It was one of the biggest setbacks of the Second World War.
And now, pipers from all over the world have signed up to pay tribute to the thousands of Scots who were killed or captured during “the forgotten Dunkirk” 80 years ago.
The battle of Saint-Valery-en-Caux is being memorialised by three leading Scottish Armed Forces charities and more than 200 pipers across five continents have already agreed to play the haunting march, Heroes of St Valery, on June 12.
Given the level of interest so far, organisers are hoping it could end up being the biggest-ever pipe-playing event in history.
Amongst the most prominent pipers is Willie Armstrong, one of the founding members of Celtic rock band The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.
Mr Armstrong, who served in the Royal Navy for four years, said: “I’m delighted to be involved and it’s amazing to see the global piping community
come together for such an important commemoration, especially alongside charities that are very close to my heart.
“Heroes of St Valery is a tune that I have been playing for decades. It is going to be incredibly moving to play Donald MacLean’s iconic march exactly 80 years on from when he was captured at the Battle of St Valery.
“More than 200 pipers have registered to take part in just over a week, and I am really hopeful that more will sign up in the coming days.”
Lewis-born Pipe Major Donald MacLean enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders in 1940 when Nazi Germany invaded France, and he was subsequently attached to the 51st Highland Division.
A week after the mass evacuations from Dunkirk, the 51st remained on the continent under French command. They put up a fierce final defence, but, after more than ten days of intense fighting, plans for a Dunkirk-style evacuation were put in place.
However, a combination of poor weather and the proximity of German artillery made escape impossible and the Division was forced to surrender on 12th June 1940, following a final battle at St-Valery-en-Caux, a fishing port west of Dieppe.
Mr MacLean survived a harrowing forced march from France to Poland with little food
or shelter and was held as a PoW for the remainder of the war.
He went on to compose Heroes of St Valery to commemorate those who fought and fell there and who rest in the military cemetery above the town.
Legion Scotland, Poppyscotland and RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity have joined forces to organise the tribute, which also includes online learning resources for young people, virtual tributes and a fundraising campaign.
At 10am on June 12, pipers in Scotland and all over the world will take to their doorsteps to play Heroes of St Valery.
To register interest in taking part, visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk/st-valery.