Forres and District Pipe Band's birthday treat for WWII veteran Donald Smith (99)
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A FORMER soldier who fought in the Second World War celebrated his 99th birthday to the sound of pipes and drums.
Forres and District Pipe Band (FPB) surprised WWII veteran Donald Smith and his wife Helen at his home in McRae Court by playing tunes including Scotland the Brave and the 3/4 time march Heroes of St Valery, which they also performed at the Highland Tattoo.
Mr Smith said: "I couldn't believe it and I got emotional! I went to Braemar Estate with my family to celebrate my birthday where I had a lovely time and was spoiled rotten.
"Once we came home I was happily living a quiet life, until the pipe band showed up!"
FPB chairman John Channon said drum major Mike Munro organised the surprise.
Mr Channon said: "When we marched to Donald’s house and rounded the corner to his driveway, he heard us coming and was ready for us.
"He was standing there in his Glengarry, rigid to attention, and the moment he saw us he threw up a smart salute! It was very moving.
"After the performance, he and his wife very kindly offered us refreshments and made a donation of a couple of bottles of wine for the band raffle."
Mr Smith was a Yorkshire Territorial Army Infantryman at just 19. He was called to action after the Munich Agreement in 1938.
He said: "My dad warned me then that war was coming and I was sent to Fort George in 1939. After training I went to France where I was wounded in the head, hand and back at St Valery in 1940."
In June 1940, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, which included Mr Smith, was attached to the French 10th Army and, after a fighting retreat from the Somme, the greater part of the division was forced to surrender, having being cut off at St Valery-en-Caux on the Channel coastline.
"I was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp outside Paris," Mr Smith explained.
"An American pilot was shot down in trees nearby at the end of the war. We smuggled him into the camp because, at that time, around Christmas 1944, the Germans were shooting anyone they found, so we saved his life! Eventually I was sent to the Polish corridor in Germany for a four-year stretch. I completed the 1000-mile march at the end."
The Polish Corridor was a territory in the region of Pomerelia which provided the Second Republic of Poland (1920-1939) with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany (Weimar Republic) from the province of East Prussia.
The camps were eventually evacuated in January 1945, when Adolf Hitler decided to use British PoWs as bargaining tools. Rather than being transported back by rail, they were forced to walk back to Germany in freezing temperatures before being flown back to the UK.
Mr Smith eventually settled with his wife in Scotland. As well as a trip to Braemar and a personal performance from Forres Pipe Band, he enjoyed a cake made and gifted by Weller and Jill De Oliveira of The Olive Tree Cafe, Logie Steading.
And asked the secret to long life, Mr Smith replied: "A good wife and family."
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