Four Perthshire soldiers who gave their lives at the “forgotten Dunkirk” during WW2 will be remembered in a nationwide tribute.
Pipers across Scotland are being invited to join in unison at 10am on June 12 to take to their doorsteps and play the haunting pipers’ march, Heroes of St Valéry.
Among the thousands to be remembered will be Corporal George Nicoll, Alexander Anderson, John Kidd and James Watt of the Highland Division.
All four were involved in the battle of Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, a mere 100 miles along the coast from Dunkirk.
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On June 12, 1940, just days after Operation Dynamo, the successful mass evacuations at Dunkirk, the division remained on continental Europe to combat the German forces.
Largely comprised of men from the 51st Highland Division, they fought almost continuously for 10 days against overwhelming odds until they were eventually surrounded at St Valéry.
The Dunkirk evacuation finished on June 4 when the Germans turned their full attention to the French Army and the Highland Division.
The only way out of the country for the Allies was now through the ports of St Valéry or Dieppe.
However, from the evening of June 11, the enemy artillery occupying the cliffs around St Valéry, where Corporal Nicoll was stationed, made any attempt to evacuate the soldiers impossible.
On June 12, after running out of ammunition and food, the division and their allies were forced to surrender.
Corporal Nicoll died in the conflict on June 11 – giving his life to defend the town.
Of the 20,000 soldiers in the Highland Division – 17,000 were captured and 3000 died.
Those who were not killed in the fierce fighting, or fell to their deaths from the cliffs trying to escape, were marched hundreds of miles to prisoner of war camps in Eastern Europe, where they endured appalling conditions for five long years.
George Nicoll jr, who travelled out to St Valery with his family in June last year to visit the grave of his father Corporal Nicoll, said it was fitting to see tributes continuing 80 years on.
He said: “It was nice that they have thought about it in Edinburgh and that they are going to have pipers throughout Scotland playing.
“It makes me feel a lot better that they are remembered, because they were forgotten for so long.
“All the Perth lads and the rest - it is nice that they are remembered now.
“When we were through to St Valéry last year we were told we should come through this year because it would be a great big celebration.
“But with what is going on just now there is no way we could have even thought about it.
“They have a big pipe band there in France and they play every June 12, especially this year and it might be the last, we don’t know.
“I don’t think we will do anything this year because we will be restricted to the house.
“VE Day was a big thing as well, but the 80 years is more what I think about for my father.”
The tribute will be led on June 12 by three leading Scottish Armed Forces charities, and pipers are being asked to play a leading role.
Legion Scotland, Poppyscotland and RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity have joined forces to organise the tribute, which will also include online learning resources for young people, virtual tributes and a fundraising campaign to support the vital work of these important military charities.
To register interest in taking part, and to access the sheet music, pipers are being asked to visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk/st-valery
For more information on the 51st Highland Division at St Valéry visit https://51hd.co.uk/