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St Valery and Its Aftermath (Hardback)

The Gordon Highlanders Captured in France in 1940

WWII Military/Maritime/Historical Prisoners Of War

By Stewart Mitchell
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 238
ISBN: 9781473886582
Published: 24th April 2017

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During the German May 1940 offensive, the 51st (Highland) Division, including the 1st and 5th Battalions Gordon Highlanders, became separated from the British Expeditionary Force. After a heroic stand at St Valery-en-Caux the Division surrendered when fog thwarted efforts to evacuate them.

Within days, scores of Gordons had escaped and were on the run through Nazi-occupied France. Many reached Britain after feats of great courage and tenacity, including recapture and imprisonment often in atrocious conditions in France, Spain or North Africa.

Those imprisoned in Eastern Europe were forced to work in coal and salt mines, quarries, factories and farms. Some died through unsafe conditions or the brutality of their captors. Others escaped, on occasion fighting with distinction alongside Resistance forces. Many had to endure the brutal 1945 winter march away from the advancing Allies before their eventual liberation.

This superbly researched book contains many inspiring stories that deserve and merit reading.

As featured in

Dundee Evening Telegraph

At times this book is monumentally sad. At other times it's humorous. The shining light through it all is the tenacity of the soldiers from the North East corner of Scotland, who through no fault of their own, found themselves in captivity for the best part of the war. I learnt a lot from this book and highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the Gordon Highlanders or prisoners of war from this historical event. It’s a great read!

Read the complete review here.

The Few Good Men

As featured in

Buchan Observer

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Fraserburgh Herald

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Ellon Times

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Deeside Piper

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Mearns Leader

As featured in

St Valery Escapes

Author article as featured in

Britain at War, October 2017

'In many histories of the Second World War much is written about great generals and momentous battles while the story of the ordinary soldier goes untold. This is not the case in Mitchell's superbly researched work... The book acts as a tribute to these deserving but often forgotten soldiers and their collective courage, giving a voice to their inspiring and at times harrowing stories.'

Scottish Field

'It is in the re-telling of personal accounts that Mitchell excels, and he succeeds in making St Valery more than just another military history.'

Aberdeen Voice

As featured in

Aberdeen Press and Journal

The British press, especially in 1940, had a wonderful way of expressing bad news in such a way that the public almost believed we did well. Dunkirk and the soldiers rescued from the beaches is a classic example. The news of loss of the British Expeditionary Force was overshadowed by stirring stories of the soldiers rescued from the beaches. Little was said about thousands more, including the Gordon Highlanders who made a heroic stand at St Valery. Attempts to rescue them was abandoned because of fog. While many units were ordered to surrender, for others, who had become separated from their companies, it became every man for himself. These, and individuals who escaped from their German captors made the way across occupied France, over the mountains to Spain. Eventually to Gibraltar and home. Many were captured!

Stewart Mitchell weaves a well researched story of the fate of these escapers and the Highlanders who became prisoners of war. Previous books and films have mainly described Officer Prison Camps where they were exempted work. The Highlanders were work slaves, in labour gangs in salt mines and coal mines or where-ever the were needed. As the end of the war approached and the Russian army swept through Poland, their frightened German guards, fearing being captured by the Russians; herded caravans of shuffling, starving prisoners in below zero weather to overcrowded camps or slept rough in fields.

The story is comfortable read, a page turner and fills a gap ones knowledge of the fate of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940.

Richard Gough - Military Author and historian
 Stewart Mitchell

About Stewart Mitchell

Stewart Mitchell became Volunteer Researcher at the Gordons Museum, Aberdeen in 2005 after a career in environmental protection. He lives with his wife at Bridge of Don, Aberdeen.

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