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He had been Prime Minister for just 25 days when Operation Dynamo ended on June 4.
Even he had to admit “we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory – wars are not won by evacuations”, but the rest of his speech to the House of Commons that day has gone down in history as the “we shall fight them on the beaches” peroration.
Again it was the Territorial battalions of the five Highland regiments which provided the men – the Black Watch, Seaforths, Queen’s Own Camerons, the Gordons and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
The division rapidly trained up but regular army soldiers were drafted in to bolster the ranks of the 51st, especially a unit of the Royal Artillery, the 23rd Field Regiment.
With the German invasion of France, the government of Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, sent the BEF over the Channel, and the 51st embarked at Southampton for Le Havre in January 1940.
To the chagrin of every Highlander, they were ordered to hand in their kilts as the War Office deemed them unfit for modern warfare.
Indeed, there was another side to the British involvement in France in 1940.
When the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was surrounded at Dunkirk and Operation Dynamo commenced, no-one really thought that even tens of thousands of soldiers would be rescued.
Returned to territorial status in peacetime as part of the 1920 formation of the Territorial Army, the 51st was mobilised again in August 1939 under command of Major General Victor Fortune, its peacetime commander.This manoeuvre was very well carried out and, although they were within 300 yds of us, it was almost impossible to see them with the naked eye.The German soldiers, I thought, appeared extremely well-trained in their stalking tactics.How the sacrifice in France of Scottish troops changed the course of history THANKS to his very kind words in Saturday’s paper, reader Archie Hamilton is about to have his wish granted as today we will be recounting the story of the 51st Highland Division and its sacrifice in France in 1940.Flattering your columnist on the letters pages is always a good way of getting attention, and I was struck by Archie’s letter and its description of “the other side of Dunkirk”.