Army Cadets from the Western Isles will be taking part in a service to remember the 51st Highland Division.
The memorial service, organised by cadets from 1st Battalion the Highlanders, will take place on 13 June at the Griminish War Memorial on Benbecula to honour the sacrifice the division made at St Valery. Despite overwhelming odds, the division held back the German advance on Dunkirk long enough to allow those on the beaches to escape back to Britain.
As British forces were withdrawing from France, the 51st Highland Division was place under French command. The bulk of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had already been evacuated from Dunkirk but the Germans launched an attack, outflanking the Allies and trapping the Division and elements of the French, who withdrew to the coastal town of St Valéry-en-Caux.
More than 10,000 members of the 51st were taken prisoner at St Valery and were marched to Germany, following the route over which the Germans had advanced against them. Their destination was Stalag XX-A at Toruń. It wasn’t the end of the 51st Highland Division – the division was reconstituted from the 9th Highland Infantry Division forming the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division.
This year marks the 79th anniversary of St Valery and the 19th anniversary of the Army Cadet Force organised parade at Griminish. When the numbers of the St Valery veterans began to significantly dwindle, the Western Isles cadets decided that the memory of the many islanders who had lost their lives at St Valery and Dunkirk should continue to be commemorated and organised their first Parade.
This year’s parade takes place at 20:00 hours at the memorial, with members of the public invited to attend.
Next year the Battalion is looking to conduct a Battlefield Tour of St Valery, as part of the 80th Anniversary of the surrender, with the cadets aiming to parade in St Valéry-en-Caux.
◉ Picture (top) shows cadets at the parade in 2017.