Re Alex Orr’s letter of May 22 – my father would have been so delighted to know that the pipers are going to be playing in many places to commemorate the 80th anniversary of St Valery.
My father was in the 5th Battalion Gordon Highlanders (latterly the 5/7th) – serving his time as a butcher in Methlick, he joined up with his pals via Ellon TA and little did he and his chums know what awaited them.
He was 21. His brother, a year older, was in the RAMC and was killed in action near where Dad was stationed. He spoke of lying in a field at St Valery and he was so close to the ground even a worm couldn’t have got out under him. Thereafter he was captured and taken to Poland where he stayed for the next five years. He didn’t often speak about the horrible bits – but he did speak of the camaraderie with the men.
He attended all the reunions with his Methlick loons until they were no longer able and, sadly, they are all gone. He did say he felt that the folk captured at St Valery were forgotten – so I can imagine him being very proud to know they are all being remembered on June 12.
I attach a photograph of my dad at the reunion in St Valery in 1971 – you can see the pride, but you can see the pain. On that visit, he went to find the grave of his brother and I will never forget the pain on his face in those photographs.
Before I retired I worked at the Gordon Highlanders Museum – a fantastic tribute to a wonderful regiment which sadly is no more. I always think of my dad, particularly on June 12, but this year it will be special to know he and his pals are being commemorated in such a lovely way. Dad is in the front row in the dark blazer – fellow prisoner Jimmy Ganson stands to his right.
Moira Mapley, Holburn Street, Aberdeen.
St Valery recalled
I read with interest the article from Alex Orr (EE, May 22, P14) about the battle at St-Valery-en-Caux in June 1940.
My late father-in-law, John Dott, was one of the soldiers captured and marched, eventually, to Poland.
He was only 20 years old at the time and was one of the last soldiers to return to Perth after the war.
When his daughter was born in 1950 he wanted to name her Valery, after the village where he was captured.
The registrar would not allow the spelling as he wanted so had to call her Valerie instead.
He returned to France for a ceremony in 1990 where he, along with others, received a medal inscribed, “Honneur Aux Combattants”, from the mayor.
The recognition of the courage shown by the 51st Highland meant a lot to John.
Rab Hutcheon, Caiesdykes Drive, Aberdeen.