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VIDEO: Scores across north and north-east pay respects as St Valery remembered 80 years on

Across the north and north-east, scores of veterans and members of local communities gathered to pay their respects on the 80th anniversary of the battle of St Valery.

Events were somewhat restricted due to social distancing measures, with only a handful able to gather at each location.

But despite the changes, poignant ceremonies were held in many town and cities to remember the thousands of Scots from the 51st Highland Division killed or captured at the French fishing port 80 years ago.

It is estimated that 10,000 were taken prisoner in the aftermath of the battle and marched across northern France to face years of hardship as prisoners of war.

In Nairn, five local men who perished at St Valery and whose images are etched onto the town’s war memorial were remembered.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bob Towns said: “What difficult times the families of all those involved in St Valery must have gone through in the aftermath.

“Ten thousand plus from Scotland going into captivity must have been absolutely devastating for the families back home.

“It was nice to reflect with representatives of all the battalions and remember them properly.”

In Dingwall, pipers played to commemorate the occasion, with a similar remembrance event held in Helmsdale.

In Aberdeen, ceremonies were held at the Gordon Highlanders statue at Castlegate as the Gordon Highlander Battalions, the 1st and 5th Battalions who fought with the 51st Highland Division at St Valery, were remembered.

Father and son pipers from the Bucksburn and District Pipe Band, whose founding members drew from the Gordon Highlanders, were joined by Lord Provost of Aberdeen Barney Crockett, who said: “It was a tremendously moving occasion”.

Speaking during a ceremony at the Castlegate, the Regimental Secretary of the Gordon Highlanders Association, Major Grenville Irvine-Fortescue, said: “We are gathered here in numbers far less than would normally be the case and I am very well aware there are many 51st Highland Division and St Valery veterans who will be hugely saddened that they cannot be ‘on parade’ to physically show respect and remember their fellow veterans; friends whom they served with, fought with and became prisoners of war with…and the fellow soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in that desperate fight to secure an evacuation site at St Valery.”

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