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WATCH: Happy birthday tribute to 99-year-old Brora veteran as 80th anniversary approaches of St Valéry battle he fought in

By Caroline McMorran

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A Brora veteran who fought in World War II and was taken prisoner following the battle of St Valéry 80 years ago, has just celebrated his 99th birthday.

Tribute was paid to Davie Beaumont when he reached the significant milestone yesterday.

Local man and piper Colin Simpson - a colour sergeant in the Highlanders, Royal Regiment of Scotland, stood outside Mr Beaumont’s home and gave a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.

He was watched from the doorstep by an appreciative Mr Beaumont and his wife, Ishbel, who have three children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

In a long and remarkable life, Invergordon-born Mr Beaumont, who has lived in Brora for 60 years, can look back on many times of peril and adventure.

He was serving in the 4th Seaforth Highlanders - 51st Highland Division 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 incident is known as the “forgotten” Dunkirk and plans are in hand to mark the 80th anniversary in a fortnight on Friday, June 12.

Davie and Ishbel Beaumont with Colour Sergeant Colin Simpson.Picture: Louise Mackay Photography
Davie and Ishbel Beaumont with Colour Sergeant Colin Simpson.Picture: Louise Mackay Photography

Aged just 19, Mr Beaumont endured a forced march from France to Poland where he became a prisoner-of-war. But he escaped and was repatriated and went on to fight again in North Africa, Malaya and Singapore.

Following the war he worked as an army physical training instructor and later as a linesman with the Hydro Board.

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.”

Meanwhile pipers from all over the world have been signing up to pay tribute to the thousands of Scots who were killed at St Valéry.

The battle is being memorialised by three leading Scottish Armed Forces charities - Legion Scotland, Poppyscotland and RCET- Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity.

More than 200 pipers from 16 countries across five continents have already agreed to play the haunting pipers' march, Heroes of St Valéry, on their doorsteps on June 12.

Given the level of interest so far, organisers are hoping it could end up being the biggest-ever pipe-playing event in history.

Amongst the most prominent pipers is Willie Armstrong, one of the founding members of Celtic rock band Red Hot Chilli Pipers. Willie, who served in the Royal Navy for four years and is a retired fire service officer.

He said: “I’m delighted to be involved and it’s amazing to see the global piping community come together for such an important commemoration, especially alongside charities that are very close to my heart.

“Heroes of St Valéry is a tune I’ve been playing for decades. It is going to be incredibly moving to play Donald MacLean’s iconic march exactly 80 years on from when he was captured at the battle of St Valéry."

Virtual tributes are also planned as well as a fundraising campaign to support the work of these military charities.

Neil McLennan, University of Aberdeen director of leadership programmes and RCET director, has been convening the St Valery 80th Commemorations Committee.

He said: “We have been overwhelmed by the response so far. There are pipers signed up from as far afield as Peru and Singapore, with scores more joining up every day.

“The world record for the largest ever piping ensemble saw 333 participants at an event in Bulgaria in 2012.

“Due to the global pandemic this will be a virtual rather than physical event, but, given the level of interest we have received to date, our hope is that it will be the largest mass playing of the pipes ever.

“The events at St Valéry in 1940 have never received the level of recognition we believe they should, but we hope this year’s commemoration will put that right and ensure the ‘Forgotten 51st’ are forgotten no more.

“As we can see, people across the world are moved by the story and want to commemorate it together.”

Pipers and other musicians, of all ages and abilities are being invited to download the sheet music and learn the piece over the coming weeks.

The public is being asked to support the St Valéry tribute through a fundraising campaign which will support the work of the three charities.

If you live in Sutherland and are planning to join in the St Valéry tribute, send a picture to: editor@northern-times.co.uk

Click here to register an interest in taking part and to access sheet music

Click here for more information on the 51st (Highland) Division at St Valéry

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