German remote-controlled tracked vehicle used to deliver a demolition charge, captured by 51st Highland Division troops at Benouville, 27 June 1944. Dr. Gordon J. Barclay is an archaeologist and historian. If you continue to use this website then you must agree to the terms set out in our Privacy Policy. This was the Crocodile, a flamethrower version of the tank that was to prove to be the best such AFV fielded by any combatant during the war. The 51st was a firstline Territorial Army Division comprising nine Scottish infantry battalions and (usually ignored in the narrative of grievance) Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, and other units, some of which were English. If you have a complaint about the editorial content which relates to inaccuracy or intrusion, then please contact the editor here. The story was picked up and repeated in the Daily Express the next day. Third, the elaborate mythology is not subject to even the most basic critical analysis. With the further 1,000 or so taken on the Somme and in the Saar, a total of over 11,000 soldiers of the Division were marched into 5 long years of captivity. Post moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. The troops started arriving late that evening; the tanks arrived three days later; the only howitzer in the Square was a German “trophy” weapon from the war. He was held as a prisoner of war until he escaped the Nazis in 1945. Over the winter, nine individual infantry brigades had gained this experience; at the end of the winter, it was decided that a whole division at a time would henceforth be posted to the French on rotation. There is no space here to describe their retreat across France. The 51st (Highland) Division was the first whole division to be sent, late in April 1940. The third of the myths is more complex. The offensive by the 51st Highland Division on the Somme was only partially successful. Data returned from the Piano 'meterActive/meterExpired' callback event. On the one hand there is the faultless secular saint; on the other, a villain for all seasons. But after a victorious war, the British people weren't interested in defeats and surrenders. Ill-equipped and out-gunned, they fought with outstanding discipline and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. We use cookies to ensure that we are able to give you the best experience on our website. Not only was this not an “English invasion,” the majority of War Cabinet members present at the meeting at which it was agreed to provide troops to the Sheriff, if he needed them, were themselves Scots, and the discussion took place in a room where the majority of politicians and civil servants present also were Scots. This post received almost 1000 “shares” in a short period. Other elements include claims that: • All of the troops sent were English. The ancillary force sent with the 51st also contained three English infantry battalions.7. The mythology continues to be used as the touchstone of English, Tory, or Westminster oppression, whenever a suitable (or not so suitable) occasion arises. Perhaps his political objectives were even more important. The Fighting 51st deserves better. Was that a useless “sacrifice”? “Truth” has become no more than “what I want to you to believe.”. Get involved with the news in your community, This website and associated newspapers adhere to the Independent Press Standards Organisation's Editors' Code of Practice. The Argyll and Sutherland battalions in particular suffered heavy casualties. It is these three that I discuss here. 1. Some 3,300 men were, however, lifted from a beach at the eastern end of the St. Valéry perimeter. Three things strike me. Fortune surrendered and ten thousand Scotsmen ended up in German POW camps. It has also been alleged that during World War II, Churchill was ready to surrender Scotland to Nazi forces to defend the south of England. And rightly so. The next day, the Germans countered, with interest. Churchill thought it needed ‘strengthening’ with some regular units, so the 1st Battalion took the place of the 6th, which went to the 4th Division. The observant reader will have noticed the flaw: how could sailors on, at the latest, 4 June 1940 threaten to mutiny about an event that would not happen until 11 June? Its leader, General Fortune, knew that. Those who surrendered at St. Valery endured forced marches, with little sustenance, across France and Belgium, then transport in coal barges and cattle wagons to POW camps in Eastern Germany and Poland. The most recent issues of Finest Hour are available online to members. They would probably have held out for even longer at St. Valery had the French around them not hoisted the white flag. The tamer version of this kind of social media post merely states, for example, “Churchill abandoned the fighting Scots of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division June 1940.” This not only particularises the loss of Scottish troops by ignoring the shared fate of non-Scots, but also promotes the myth of “abandonment,” and implies some sort of deliberate act of malice by Churchill. A desperate, last-minute plan to evacuate the Highlanders from St. Valery, a small fishing port, bound on either side by high cliffs, proved to be forlorn. A request to name these “historians” went unanswered, and senior figures in the charity have since defended the decision to keep this post on the site, in the face of objections, as they “have no remit to examine the interpretation of military history” as expressed on their social media feed by their staff. The French were already starting to blame the British for the disaster befalling their country. At that time, I was not active on social media, and it was some time before I became aware that my book had been misrepresented. Three days before the article was published, the devolved Scottish Government had announced that the referendum on Scottish independence would be held in September 2014. The myth that “Churchill persuaded the Cabinet that troops, machine guns, and tanks should be deployed” seems to have been invented by the Labour politician (and a leader of the Forty Hours Strike) Emanuel Shinwell in his 1973 memoirs I’ve Lived Through It All. 32–62. A Scottish veterans’ charity posts a version of the “abandoned” myth that places personal blame on Churchill and airbrushes non-Scots from history. Both articles were published in print-only Scottish editions of the respective papers, but the Mail on Sunday article is now available on-line.2. The division was raised in 1908, upon the creation of the Territorial Force, as the Highland Division and later 51st (Highland) Division from 1915. Mobilised at the start of the First World War, the 1st consisted of brigades drawn from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Seaforths, Gordons and Camerons. His most recent book The Fortification of the Firth of Forth 1880–1977: “the Most Powerful Naval fortress in the British Empire” (with Ron Morris) was published in 2019. 291–93, and Peter Scott, In the Eye of the Storm (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966), pp. Men of the Durham Light Infantry, 49th (West Riding) Division ‘advance’ past a knocked-out German Panther tank during Operation ‘Epsom’, 27 June 1944. But the game was up. For Churchill, the continued presence of the Highland Division in France countered such accusations. Gordon J. Barclay, If Hitler Comes: Preparing for Invasion, Scotland 1940 (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2013). It is important that we continue to promote these adverts as our local businesses need as much support as possible during these challenging times. I have concentrated on fake history on social media, but much of the same mythologised past appears in newspaper articles, TV documentaries, and even popular and academic histories and school history texts. Led by General Victor … Seaforths from the 51st Highland Division in northern France in 1940 Together they formed a unit of about 20,000 men. 5. A comment under an article in the nationalist newspaper the National during the controversies about Churchill’s reputation, early in 2019. Brigadier Charles S Grant said the 51st Highland Division was put under French command to bolster the country's defence against German forces. Churchill, of course, had form as a would-be military strategist. Join to automatically receive a subscription to BOTH. In 2014 I wrote an article describing the creation and political use of the “abandon Scotland” myth. Gott had been killed. Populist nationalist politics, at both national and devolved levels in the UK and elsewhere in the world, thrive in an atmosphere in which trust has been eroded in traditional sources of information and in which expertise and specialist knowledge are denigrated. Other, a book or two, a book or two, a villain all! Simple matter not only the headline, but the Mail on Sunday article is available! Of captivity in prison camps was just unlucky the invasion of Europe the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 first world from! To inaccuracy or intrusion, then please contact the editor here to have little connection to 51st... Fact, most of all, we should remember the valour of the Division. At Benouville, 27 June 1944 followed bloggers also posted 51st highland division churchill, but the Mail on article... 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