With the centenary in 2014 of the outbreak of the Great War, we have had countless reminders of “the war to end war” and of those terrible days on the Somme in July 1916.
Now, a request from a reader gives us cause to remember some of the Scottish soldiers who fought so bravely in the other global conflict of the 20th century.
Mathieu Lecul, who lives in Brucamps in the Picardie region of northern France, plans to commemorate in June 2015 the crucial part played by Scottish troops fighting in the “other” Battle of the Somme, which took place around Abbeville in the summer of 1940.
Mathieu hopes to welcome to his home area, in early June, representatives of the families of those soldiers of 8th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders who fought and died in the battle. He has asked for our help in publicising his invitation.
Mathieu plans to offer a battlefield tour, a local memorial ceremony, and, where possible, the opportunity for families to visit the precise location where their relative fell. In preparation, he has been researching municipal archives in Picardie.
Mathieu is keen to help descendants of the soldiers to explore the local area, which includes, within a dozen miles radius, the city of Amiens, the town of Abbeville, and the Bay of the River Somme. A little further afield lies the modest fishing port of St Valéry en Caux, where, on 12 June 1940 in the wake of the Battle of the Somme, the bulk of the Argyll & Sutherlands’ parent unit – the 51st (Highland) Division – was left with no option but to surrender, having been prevented by circumstances from evacuating via Dunkirk. Meanwhile, the surviving elements of the 7th & 8th Battalions Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, already separated from the main force, managed to reach Le Havre, from where they were evacuated to England.
Mathieu is realistic about what he can achieve. His plans are for a relatively small-scale event compared to, for example, June 2014’s D-Day commemorations on the beaches of Normandy. Nevertheless, he is passionate about the idea, and feels that, while the Battle of the Somme in 1940 marked a significant loss of territory for his nation, relatively few French people are aware of the sacrifice made by Scottish troops; he hopes that his planned commemoration will inform the current generation as to the scale of the Argylls’ contribution.
Mathieu recognises that earlier forebears of some who accept his invitation might have fought in the original Battle of the Somme between July and November 1916. He encourages visitors to take the opportunity to tour also that vast battlefield, the centre of which lies about 40 miles east of Abbeville.
If a member of your family fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1940, either as a member of 8th Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders or alongside that unit, Mathieu would like very much to hear from you.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mathieu is particularly keen to make contact with the families of the men listed below. All were 8th Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders who fell in the Battle of the Somme, and they are buried in a handful of local cemeteries and graveyards between Abbeville and the Channel coast.
Friville-Escarbotin Communal Cemetery
CAMPBELL, Lance Corporal Alistair (29), S/No.2982571, d. 5 June 1940
CAMPBELL, Private Thomas Watt (21), S/No.2985437, d. 5 June 1940 (son of William and Margaret Watt CAMPBELL, of Glasgow)
FORBES, Private William (26), S/No.3243269, d. 7 June 1940 (son of William and Sarah FORBES, of Dunoon, Argyllshire)
GILLIES, Private Donald (29), S/No.2982489, d. 7 June 1940
LOGAN, Private John Atkinson (22), S/No.2984625, d. 7 June 1940 (son of Andrew and Margaret Ann LOGAN, and husband of Jamesina LOGAN)
MACINTYRE, Private Donald (26), S/No.2981434, d. 23 June 1940 (son of Mrs E MACINTYRE, of Glen Finart, Argyllshire)
MACQUEEN, Private Duncan John (23), S/No.2980486, d. 5 June 1940 (son of John and Margaret MACQUEEN)
MITCHELL, Private John (31), S/No.2976031, d. 5 June 1940 (son of Hugh Weir MITCHELL and Agnes Kiel MITCHELL, and husband of Mary MITCHELL, of Greenock, Renfrewshire)
STRANG, Private James (29), S/No.2985179, d. 7 June 1940
THOMSON, Private Robert, S/No.2984432, d. 7 June 1940
St Blimont Communal Cemetery
HURRELL, Private Robert Louis (21), S/No.2981062, d. 5 June 1940 (son of Robert and Joan HURRELL, and nephew of Martha RANKIN, of Clydebank, Dunbartonshire)
DONNACHIE, Private James (20), S/No.2982580, d. 5 June 1940 (son of James and Catherine DONNACHIE)
HIGGINS, Corporal Robert Fisher (33), S/No.2974210, d. 5 June 1940 (son of Peter and Mary Hutton Muir HIGGINS, of Dunoon, Argyllshire)
LEIPER, Private John William (21), S/No.2985253, d. 4 June 1940
MACKINNON, Private Archie (25), S/No.2982599, d. 5 June 1940
MITCHELL, Private Hugh (21), S/No.2980732, d. 5 June 1940
SALKELD, Private Joseph (21), S/No.3132177, d. 5 June 1940 (son of Joseph and Margaret SALKELD, of Prestonpans, East Lothian)
CAMPBELL, Private Robert (26), S/No.2982721, d. 5 June 1940 (son of Archibald and Catherine CAMPBELL, of Whithorn, Wigtownshire)
CHAPMAN, Private John (24), S/No.2978011, d. 5 June 1940
MCARTHUR, Private David (24), S/No.2981742, d. 5 June 1940
MACDONALD, Lance Corporal John, S/No.3132142, d. 5 June 1940 (son of Joseph and Elizabeth MACDONALD, of Perceton, Ayrshire)
MCLUGASH, Private Dugald (21), S/No.2981038, d. 5 June 1940 (son of Dugald and Janet MCLUGASH, of Islay, Argyllshire)
MORRISON, Private James (27), S/No.2984602, d. 5 June 1940
Cayeux-Sur-Mer Communal Cemetery
COOK, Private Angus (22), S/No.2981600, d. 5 June 1940 (son of George and Jennie COOK, of Campbeltown, Argyllshire)