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Future generations to learn about World War II battle involving 'forgotten' 51st Highland Division during 80th anniversary commemorations

By Val Sweeney

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The play, The Beaches of St Valéry, depicts the events of 80 years ago.
The play, The Beaches of St Valéry, depicts the events of 80 years ago.

The forgotten victims of a World War II battle in which 10,000 mainly Scottish soldiers were taken prisoner by German troops will be recalled this week to mark the 80th anniversary.

The bravery of the 51st Highland Division, which made a last stand at St Valéry-en-Caux in northern France following the Dunkirk evacuations, left few communities in the north of Scotland untouched.

All school children in Scotland will now be able to learn more as armed forces charities Poppyscotland, Legion Scotland and Royal Caledonian Education Trust, Scotland’s armed forces children’s charity, come together for a programme of commemorations.

Scottish Government minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd, spoke about the importance of remembering the anniversary at the launch of new learning resources created by Poppyscotland.

"Barely a town, village or hamlet in the Highlands was unaffected by the events at St Valéry in June 1940, yet many today are unaware of its significance," she said.

"These new resources are an excellent addition to Poppyscotland’s already extensive learning programme.

"At a time when parents and carers are doing an incredible job to keep our young people learning at home, the St Valéry materials are an excellent additional resource, and offer fascinating insight into the events at St Valéry 80 years ago this week.

"My great-uncle fought there and spent five brutal years as a prisoner of war, so the forthcoming commemorations have added poignancy for me.

"While the 75th anniversary of VE Day was rightly at the forefront of national consciousness last month, it is equally important that we remember and learn about less triumphant periods in our history."

As well as daily lesson plans, other events include an interactive Facebook Live lesson on Friday – the date of the anniversary.

There will also be special broadcasts of the critically-acclaimed play by Dr Stuart Hepburn on Thursday at 8pm and Friday at 3pm.

It was first performed as part of A Pie, A Pint and A Play at Glasgow’s Oran Mor in March.

The live broadcasts can be viewed at: www.facebook.com/Poppyscotland, www.facebook.com/LegionScotland, www.facebook.com/RCETScot and www.youtube.com/user/Poppyscotland

Also on Friday, pipers across Scotland and around the world will take to their doorsteps at 10am to play Heroes of St Valéry.

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