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The 51st Highland Division at St-Valery-en-Caux

 
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Tachum



Joined: 12 Oct 2008
Posts: 11
Location: Livingston

PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:48 pm    Post subject: The 51st Highland Division at St-Valery-en-Caux Reply with quote

As part of a pilgrimage to see where my father and uncles had fought I went to St Valery in 2005 to see how they were remembered. I was not to be disapointed.

The road leading to the 51st Highland Division Memorial, high over the town, is named Rue de la 51st Highland Division.











The 51st were mobolised in August 1939. A TA Division with a proud history from WW1 the three brigades had a Regular Battalion added to each and a TA unit moved elsewhere.
They formed SAAR Force when they went to France and were detached to the French 3rd Army on the Majinot Line (Unfinished). After the Blitzreig the Division had to withdraw and to cut a long story short they fought a bloody rearguard action all the way back to St Valery. Part of the ground they fought over was on the Somme near Abbeyville where their fathers and grandfathers had also fought.
IT became clear as the main BEF streemed towards Dunkirk and evacuation that the 51st were in trouble. They were still under command of the French which created problems for them as the French did not want them to leave.
Arc Force were detached (mostly 154 Brigade 1st BW, 7th and 8th Argyll's) to secure a bridgehead for the Divisions Evacuation and the reducing Bridghead led them to St Valery. Events overtook this plan and Arc Force was released after heavy fighting to make their way to Le Harve and evacuation by the Royal Navy. My father escaped this way although his younger brother was captured and his 21 year old brother-in-law was killed.
In the end the remnants of the division, out of ammunition and supplies surrendered to a certain Maj. General Rommell and went into captivity. All this almost 2 weeks after the evacuation from Dunkirk.

An intresting aside to this was as my wife and I had dinner beside the Harbour at St Valery she noticed that the front cover of the book I was reading looked very familier as we looked accross the harbour.





It seemed that it was on this spot that Rommell congratulated General Fortune on how well his division had fought.

My Uncle Alistair who was captured, is the last name on the Dunoon Memorial, He died in 1947 as a result of his captivity and is buried in Dunoon Cemetary in a Commonwealth Grave alongside his father who died of wounds in 1917.
This kind of story is repeated in many parts of the Highlands.

I found this Blog which gives some good information on the 51st. There is some confusion as 51st has always been a TA Division.

http://www.laird.org.uk/Scots/51st_Division_at_St_Valery.htm
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kinnethmont



Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 1649
Location: Aberdeenshire

PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 5:27 pm    Post subject: St Valery-en-Caux Reply with quote

Great photos Tachum

The memorial is much cleaner than when I last visited it.
The then and now image by the harbour is most interesting, as is Bill Innes's book.

As you say the story was oft repeated and never more so than in the North East where the Gordons, as happened to the 1st Battn. in the previous conflict, became POW's at the outset of the war. At St Valery began the long march to Poland where they had to endure captivity and suffer extreme hardship for five years. Those of them I knew forever felt they were betrayed and sacrificed at St Valery to keep the French in the war. There is no doubt their rearguard actions allowed many men to get out of France.

The reformed 51st were repositioned in 1944 to allow them to liberate St Valery and even the score for their late and still imprisoned comrades of the old 51st.
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Tachum



Joined: 12 Oct 2008
Posts: 11
Location: Livingston

PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jas, thanks for your comments. The memorial and everything was cleaned up for the 2004 anniversary.

Sandy
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Richard Sands



Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Posts: 25
Location: Suffolk

PostPosted: Mon Oct 27, 2008 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have some video somewhere of the 60th celebrations in 2000, attended by Sir Derek Lang, ex 4th Camerons, captured in 1940 but managed to (His book "Return to St Valery") escape. He returned in 1944 as commander of 5th battalion Queens Own Cameron Highlanders. St valery is twinned with Inverness.
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Richard Sands



Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Posts: 25
Location: Suffolk

PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:31 pm    Post subject: St Valery-en-Caux 2000 Reply with quote

Some video of the 60th anniversary/remeberance of the capture of the 51st HD at St Valery-en-Caux. The veterans gathered for prayer and the lament.

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alasdair



Joined: 04 Dec 2007
Posts: 40
Location: Edinburgh

PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi can anyone help with a little general information.

I am looking for some information for a friend his dad served with the 51st Highland Division Provost Company. His fathers paybook says he returned to the UK on the 11/6/40 so must have been evacuated on the 9th or 10th. How many men from the 51st Division got away from St Valery before the Division laid down their arms on the 12th. Family history says that he was captured by the enemy then escaped and managed to get off the beaches.
Thanks
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Adam Brown
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Joined: 14 Dec 2006
Posts: 7294
Location: Edinburgh (From Sutherland)

PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2015 11:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most of those who escaped back to the UK were evacuated from Le Havre or Veules-les-Roses.

If he escaped from the beaches it was probably from Veules-les-Roses but from what I've read that evacuation took place on the night of 11/12th June so his return to the UK would have been on the 12th.

The Royal Navy evacuation of troops from the Le Havre peninsula was called Operation Cycle, part of the larger Operation Ariel to evacuate British troops from France after Dunkirk. If you can find information about that it may provide information on ships which evacuated troops on those dates.

I would say that most ships would be able to cross the Channel in a few hours so he may well have been evacuated on the 11th itself.

Adam
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