83rd anniversary of Battle of St Valery

July 13, 2023
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Poppies in a field.

Commemorations took place in June to mark the 83rd anniversary of the Battle of St Valery.

Ceremonies in Saint Valery-en-Caux and the surrounding communes along the Côte D’Albatre in Normandy, remembered the fallen and captured of the 51st Highland Division and soldiers from 1st Armoured Division and the French 9th Army Corps that fought alongside the Highlanders.

Many small wreath-laying ceremonies took place at roadside memorials throughout the northern French region, with the two main ceremonies held at the cliff top memorial in St Valery and at the Franco-British Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, also in St Valery itself. The gates of the cemetery were gifted to St Valery by the people of north and north-east Scotland.

The Mayor, M. Jean François Ouvry, and Deputy Mayor M Benjamin Gorgibus, both good friends of Highland RFCA, led ceremonies. St Valery is twinned with Inverness.

Piper Christophe Ubh and his colleagues from Celtik en Caux pipe band, and musicians from local schools provided music.

The soldiers lost at St Valery are often referred to as The Forgotten Heroes, with the evacuation at Dunkirk being the story of the day, but they are very much remembered in this part of Normandy, with deep gratitude and respect.

Woman delivering speech.
Highland RFCA’s Michelle McKearnon delivers a speech.

Highland RFCA Head of Engagement Michelle McKearnon travelled to France for the commemorations. She said she was was touched by the number of ceremonies delivered, many involving youngsters from local schools who help to lay the beautiful flower arrangements at the memorials.

She also had the honour this year of being asked to speak (in French) on behalf of Highland RFCA at the cliff top memorial.

Poppy wreath.
A wreath from 51 Bde and Defence Staff Paris.

Plans are afoot for 2024 when the 80th anniversary of the liberation of St Valery in 1944 will be celebrated, and in 2025 when the 85th anniversary of the battle itself will again be commemorated.

To read about the history of the Battle of St Valery, click HERE.