His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, will join commemorations for the 80th anniversary of St Valéry. The largely forgotten Second World War battle led to 10,000 mainly Scottish soldiers from the 51st Highland Division being captured at St Valéry-en-Caux. They had continued the fight on the continent in support of the French after the Dunkirk evacuations had been completed.
His Royal Highness, who is known as The Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, will take the salute from a piper at Birkhall to mark the anniversary. In a message of support for the commemorations, His Royal Highness said: “On 12th June 1940, after a gallant stand, the 51st Highland Division with supporting arms and services, including elements from English regiments, was forced to surrender to the German army at St Valéry-en-Caux on the Normandy coast of France.
“At 10am, on this year’s 80th anniversary, pipers throughout Scotland and further afield will be on their doorsteps playing the celebrated march, the Heroes of St Valéry, in honour of the fallen and to remember a battle in which those of the Division displayed the greatest courage and tenacity.”
The Duke of Rothesay added:
“I warmly encourage all pipers, whether skilled or learning, to take part in this moving tribute to one of the United Kingdom’s most legendary fighting formations. We remember all who served and who sacrificed so much.”
The piping performance at Birkhall will be echoed all over Scotland and throughout the world, with more than 450 pipers taking part in tomorrow’s poignant occasion. It is thought the level of participants is a record for the greatest number of pipers playing simultaneously. Pipers from as far afield as Peru and Kathmandu will be performing the Heroes of St Valéry, which was composed by Donald MacLean after his capture at St Valéry in June 1940, and the subsequent four years he endured as a prisoner of war.
The events have been developed by three leading Scottish Armed Forces charities: Poppyscotland; Legion Scotland; and RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity. As well as streaming a live broadcast featuring pipers across the world performing at 10am, there will also be a virtual classroom lesson for school children broadcast at 11am. At 3pm there will be an online screening of the critically acclaimed play The Beaches of St Valéry, which is written and directed by Dr Stuart Hepburn, and will be followed by a question and answer session with the cast and director.
Dr Hepburn will then join other notable historians for an online panel discussion at 7pm, before a tribute concert at 9pm featuring performances from Celtic-rock legends Runrig, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and many others who have recorded tracks especially for the St Valéry commemorations. A twilight tribute will close out the day at 10pm. All of the broadcasts can be viewed live from the charities’ Facebook pages, and also from Poppyscotland’s YouTube channel.
Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin KCB CBE, who is the President of Royal British Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland and a Vice-President of RCET: Scotland’s Armed Forces Children’s Charity, said:
“St Valéry represents a hugely significant moment in our nation’s history, and it is quite right that the bravery and fortitude of the great 51st Highland Division should be marked in this moving way.
“It is a great honour for us all that His Royal Highness, The Duke of Rothesay, will take the salute, especially given his own close association with so many of the Highland regiments that served in the 51st Highland Division. We should pay tribute also to all those who reformed the 51st Highland Division and who later fought with such distinction in North Africa, Sicily and after D-Day all the way to victory in Germany.”
At 10am tomorrow (Friday,12 June 2020), pipers up and down Scotland and all over the world will take to their doorsteps to play Heroes of St Valéry. Pipers, and other musicians, of all ages and abilities are being invited to download the sheet music and learn the piece.
The public is being asked to support the St Valéry tribute through a fundraising campaign which will support the work of the three charities. To donate £5, please text PIPER to 70007. Standard network rates may apply but the charities will receive the full donation amount. To register interest in taking part, and to access the sheet music, pipers are being asked to visit www.poppyscotland.org.uk/st-valery.