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Special significance of St Valéry anniversary for Brora veteran

By Caroline McMorran

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Pipers across the globe are today marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of St Valéry by playing the haunting pipers’ march, Heroes of St Valery, on their doorsteps.

But Brora man Davie Beaumont, who celebrated his 99th birthday on May 28, has more reason than most to remember the World War II conflict- for he was actually there. His is a remarkable story.

Invergordon-born Mr Beaumont was serving in the 4th Seaforth Highlanders - 51st Divison and was among part of the division that was forced to surrender on June 12, 1940, after being cut off at St Valéry-en-Caux, a fishing port on the Channel coast west of Dieppe.

The town was surrounded by German forces and the Seaforths, who endured relentless bombardment from artillery and air attack, were left without armoured support. They made it to the harbour but when the order came for the Royal Navy to carry out an evacuation, it was too late with fog obscuring the coast .

The incident is known as the “forgotten Dunkirk”, and more than 10,000 soldiers of the 51st were taken prisoner at St Valéry.

Mr Beaumont, then aged just 19, endured the ‘long march’ from France into Germany, ending up at the Stalag VIII B Lamsdorf camp in Silesia. He was put to work on a local farm but he and another two plucky prisoners-of-war took advantage of slack guards and made their escape.

The trio eventually came across some Russian troops and were taken to Prague and repatriated by US forces.

Mr Beaumont went on to serve with distinction in North Africa, Malaya and with the 1st Seaforths in Singapore.

When he eventually returned to Britain, he trained as a physical training instructor. As a keen boxer and sword fencer, it was a natural transition. He eventually ended up as a sergeant instructor training PTIs at Aldershot.

He has lived in Brora for around 60 years with his wife Ishbel. The couple have three children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Even when he left the Army, Davie worked in a very physical environment as a linesman with the Hydro Board. He has kept fit all his life and is as sprightly as any man half his age.

Kenny McAulay of the Golspie branch of the Royal British Legion, Scotland, described Mr Beaumont as an “incredible man”.

He said: “I could go on for a long time and still be unable to do justice to Davie’s incredible story.”

Tribute was paid to Mr Beaumont on his birthday with Brora native and piper Colin Simpson – a colour sergeant in the Highlanders, Royal Regiment of Scotland, performing a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday outside. An appreciative Mr Beaumont and his wife watched from their doorstep.

More than 200 pipers from 16 countries across five continents are expected to mark today’s anniversary. The event is being organised by three leadingScottish Armed Forces charities – Legion Scotland, Poppyscotland and RCET - Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity.

Organisers said that given the level of interest, it could end up as being the biggest ever pipe-playing event in history. Virtual tributes are also planned as well as a fundraising campaign.

WATCH: Happy Birthday tribute to Brora veteran

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