Charles to join tributes to soldiers caught up in ‘forgotten Dunkirk’

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The Prince of Wales is to join commemorations led by pipers playing a tribute to thousands of Scots who were killed or captured during “the forgotten Dunkirk” 80 years ago.

The Second World War battle led to 10,000 mainly Scottish soldiers from the 51st Highland Division being captured at St Valery-en-Caux in France.

They continued the fight on the continent in support of the French after the Dunkirk evacuations had been completed, and a flotilla of ships sent to rescue the troops was unable to reach them due to fog and the proximity of German artillery above the town.

More than 450 pipers from around the world have have so far signed up to take to their doorsteps and play the pipers’ march Heroes Of St Valery at 10am on June 12 in memory of those caught up in the conflict.

Charles, known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, will take the salute from a piper at his Scottish home of Birkhall.

He said: “On 12th June 1940, after a gallant stand, the 51st Highland Division with supporting arms and services, including elements from English regiments, was forced to surrender to the German army at St Valery-en-Caux on the Normandy coast of France.

“At 10am, on this year’s 80th anniversary, pipers throughout Scotland and further afield will be on their doorsteps playing the celebrated march, the Heroes Of St Valery, in honour of the fallen and to remember a battle in which those of the Division displayed the greatest courage and tenacity.”

He added: “I warmly encourage all pipers, whether skilled or learning, to take part in this moving tribute to one of the United Kingdom’s most legendary fighting formations.

“We remember all who served and who sacrificed so much.”

Pipers from as far afield as Peru and Kathmandu will be performing the Heroes Of St Valery, which was composed by Donald MacLean, who was captured at St Valery in June 1940 and spent four years as a prisoner of war.

Three Scottish armed forces charities – Legion Scotland, Poppyscotland and Royal Caledonian Education Trust: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity (RCET) – have joined forces to organise the tribute.

Heroes of St Valery pipers
Pipe Major Ben J Duncan is among those who will be taking part in the tribute (Mark Owens/Poppyscotland/PA)

There will be a live broadcast featuring pipers across the world performing at 10am and a virtual classroom lesson for schoolchildren broadcast at 11am, while at 3pm there will be an online screening of the play The Beaches of St Valery.

Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin, president of Royal British Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland and a vice-president of RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity, said: “St Valery represents a hugely significant moment in our nation’s history, and it is quite right that the bravery and fortitude of the great 51st Highland Division should be marked in this moving way.

“It is a great honour for us all that His Royal Highness, The Duke of Rothesay, will take the salute, especially given his own close association with so many of the Highland regiments that served in the 51st Highland Division. ”

Scotland’s veterans minister Graeme Dey said: “There is barely a town or village in the Highlands that was unaffected by the events at St Valery in June 1940, yet many people today don’t know of the incredible bravery shown by the soldiers of the 51st Highland Division.

“Eighty years on from such a significant date in Scotland’s history, it is vitally important that the heroic stance the 51st Division took that day is remembered, not only today but in the years to come.”

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