When Donald Smith travelled to France as a 19-year-old with five friends to fight in the Second World they all made a pact – to reunite every year at the Cenotaph in London.
Only the now 99-year-old returned home from the conflict, and only then after spending four years as a prisoner of war after being captured at St Valery.
Today Mr Smith, who lives in Forres, is one of just two surviving veterans from the 51st Highland Regiment, who made their last stand at the town in the north of France.
Yesterday the former soldier, who grew up in Yorkshire after being born in Glasgow, saluted outside his home while wearing his war medals as pipers played The Heroes of St Valery to remember the fallen.
Two of the private’s friends, Nobby Clark and Bernard Finn, died at his side when a shell exploded above their heads.
The blast knocked Mr Smith – who had only joined the Fort George regiment six months earlier to follow in his uncle’s footsteps – unconscious, while shrapnel tore through his hands ans cost him a finger.
After initially being treated in a first aid tent a decision was taken to move him to a hospital.
Mr Smith said: “On the way down some Germans came across in front of us. We didn’t know what to do to get out of the way.
“At the side of the road there was an old bus, I heard somebody say ‘Smudger, get in here’.
“I must have passed out due to loss of blood, the next thing I knew there was a loud bang and the back of the bus had gone.
“I dragged myself down to the harbour. It was awful, people were running here, there and everywhere.
“The whole centre was in flames. A lot of it was destroyed.”
Mr Smith then took shelter in the grounds of a large home and used water to clean his wounds.
He added: “I heard a loud bang and a German tank came straight in through the gates.
“Soldiers followed and they found me at the side of the pond.
“I was taken down to a farm that was being used as a dressing station.
“I remember a senior German officer saying to me ‘How old are you?’ – I won’t tell you exactly what I said, but I said ‘Old enough to fight you’.”
After that day in June, Mr Smith spent a year in a military hospital before being moved between prisoner of war camps in Germany and Poland.
He was eventually liberated by US troops in 1944 while marching with retreating German troops.
Moray Lord Lieutenant Major General Seymour Monro, who visited Mr Smith yesterday, said: “It’s so important to remember the valiant men of the 51st Highland Division who fought so bravely at St Valery.
“They had been fighting in support of the French Army but eventually found themselves on their own in and around the port of St Valery, many miles south west of Dunkirk.
“They fought to the last rounds before having to surrender. Many Highlanders died, many were casualties and many more went into captivity for the rest of the war.”