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Re: Remember 51st Highland Division at St Valéry-en-Caux
Thank you for your "e" Iain - lest we forget!
Today's generation needs to hear about this to learn and be reminded.
I will pass it along to my 15 year old son and to others!
On 05-Jun-00, you wrote:
> The following appeared in The Sunday Telegraph, which follows my earlier
> Yours aye
> ISSUE 1836 Sunday 4 June 2000
> Survivors of 'sacrificed' division still feel bitter
> By Ian Cobain
> AS hundreds of war veterans converge on Dunkirk today, 70 old soldiers
> will gather in another French seaside town 120 miles away, to remember the
> events of 60 years ago after the armada of small boats had departed. They
> are the survivors of the entire infantry division that was sacrificed by
> Winston Churchill to persuade the French to fight on against Hitler - and
> who were then marooned and forgotten as the other British troops sailed
> The officers and men of the 51st Highland Division were placed under
> French command after Churchill told his opposite number in Paris, Paul
> Reynaud, that Britain would "never abandon her ally in her hour of need".
> At its heart were some of the proudest regiments in Scottish history: the
> Black Watch, the Seaforth Highlanders and the Argyll & Sutherland
> Highlanders, and their men stood and fought as the French army collapsed
> around them.
> After fighting their way back to the Channel and the small town of St
> Valery-en-Caux, they found the sea blanketed by thick fog, and no ships
> there to rescue them. In a last stand that claimed thousands of
> casualties, and in which the grandfather of the actor Hugh Grant played a
> pivotal role, the division fought almost to its last bullet.
> When its commanding officer, Gen Victor Fortune, finally surrendered to
> Rommel, more than 10,000 men were taken prisoner and marched off to spend
> the rest of the war in captivity.
> The loss of the division shocked the small Highland communities from which
> its members were drawn. Alan Carswell, the curator of the National War
> Museum of Scotland, said: "It was a huge blow throughout Britain, but
> particularly in the Highlands. The 51st had been regarded since the
> previous war as perhaps the most effective division in the British Army."
> Moreover, many of the the survivors are still bitter at the way in which
> they were left to their fate while more than 300,000 other men were
> plucked off the beaches.
> "We are still very angry about it," said Tommy Parton, then a 20-year-old
> private who had joined as a regular with the Seaforth Highlanders."We were
> sacrificed by Churchill because he was eager to keep the French fighting.
> We were placed under poor command, and expected to fight alongside men who
> didn't have the stomach for it." Mr Parton found himself taking part in a
> bayonet charge against German positions without any support "because the
> French tanks didn't turn up".
> Some elements of the division managed to escape to Le Havre, and on to
> England by boat, but most of the 51st found itself in St Valery, which was
> pounded by artillery and Stuka dive bombers, and surrounded by Rommel's
> When Gen Fortune eventually ordered his officers to surrender on June 12,
> many broke down and wept. However, one of the battalions of the Seaforths
> continued to fight at its outpost in a village outside the town.
> The men had been led by Major James Murray Grant, the grandfather of the
> actor Hugh Grant, after their commanding officer collapsed under the
> strain of weeks of continual fighting. Major Grant called his officers and
> pointed out that no battalion of the Seaforths had ever surrendered
> Running out of ammunition, he sent out his wounded, carried by the men who
> wanted to surrender, and then organised the rest into small parties who
> made a break for freedom under cover of darkness. Many were killed, and
> others were captured, including Major Grant, who was later awarded the
> Saul David, a military historian, believes that Churchill sacrificed the
> 51st because he was anxious that the French continue fighting from her
> colonies, or at least resist long enough for Britain to prepare her
> However, Capt Ian Campbell, Gen Fortune's intelligence officer and who
> later became the Duke of Argyll, said shortly before his death in 1973:
> "It has always been abundantly clear to me that no division has ever been
> more uselessly sacrificed. It could have been got away a week before but
> the powers that be - owing I think to very faulty information - had come
> to the conclusion that there was a capacity for resistance in France which
> was not actually there."
> Next Wednesday the survivors of the 51st will gather at the granite
> memorial to their dead comrades, which was shipped from Scotland and now
> stands on a cliff overlooking St Valery.
> Mr Parton knows what he will remember most. "People who weren't there
> think of it like some black-and-white news reel, but film will never tell
> you about the smell of battle or the cries of your friends who are dying."
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