanded " Take that down or I'll shoot it down". After an hour, however, the bugle sounded the ceasefire and they were prisoners and surrender their weapons. Jack was so depressed he felt like shooting himself.