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Battle of St Valery-en-Caux marked at Forres War Memorial


By Garry McCartney

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The crowd gathering to pay their respects on St Catherine's Road.
The crowd gathering to pay their respects on St Catherine's Road.

AROUND 50 people gathered at Forres War Memorial to pay their respects to the men who fought in one of the Second World War's forgotten battles.

Two young musicians from Forres and District Pipe Band played 'Heroes of St Valéry' at 10am on Friday, June 12, marking the 80th anniversary of the ‘other Dunkirk’: the Battle of St Valery-en-Caux in France in 1940.

Royal British Legion (Scotland) Forres chairman and event organiser, Eric Duguid, confirmed Calum (15) and Angus (13) Robertson joined more than 450 pipers across the country to play the retreat simultaneously.

Eric, a former Sergeant Major in the Queen's Own Highlanders, explained why St Valéry was so important and read from 'For the Fallen' by Robert Laurence Binyon, which includes the words "We will remember them".

He said: "It is a very important day, especially for the north-east where many of those at St Valéry came from. Many men died so this is a poignant occasion, particularly for those who lost loved ones.

"Moray regiments were involved so I would like to see the battle being remembered as a more prominent part of history, particularly for local people."

Rev Donald Prentice inviting the attendees to join him in prayer.
Rev Donald Prentice inviting the attendees to join him in prayer.
Eric Duguid and Drum Major Mike Munro salute the fallen heroes.
Eric Duguid and Drum Major Mike Munro salute the fallen heroes.

A week after mass-evacuations from Dunkirk, the 51st Highland Division remained on continental Europe under French command. They defended against the Nazis for 10 days until eventually being surrounded at St Valéry.

Plans for a Dunkirk-style evacuation were put in place but due to poor weather and the close position of the German artillery, the Division was forced to surrender on June 12, 1940.

Kathleen Robertson was proud to see her sons Calum and Angus take part in the commemoration to their bravery at Forres War Memorial.

She said: " It's very pertinent that the battle of St Valéry was marked in Forres today as veteran Donald Smith, who fought there, lives here.

"It was also very fitting that two local youths played at the event on account of what Donald and men like him went through so that they can enjoy the freedoms that they do now."

The Robertson brothers were introduced to the pipes at the education tent during the Piping At Forres event and have each been playing since they were in primary six.

Calum Robertson playing Heroes of St Valéry.
Calum Robertson playing Heroes of St Valéry.

Calum learned Heroes of St Valéry over the last week to play at the memorial. He was joined by Angus for a rendition of 'When the Battle's O'er'.

He said: "I felt privileged to play because a lot of men fought and died in that battle."

Angus and Calum Robertson playing 'When the Battle's O'er' to mark the end of the event.
Angus and Calum Robertson playing 'When the Battle's O'er' to mark the end of the event.

Moray Councillor George Alexander was also at the event to pay his respects.

He said: "It was very good - very fitting. The two young pipers did a great job and I was glad to see a number of people turned out.

"There aren't many of the 51st Highland Division left now so it is important that we respect what they did for us, and for the history of the area.

"A lot of men from the 51st were were captured and kept in Poland for the remainder of the war. They made a hell of a sacrifice for us to live in the conditions that we do now."


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