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Gordon Highlanders in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Gordon Highlanders

   1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders deployed to France with the BEF in 51st (Highland) Division. They were trapped and had to surrender at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux with most of the battalion being taken as POWs. In August 1940 the 1st Battalion was reformed and were deployed to North Africa and Sicily. They returned to the UK and landed in Normandy on D-Day, 6th of June 1944 and fought alongside the 2nd Battalion through France, Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany.

   2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders were based in Malaya as part of the Singapore garrison. They saw action in February 1942 in the battle for Singapore and on the 15th of February they surrendered along with 130,000 other British Commonwealth soldiers. The battalion suffered more casualties as Prisoners of War in Japanese captivity than they did during the fighting on Singapore Island and mainland Malaysia.

In May 1942 2nd Battalion was was reformed from personnel of the 11th Battalion joined 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division. They landed in Normandy on D-Day and fought alongside the 1st Battalion through France, Belgium and the Netherlands into Germany.

   4th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders were deployed to France with the BEF. In 1940 having advanced into Belgium, the 4th Battalion along with the 6th Bn were forced to retreat to Dunkirk and were evacuated to England. On the 1st of November 1941 4th Battalion was converted to an Artillery Regiment, becoming the 92nd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, in 9th Armoured Division. They were employed on home defence duties.

   The 6th (Banffshire) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders served with 153rd Infantry Brigade, 51st Highland Division. The deployed to France with the BEF and in 1940, transferred to 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. Having advanced into Belgium along with the 4th Btn, they were forced to retreat to Dunkirk and were evacuated to England. The 6th Battalion were deployed to North Africa and later fought in the Italian Campaigns. In 1945they were sent to Palestine for garrison duty before the end of the war.

   The 7th (Mar and Mearns) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders served with the second formation of the 51st Highland Division throughout the war.

   The 8th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion Gordon Highlanders converted to artillery, becoming the 100th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery. They were deployed to Burma with the 2nd Infantry Division.

   The 9th (Donside) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders were posted to the Shetland Islands on defence duties when war broke out in 1939. On the 28th of May 1942 they arrived in India for training, and were converted to an armoured regiment, 116th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps. They were deployed to Burma and in February 1945 having transferred to 255th Indian Tank Brigade were in action in the battle of Meiktila, Burma. In April 1945 the Battalion took part in the dash for Rangoon.

   5th Battalion served with the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division and took part in the Battle for France, they were forced to surrender at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux and many men were taken POW.

In August 1940 the 5th Battalion was reformed and were deployed to North Africa and later Sicily. They were recalled for the D-Day landings and on the 6th of June 1944 they landed in Normandy and fought their way, through France, Belgium and the Netherlands to Germany.

11th Jun 1940 Furious Fighting

31st May 1940 Evacuation

1st Jun 1940 Evacuation

3rd Jan 1944 Street Fighting Exercise

30th Oct 1944 British dig in on Maas Bend

8th May 1945 Victory

If you can provide any additional information, especially on actions and locations at specific dates, please add it here.

Those known to have served with

Gordon Highlanders

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

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There are 1 pages in our library tagged Gordon Highlanders  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Second World War.

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Pte. Frank Perkins The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

The late years of my education were greatly curtailed by preparations for war (we lived on a farm near Southend on Sea, in Essex at the mouth of the Thames). In pre-war 1938 we were digging up the school playing fields to plant crops for eating purposes in what became known as the 'Dig for Victory' campaign, that not put down to growth was also dug up, but for placement of air raid shelters. Some of the schools were undergoing conversion to use as emergency hospitals. On the lighter side my weekends were filled with fascinating visits to the farm by members of the Territorial Army Reserve with massive searchlight units. They set up camp and practised picking out night flying from a nearby airfield, by flimsy, slow flying, Tiger Moth biplanes. The 'Terriers' were a welcome source for pocket money, using me as an errand boy for morning papers, cigarettes and anything else they needed. At that time, to us war was inevitable, and sure enough in September '39 it came

My parents decided it was time to move. We did, out of the frying pan into the fire! Inland to another farm near Hornchurch. Hornchurch was home to an RAF station about to play a major part in the Battle of Britain. There, within an area that was later called 'Bomb Alley' - a wide corridor of intense aerial activity covering much of Kent, the Thames and into Essex. A grandstand viewpoint for Spitfire and Hurricane 'dogfights' with the German raiders. We saw the sky blacked out with hoards of bomber formations on there way to London, interspersed with bursting clouds of anti-aircraft fire that spat out rainstorms of shrapnel to litter the streets, and inflict as much injury as the enemy could dish out to the unwary. It was great to know that a lot of enemy aircraft were unable to turn tail for home after leaving a trail of devastation and sometimes an equally blacked out sky as happened one Saturday afternoon when they set fire to the Thames Haven Oil Refinery and the Silvertown Paper Works. We were plagued for hours with oily flakes of burned paper fluttering earthwards like demented butterflies.

I left school aged 14, during the height of the blitz to take up work in a stockbrokers office in the City of London, and did see both at work and around home horrifying acts against humanity to friends, relations and strangers, all of it countered and made more tolerable by acts of bravery and a great resilience. Conscription to the forces came in the latter part of the war. I had 6 months of training, mostly in Scotland attached to the Gordon Highlanders, and was eventually shipped out to India.

After journeying a quarter of the way round the world and miles of open sea, cramped in a luxury liner suitably downgraded to pack in thousands of troops we were ready to set foot on land in Bombay. Little time was available to accustom to a new culture. We were bundled into waiting trucks, taken some thirty to forty miles to a transit camp and segregated into groups with destinations we knew not where. In a short stay at the transit camp we were subjected to yet another round of inoculations, graphically lectured about clean living, repeatedly drilled in anti malarial practises, and kept completely in the dark about our future.

The war in Europe ended, and soon we were to learn that a new weapon called an atom bomb had been used to raze two large cities in Japan. Surrender by the Japanese was imminent, so was information on some of our futures - I was in a group that was to be transferred to the 1st Battalion The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders (Q.O.C.H.).

In a camp about a hundred miles north east of Bombay near the city of Nasik the remnants of the Battalion of Cameron Highlanders that had survived the Burma campaign and had not yet been repatriated to home were endeavouring to rebuild a much diminished unit. The Camerons had engaged in heavy and costly combat with the Japanese, contributing immensely to overpowering of the enemy in North East India at Kohima and Imphal. (A dramatic account by Bill Pennington of an operation involving the Camerons and the crossing of the Irrawaddy River may be found on - type Pennington in the search box).

After the initial chaos of being a member of a new draft to be received by veterans of the Burma campaign, old sweats and others that appeared to have only recently arrived, there was time to make an assessment of the new circumstances. The hierarchy had a delicate task on their hands - in fact they were putting together a potentially volatile cocktail of men with very conflicting ambitions. To all intents the war was over, Burma 'vets' had experienced enough in months to last most people a lifetime and desired only repatriation to home, some of them resorting to the bottle to endure the passage of time until their opportunity came. The last thing they wanted was to mix with a bunch of inexperienced conscripts who were still wet behind the ears, but equally ambitious to call it a day and get back civilian life. Add the other ingredient, the regular soldier who was eager to pursue his chosen career no matter what it involved, and you have a rare mixture.

Conditions in this ever changing scenario were far from good, under dusty, tatty canvas, in even tattier beds that were ridden with an impossible to combat form of wood lice, officially bodily harmless so they were there to be endured. Latrine facilities were primitively crude. Drinking water was stored in large cauldron shaped canvas containers to allow the evaporation caused by the scorching daylight sun to cool the water, it was so chlorinated you could have been drinking pure bleach. Food and eating conditions were appalling, weevil loaded bread to be spread with a runny mess called Oleo Margarine, sometimes with a form of jam. Cooked food consisted of 'porridge' and fried weevil bread for breakfast, and a possibility of something hot later in the day. Most meals were supplemented with second hand American 'K' Rations which were survival packs for use in extreme combat conditions - the contents went something like this, hard tack biscuits, brittle chocolate, pieces of toilet paper, some cigarettes and matches. If you drew luckily your 'K' Ration would contain a can labelled ham and egg. Enough griping!! The meal most looked forward to was an occasional serving of Machonochies Meat & Veg, delivered in large steel drums requiring only heating. To break the monotony of meals entertainment was laid on by native buzzards that would swoop under the canvas, grab whatever was laying around, even from our hands and make off. There was the elusive Orderly Officer of the day, he would appear apparently from nowhere, ask "Any complaints", and evaporate with well practised speed before anyone could answer.

Two influential personalities were replaced, the Bn. Commanding Officer (C.O.) and the Regimental Sergeant Major (R.S.M.), both were honoured with great respect by the Burma 'vets'. Rumours about our purpose favoured that we were to form part of an occupation force in Japan, but we were kicking our heels in the middle of nowhere in the plains of India. Morale was slipping to an all time low, unsavoury incidents were happening. Sadly there were deaths put down as suicide.The new R.S.M. was attacked whilst asleep in his tent. Someone cut the guy ropes of a marquee that was the sergeants mess, creating havoc inside.

The Bn. was up to full strength. All that remained to learn was the purpose. For the first time it was made public. We were to be part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan (B.C.O.F.) - the 5 Infantry Brigade Group of the British India Division the 14th Army (B.R.I.N.D.I.V.). The main force were three infantry battalions. Ours, 1st Bn. Q.O.C.H. The 2nd Bn. Dorsetshire Reg't, and the 2nd Bn. The Royal Welch Fusiliers, supplemented with units of 8 Coy., R.A.S.C. (Service Corps). 5 Field Ambulance (Medics), and 5 Inf. Wksps. Coy., R.E.M.E. (Electrical, mechanical engineers).

For a reason I did not know I was sent with a group to Poonah and a unit of the Army Education and Intelligence Corps for a two week course on communication qualities - the gathering of knowledge and information from, and imparting the same to both army personnel and the civilians of where we may be. It seemed irrelevant, but I did appreciate the absence of regimentation and the relaxed atmosphere. The course seemed irrelevant, but a by-product was a step on the ladder of promotion.

A new interest served to ease some of the boredom, full highland dress uniform for every member of the Bn. arrived. Appropriately dressed and assembled with a now competent pipe band in the lead brought a positively brilliant display to the barren surroundings. The Royal Welch Fusiliers had imported a goat to serve as their traditional mascot, and the Dorsets were now the proud owners of a fine military brass band. In its entirety the Brigade were becoming a very impressive force, enough to make anybody stand and stare including the Japs, and hopefully to scare the pants off any troublemakers.

Whoopee!!! At last we were ready to go. Not so!!! Protocol had been overlooked by us mere squadies, and it had to be satisfied. There followed a series of mass drill and assemblies of the whole Brigade including all of the smaller back up units. The ground was baked solid to a depth of several feet (as those who had to dig the occasional grave knew to their sorrow). The repeated marching and counter marching of 5 to 6 thousand pairs of boots would have given solid foundation for the building of a city.

The climax of all the rehearsals was an inspection of the assembly by His Excellency, the Commander in Chief (India), General Sir Claude J.E. Auchinleck. I would have loved to be able to stand aside and observe the desperate efforts of some poor souls at the head and tail of each battalion to keep in step. Authoritatively heading the parade was the resounding beat and skirl the Cameron pipes and drums, followed by the delicate fife band of the Royal Welch, and finally the bold brass band of the Dorsets. Three beats to follow - take your choice. A side benefit, the risk of individual units being inspected resulted in a full English breakfast - egg, bacon, sausage and fried bread (weevils and all).

Now we were ready to break camp and go. No converted luxury liner, instead a vessel unable to hold the whole brigade - the Dorsets would have to follow. A motor propelled sardine can heading into the tropics full of bodies taking it in turns to walk the open deck. A promise to stretch our legs ashore in Singapore had a sting in it's tail. What an anticlimax! Drag your kit out of the hold, don the full highland dress and march parallel to the Equator dressed in a heavy kilt. The Mace was lowered, the band struck up, and off we set on our morning leg stretch through the heart of Singapore. Waiting to take a salute at the Municipal Building was no less than Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia. Protocol satisfied we sweltered back to the ship. At Hong Kong a similar march took place at the dockside, nobody saw us, and we saw nobody. Honshu is the mainland of Japan. There are two major islands in the south, Kyushu and Shikoku, with the seaway around the two littered with smaller islands. On the mainland sheltered from the open sea by the land masses is a major port, Kure, situated a few miles from Hiroshima. Kure was our landing point.

As the ship slowly navigated her way through the islands we had ample time to observe. Beaches were virtually non existent. The shores rose steeply from the sea, straight into mountainous terrain. There was an atmosphere of controlled apprehension, we were entering an area of natural fortresses. As we slipped into Kure harbour the view revealed that the surrounding hills bristled with gun emplacements. At that moment I made a decision, one that nothing will ever change. To take Japan without the use of the bombs, conventional combat would have cost an incalculable number of lives over an inestimable period. As with all war, no one side profits in the long term.

We set up station at a place called Hiro, some ten to fifteen miles from Hiroshima. We found the Japanese in our locality were not eager to befriend, after all they had not long since had the most fearful weapon of all time dropped literally on their doorstep, destroying an entire city and most of its population. I formed the opinion that those present at the time of the 'bomb' were unable to come to terms with the sudden change in their circumstances. Having seen the remains of Hiroshima, I could understand the confusion. Research some 50 years after I was in Japan revealed a lot of information that most of us were completely unaware of at the time. The initial headquarters of B.C.O.F. was at Kure, which had been the principal naval base of Japan and the area included the largest combined dockyard, ship-building yard and naval arsenal in the country. The B.C.O.F. consisted of personnel from British, Indian, Australian, and New Zealand Brigade Groups, as well as airforce and naval components from the various countries.

Apparently the station at Hiro had been manned for a short while by an Australian force, we were to carry on from them. From thereon I did not engage in any regimental activities for the rest of my stay in Japan (I was hospitalised for 5 months). Together with a group that included those who attended the course at Poonah in India we were labelled as an education section. Some educational activities within the unit did take place, but the arrangements to mix wtih some Japanese civilians was somewhat revealing. In an exchange of opinions and other information with one such young, well educated, Japanese ex-service man who had excellent English, I was told in no uncertain manner that many of the Japanese did not consider the conflict at an end and they had facilities to continue, his comments were not to be disregarded. Similar to Germany, the Japanese military expansion began in the late twenties, and into the thirties. By 1931 they had overrun Manchuria, and occupied a land mass equal to four times that of Japan by 1933. The aggression continued into China and onwards. By spring 1942 Japan dominated most of South East Asia. When the war ended some of the Japanese military had enjoyed up to fourteen years of insuperable success and would still be in their early thirties, many trained as killing machines from childhood.

The whole of the B.C.O.F. area was found to be honeycombed with caves and tunnels. Many contained large quantities of explosives, ammunition and poison gasses. Inflation was out of control, with prices doubling by the day. The entire Japanese currency was recalled in one day, and replaced with a new issue the next - from then onwards old currency was worthless. This hardly affected us - we had little to buy. The spring cherry blossom was all that one would have anticipated, coupled it with the delightful oriental singing of Japanese primary school children formed a welcome feeling of peace. Seasons followed the same pattern as at home, but to extreme. From May to September it was hot and humid by day, and persisted through the night. Most of the landscape was mountainous. Terrace farming was practised every where, the main produce being rice. 'Paddy' fields in the few flat areas would come alive at night with frogs - the croaking was incessant. Contact with other occupation forces was rare, but one proved to be a terrific morale booster. An exchange of attractions with the Americans was arranged - they were to send a band to entertain us. It got off to a humorous start. The railway stop at Hiro had no platforms, to alight from the train necessitated a degree of jumping. Our American friends would have been used to this, and our organisers did nothing to ease creature comforts. To the Adjutant and R.S.M. (who made the arrangements), a band meant men in uniform with highly polished buttons and boots. All instruments would have been packed in suitable containers. A truck was sent for the instruments and the pipe band was sent to meet the men. Dressed in casual uniform, wearing ordinary shoes and carrying their own personal instruments, the Americans struggled from the train. They were not soldiers in the accepted sense, but were entertainers in one of the very popular 'big bands'. The instruments were their own property - no way were they going to have them piled into a truck. They co-operated and formed up behind the pipes and drums - this was a new experience for them. The Drum Major lowered his mace, the pipes struck up, the drums rolled, and the spectacle set off at a cracking pace, except that the Americans were trailing behind, and I mean behind. Nearly a mile carrying instruments, with the pipe band setting the pace, was a torture they had not endured before. At the guardroom the R.S.M. had assembled the guard, a good first impression for our guests was essential. The expression on his face was one for the books. The now-exhausted followers were a single file of slouching beings. The R.S.M.'s world collapsed. The Americans nearly followed suit - they were saving their energy for later.

A large corrugated-iron building resembling an aircraft hanger had been selected as the venue for the performance. A platform was erected, and seating was concocted from a wide variety of objects. The band slouched on to the platform, the conductor raised his baton, and suddenly an incredible surge of energy erupted. The band was transformed. The sound issued forth in ever increasing volume, enhanced (or otherwise) by the acoustics of the building. Renderings of the most popular music of the period continued almost non-stop. The atmosphere was electric as our lads called for encore after encore. I had not seen such enthusiasm, and felt so much of a lift in morale in a long time. To return the compliment, we sent a section of the pipes and drums together with a highland dance team to Tokyo. Word had it that the Americans received the performance with equal enthusiasm. Time came to hand the station at Hiro back to the Australians, and move on to Shikoku, the second largest Island in the south of Japan. The brigade had been assigned occupation of the Island. Our final base was in a previously Japanese barracks out side the city of Kochi on the mid-western coastline of the Island. The Dorsets were sent to Tokushima in the north-west, and the Royal Welch completed a near perfect triangle, stationed at Matsuyama, in the east.

Viewed from the top of a nearby hill our base could have been a British barracks built around a massive parade ground (fodder for the regimental types). The single story buildings were built entirely of timber, the floor raised about 3 feet from the ground on stilts that were boxed in with cladding. An interesting form of joinery was used on all rafters and joists, there were no traditional joints, they were all bolted together, this method allowed the whole to sway and flex, but remain intact in an earthquake. The electricity supply was a hoot, two lines of bare copper wire supported on insulators running the entire length of each building. Connection was made for any appliance wherever required with the use of a pair of crocodile clips.

The towns were a mixed bag of tricks. Timber and paper walled dwelling and business places adjoining the pathway (unpaved), separated from the road by frequently bridged open drainage trenches. On the crude unsurfaced road, rail tracks carried ultra modern trams. A mixture alien to our ways, but they worked.

A sharp reminder to remain alert came to light through the sloppy activity of a few individuals. Many barrack rooms had an insignificant trapdoor in the floor. Sweeping out was a daily requirement - what easier than to lift the trapdoor and conveniently dispose of the sweepings. Curiosity overcame one individual, so he wriggled down through the trapdoor and exposed a potential threat. We were living on top of a virtual arsenal, tucked away were cases of well preserved weapons and ammunition. 'Well done that man', he initiated another search to be carried out by the B.C.O.F. An incident resulted in me being carted off to the nearby field ambulance (equivalent to a small cottage hospital). In addition to my immediate needs I was having trouble with my ears. Apparently my stay in the field ambulance was short because the next memory was that I had been transferred some 150 miles to the main B.C.O.F. hospital at Kure. It was a busy place with a mixture of staff from a number of countries. The daily routine was to be wheeled to a treatment room by an Indian orderly. The rest of the day was spent perspiring on the bed and developing sweat rashes in awkward places, and prickly heat elsewhere. It was uncomfortable. Soon I could make my own way for treatment, and the line of interest taken by the doctor had switched to my ears which were now very swollen and closing rapidly. One question arose frequently. "Have you been swimming in the rivers?" The answer was, "Yes, but before the notice forbidding it was posted at Hiro".

In a square ward with about six beds to a wall were a mixture of surgical and other patients, most of them immobile. It was a normal afternoon with everything proceeding in an orderly manner. A happening was to occur that would produce a scene equal to a French Farce. The calm atmosphere was disturbed by an unfamiliar rumbling, like distant thunder. It continued and seemed to be getting nearer. The building begun to tremble. There followed a feeling like being on a ship about to ride a huge wave. It was an earth tremor, one only, that rolled in from the sea lifting the building which seemed to flex with it, and then putting it back down again.

The Indian orderlies fled the patients. It was every man for himself. The fellow in the bed on my right, had ear trouble and no control on his balance. He clambered from his bed did a pirouette and fell to the floor. After three demonstrations of his ballet skills he returned to bed. Another fellow in a bed halfway along the wall on my left had his leg in plaster, hoisted by a weighted cord over a pulley at the foot of the bed. He was determined to not be left behind. Mimicking a contortionist , he selected a table knife from his eating irons, and unsuccessfully hacked at the cord. Diagonally in front of me, yet another fellow decided to take matters into his own hands. Quitting his bed, he attempted to crawl across the floor using his hands only - with each slow advance he systematically lost his pyjama trousers. In desperation he gave up and burst into almost hysterical laughter. The rest joined in. Space at the hospital was in heavy demand. It was decided I could return to my unit, the treatment including that to my ears had responded reasonably well, but I felt far from well. I left the hospital with travel rations (corned beef sandwiches and apples), a rail pass, instructions to link with others to form a group, use only carriages designated for forces, and report the Rail Travel Officer (R.T.O.) at each change. Following instructions, the first major change was at Okayama to catch the ferry over to Shikoku, but things were not going too well. As we approached Okayama a cockney comrade looked closely at me and said "Yer don't arfe look ruff mate". It was an understatement. My new cockney friend stayed with me on to the ferry and we made the crossing. Alighting from the ferry, things began to go haywire, I slumped to the floor and seemed to be on my own, except for passing Japanese who had a distinct disinterest in the foreign devil on the ground. Members of the R.T.O. had been alerted and came to my aid. They decided to get me to the nearest unit with a doctor available. It turned out to be the Dorsets stationed at Tokushima. The doctor decided to keep me overnight and transfer me next day to my own unit. By the time I reached the Camerons I was in a right state, and the Bn. Doctor sent me back to the field ambulance. Placed in isolation, I alternated from consciousness, to semi conscious, and just plain nothing. During this period I gained a memory that was to stay with me for ever. A fellow Cameron had been involved in an incident with the Japanese. He had been stabbed in the abdomen, his bladder had burst, and his blood system was poisoned. The air was filled with moments of haunting cries of agony. He took about a week to die. Returning to consciousness, and choking because of a nose bleed, I was confronted with a big ugly Japanese face staring at me from a few inches, frightened and confused I signalled to seek his aid. He just grinned and left me to it. (Japanese labour was used for cleaning). Oh to be rid of this accursed country and it's people!!! A welcome turning point was reached. Thanks to the meticulous, dedicated care of an Australian doctor I was blessed with a steady recovery. I never even knew the mans name, and the opportunity to convey an ultimate debt of gratitude didn't arise. Sufficient recovery paved the way for transfer to another hospital at Okayama, and there began the prelude to my happiest time in Japan. Stretchered into a bell tent I joined a group of about half a dozen chaps installed toe-to-toe around the central pole. It seemed we were untouchables to be kept away from others. None of us had been told what ailed us, but the general consensus seemed to be that we had something like diphtheria. Into the tent walked a little Japanese, he shinned up the central pole dragging a pair of wires with him. Securing the wires to the pole he proceeded to strip off the insulation and affix a lamp holder, he then inserted a lamp, to our surprise it lit immediately. Job done the Jap' left. Life was cheap there, he had been playing with wires, live in excess of 200 volts.

Transfer to a proper isolation ward within the hospital was rewarded with two very pleasant surprises. The hospital had a team from the Queen Alexander's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.I.M.N.S.) Proper lady nurses with a proper Matron, who came to see us. "You may have one portable gramophone and one recording" we were told. "Let the nurses know your choice" she added, and left. The fellows were from all over the B.C.O.F., and diverse units. We had a ballot on the choice of recording - the leaning was toward classical music, one factor being that complete works required more than one 78 rpm record. The tactic was a success, Beethoven won with his 'Emperor' Piano Concerto, and was avidly followed note-for-note, over-and-over again. Takuma Bay, (whereabouts unknown) formerly a seaplane base, had been adapted as a convalescent centre staffed by the Q.A.I.M.N.S. and the Women's Voluntary Service (W.V.S.). I had a whole month to come and go as I pleased, in comfortable surroundings, with the feminine touch that sometimes bordered on the luxurious. There was a well-stocked library of books and records, with peaceful facilities in which to enjoy them, both in and out of doors. A radio was tuned into a forces programme Radio S.E.A.C. (South East Asia Command)

The food was excellent - snacks and beverages available through the day, willing assistance (if required) available twenty four hours a day. Could this have been associated with the army, or was I dreaming. Early days were spent in simple relaxation, and lapping up the remains of the autumnal atmosphere. Later I ventured further to take in the beauty of the setting, some of the land laid out in typical Japanese garden style. The furthest I went was to the land edge rising almost vertically out of the sea. It was a good feeling.

In the third week the Matron approached me and suggested I go alone and explore the surrounding countryside - no further than I wished, and for as long as I liked. A bicycle had been reserved for me, and picnic food could be prepared. Assurances that I would not encounter any problems in the areas I could reach alleviated any apprehensions I had about the Japanese. It was go!!!

The first day I took just a snack and drink. It was necessary to accustom myself to the bike. The initial feeling of freedom was exhilarating. I didn't go too far, saw no Japs, and determined to do more of this, venturing further each day.

The area was rural with a great deal of appeal. The roadways ran through the valleys of the hilly terrain, frequently bending to offer numerous changes of view. Coupled with the rural atmosphere, and sparse population there was a feeling of having slipped a century or two into the past. The natives, if that was the correct terminology were more inquisitive about, than aggressive to this strange uniformed foreigner. Production of rice on the terraces laid out like giant steps to the top of the mountains, were irrigated by an antiquated system of large water wheels linking the essential liquid right to the top. The water was fed into channels through the terraces, and back down to the feeder pool below. Women, frequently clad in only loin cloths spent the entire day walking on the spot on treadmills to provide the required energy. With a series of fascinating and colourful images planted in my mind I eventually headed back to rejoin the battalion.

Christmas 1946 was four days off. In the early hours of the morning our sleep was disturbed by a sound like a hurricane force wind heading our way, unlike anything experienced before. There were four of us in the completely dark room. The only communication was by voice, and that was tempered with controlled anxiety. The noise increased and communication was overpowered. Situations are not readily recognised when woken from deep sleep. The full reality dawned on me as the building began to shake. This was not an earth tremor like the one at Kure, it was a full scale earthquake. I scrambled out of the trembling bed, but could not stand. The other three had done the same, we were colliding with each other as we crawled across the now violently moving floor. Total collapse of the building seemed imminent. In effect we were up against a raging element, and were helpless.

It was claimed that the initial impact lasted approximately four minutes. I cannot confirm or deny, my mind was on self preservation. Without doubt there was relief when it subsided - the building had survived major damage, but there was chaos, and still total darkness. It quietened, and the first impulse was to find clothing and get dressed. Vocal communication was re-established with a garbled mess of requests and advice. Somehow, we had sort of dressed, and were remaining calm. The noise and trembling started again. 'Get out'! 'Keep covered' ! Conflicting opinions. Confusion had set in. I opted for out , it seemed best.

Outside there was immediate contact with the ground, and the movement was more pronounced. I was beginning to doubt my decision, but the duration of this movement was shorter. A pattern of repeating quakes of varying violence continued into the day. Daylight revealed the extent of the damage, the design of the Jap barracks had proved it's worth. Not so a cookhouse built of bricks by our chaps, it was reduced to rubble. Security was immediately tightened, and not without reason. Japanese grenades that had been hidden in the rafters had dislodged, another factor similar to others uncovered in the past.

The C.O. was away, leaving a very level-headed Major in charge. To establish authority, and reduce the question of vulnerability from the Japanese superiority gained by their experience of quakes. We had to show the flag. A company in armed in full battle order was assembled. Headed by a Bren Carrier (a small armoured vehicle), a piper and drummer, they marched into the accessible areas of Kochi in a show of strength, and returned to camp. Information on the full extent of the damage caused by the quake and it's associated elements was passed to us by men from the company that had marched into Kochi. The hilly terrain had given us shelter from a massive tidal wave generated from the epicentre of the quake somewhere out at sea, but much of the city of Kochi had been engulfed.

Quite large boats were left stranded miles inland, buildings had been wrecked, and many washed out to sea. I have no knowledge of human injury and loss of life, but it must have been considerable. Many were left homeless. No casualties were sustained by members of the commonwealth force. Earth tremors continued for up to two weeks. The sea water took a considerable time to recede, and had not returned to the original coastline when it was the time for us to leave Japan.

Early in 1947 our unit left Japan. I don't know if any of the rest of the brigade were left behind. For the Cameron's they had found another spot needing attention in Malaya. The battalion marched out with great pomp and circumstance. I left as an individual. The C.O. decided I would supervise the carriage of a number of crates over the 150 miles to Kure. (I suspect they contained the bounty he had collected). At Kure I saw the crates into the hold of the ship, and we left. From me, no goodbye, definitely no thank you, only a positive message. I will not be back!!!

Frank Perkins

John Burke Gordon Highlanders

I would be most greatful if any body has info about my Grandad, he served with the Gordon Highlanders his name was John Burke from Newcastle upon Tyne

John Wombwell

Sgt. John Spence Gordon Highlanders

Adrian Spence

L/Cpl. Joseph John Brooks 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders

My Father Joseph John Brooks (always called John) Served with the South Staffs from 12/02/42 untill 27/08/44. He was transfered to the Gordon Highlanders 26/08/44 - 30/01/47.

He passed away in May 1973 aged 53 years. He never spoke very much of his experiences. I know he was captured and spent 6 months as a POW. I believe he was liberated by the Americans. I have most of his paper work including a letter from him at Stalag X1B dated 22.3.45 on official Kriegsgefangenenpost.

He landed on D2 at Arromanches, the dates indicate he was serving with the Gordons when taken. I do not know where he was captured but he told that he was in a farm house with quite a few others. A German deligation with a white flag approached the farm house. It was thought that they wanted to surender. The Germans were treated quite rough. However it was the deligation who came to ask for their surrender as they were completly surrounded and it would be a mistake to try to resist.

I would like very much to know more of the details. I was brought up with the sound of bag pipes every sunday on the record player. He was very proud when I joined the London Scotish for a period.

John W Brooks

Capt. James Shankley 5/7th Btn. Gordon Highlanders

My father was in the 5th/7th Gordons, 51st Highland Division, and taken prisoner at St Valery but like most POW's, he never talked openly about his experience. I only remember him talking 2/3 times - all after a few "pink" gins.....

The story that springs to mind is when they were captured and moved on by the Germans. They were held in a field whilst the German officers conferred. Whilst this was going on the British officers were busy burying knives, lugers etc.!! The Germans then walked along behind the officers and gently patted their kilts - waiting for the rustle of silk revealing the presence of a silk map !!! After they were moved away the Germans then went over the field with a mine detector to find all the "hidden" items.

This may or may not be true, but it was one of the few stories I truly remember. Lt Col James Shankley died in 1991 after a spell in hospital where the horrors of war came back to him. His family has no information regarding where he was, other than an internet-gained note that he was at the camp at Eichstatt (Oflag 7b). If anyone has any information ???

Peter Shankley

Pte. James Joseph Smart Gordon Highlanders

I am looking at my dad's history and it seems that he was shot in the back whilst in Belgium around D-day and sent home to the military hospital. I am not sure were this was if anyone could help me I would really appreciate it.

My dad, James Smart joined the Gordon Highlanders because his grand dad was Scottish I am not sure if his family were in the Gordon Highlanders. Grandad's name was Archibald Smart and he was from Glasgow.

Fran Murt

F/O Donald Grant 50 Sqd

I have been left my uncle Donald Grant's RAF navigator's air bomber's and air gunner's flying log book.

I found reading it really interesting, not just because he was my uncle, but the details of training, bombing raids and the eventual winding down of the war in Europe and return to peacetime.

At the start of his log he writes; After retreat to Dunkirk with 6th Gordons in 1940, volunteered for 9th Gordons but was sent to 1st Bn London Scottish in Kent, July 1940, saw "Battle of Britain" dog fights every day. Hated London Scottish, crazy about bayonet practice. I volunteered for commandos and airborne troops.

However, how he ended up in the RAF is a mystery. The log goes on though his training as, Wireless operator, Air gunner and Signals leader. It goes on to list all his ops, targets, aircraft, successes and failures.

On his third ops on 29th May 1943, he writes; Wuppertal, bloody shaky do, back on 2 engines, caught by searchlights over Cologne. First one engine hit by flak and knocked out, 2nd engine caught fire over North Sea - terrific flames. Pilot told us to fix on our 'shutes and be ready to bail out. Dived plane for at least 5000ft and fortunately fire went out.

My uncle went on to be on 32 bombing ops in total and survived the war and passed away only a few years ago. I hope many other people find this as interesting as I have. If I can help give anyone information from this logbook please contact me.

Donald Grant Summerd Hill

Pte. David James Slater Gordon Highlanders

I am trying to trace any records or surviving ex-comrades of my late uncle, David James Slater. He was taken prisoner at St Valery-en-Caux in June 1940 and spent most of the next five years in Stalag XXA (357) at Thorn, East Prussia (Now Torun in Poland). His Prisoner of War number (Gefangenennumer) was 45655.

He had joined the Territorials before the outbreak of war and was called up with many other Shetland boys in 1939. It was not until November 1940 that his parents learned that he was still alive and a POW in what was then East Prussia.

Uncle Davy died in Shetland in 1976 and, like so many POWs, never spoke a word about what he had experienced. My Aunt Barbara, his widow, is now 83 and has recently shown me some of the papers Uncle Davy brought with him back from Poland. They include his Soldier's Release Book 1939-1945, a battered Red Cross Map of British POW camps, a copy of the US Army newspaper "Stars and Stripes", Germany edition, dated 9th May 1945 and a photograph of Davy and some comrades, which we think may have been taken in the camp.

In 1969, when I was a student, camping out during a research trip, Uncle Davy gave me the Red Cross blanket he'd carried with him on the dreadful march from Torun back to Germany in the winter of 1944-45, but it fell to pieces many years ago and, not then realising its significance, I threw it away, alas.

My Aunt also has a postcard Uncle Davie sent to his friend Stewart Smith of Gulberwick, Shetland, postmarked Stalag XXA on 16th August 1942. This card also bears the stamp "P. No. 13".

I've been delighted to find so much information on the web about St Valery and Stalag XXA and have printed out much of it for my Aunt. We are planning a trip to St Valery, and perhaps to Torun, and would dearly love to hear from anyone with memories or any other mementoes of my Uncle Davy.

Jonathan Wills

Paddy McQueen Gordon Highlanders

My Grandad, Paddy McQueen, who I never met was held in Stalag 9c. He died before I was born and I just recently really found out about his war history, does anyone remember him?

Garry McQueen

RSM C Mathieson 1st btn Gordon Highlanders

We've been left medals for this man but don't know who he was, can you help?

Judy Cawdron

Piper Robert Alexander "Pat" Paterson Gordon Highlanders

My late father Robert Paterson was a Piper in the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders, and was taken prisoner at St Valery En Caux in 1939. He was a prisoner throughout the war and was, I believe, in many camps. He told me many stories about his experiences and his great admiration for the Polish people as he said they were the bravest people he had ever met.

Bob Paterson

Pte. James Anderson Taylor 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders

Trying to find info about James Anderson Taylor who served with the 1st Ballalion, Gordon Highlanders who was captured at St Valery. He refused to work for the Germans so was sent to a reprisal camp and we think it was Stalag 383. If anyone knows anything please get in touch.

Fiona Taylor

Pte. Henry Lauriston Gordon Highlanders

My father Henry Lauriston was a POW, he died in 1980 and never talked much about his life during the war years. All he ever replied was "I never saw much outside of barbed wire for 3 years". We do recall he talked of Anzio as he was awarded the Italy Star and recently due to my Mothers death I have found out he was a prisoner at Stalag 4B Mulhberg/Elbe Brandenburg along with 64 other Gordon Highlanders and at Stalag 8B Lamsdorf. If anybody has any information I would appreciate it.

Graham John Lauriston

Pte. Jim Mcinnes Gordon Highlanders

My Granddad didn't speak much about the war at all. One story he did tell was of marching through France as a prisoner when a villager threw a crust of bread towards him, he stopped and bent down to pick it up and was shot in the hand, the bullet hitting him in the finger.

He told that story to my Granny and we never heard it until after he died.

Gavin Joyce

R J Hastings 5th Btn. Gordon Highlanders

My father, R J Hastings was in the Gordon Highlanders 5th Btn. He was captured at St.Valery and held in StalagXX1D.

Ann Hastings

Pte. James Lawson Guy Gordon Highlanders

My father, Private James Lawson Guy of the Gordon Highlanders, was captured at St. Valerie in France in (my mother thinks) May, 1940. In total he escaped on five occasions – mostly for short periods. He was, however, ‘on the run’ between his first escape in 1940 and his recapture in 1943. It is thought he escaped somewhere on the route between St Valerie and Thorn in Poland (where he was eventually held in Stalag XXA (6)).). He stayed with Polish families and worked with them during this period. I have in my possession 21 letters and postcards he sent to his family between 1943 and 1944. All are written in pencil but most are remarkably clear. During the ‘transcription’ of these letters in January 2009, I spoke with ‘wee brother George’ (who is referred to in the letters and who is now about 80 years old) and he told me that my dad was with the Polish Underground between 1940 and 43. (My mother states that he spoke Polish fluently.) There are clear indications in two of his letters that he escaped twice during the period when these letters were written (1943/44). On his second recapture he was moved to Stalag XXA (156).

He was awarded the British Empire Medal on his return home and I have a copy of a letter from King George VI making this award. When he and my mother were married on 21 June 1946, the Glasgow Eastern Standard Newspaper ran an article headed ‘Captured for Life’.

The eleven letters and ten postcards, dating from 29 August, 1943 until 24 May, 1944 were kept for years by his sister Agnes and eventually handed over to my brother Ron. He gave them to be and I have had copies bound and treated in a manner which will preserve them forever. I also still have the originals.

In spite of his stated intentions to the contrary in one of his letters, my father did become a coal miner on his return from the war, which contributed to his early death aged just 42.

Jim Guy

Drummer Thomas Aitken Copland 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders

My uncle Tom Copland was captured along with the rest of his comrades at St Valery. He, like many others, spoke little of his time in the camps but he has spoken to a cousin and as soon as I get more tales I shall add them.

The one story I am aware of was of him sitting in a car many years post war. I don't know where they were or what the circumstances were but Tom was sitting in front. All at once a man sitting in the back announced that he would know that voice anywhere. He had been in a punishment pit in the camp, and Tom had risked his own life to drop bits of bread down to him so that he would have something to eat. Neither man had ever seen the other face to face, but Tom's voice and strong Aberdeenshire accent was truly the voice of an angel to his comrade.

Tom returned home to Aberdeenshire after the war and was, in the words of his sister, a puir sowel when he got home. Dreadfully thin. He went on to be a Deputy Firemaster, continuing to fight to save lives.

Andi Neilson

Pte. William "Walla" Sproule Gordon Highlanders

My grandfather, William Sproule, was captured at St Valery or Dunkirk and was then finally taken to Lamsdorf, Poland where he spent 5 yrs a POW. He worked in a salt mine according to my aunt I don't know which one. He was on the death march. His photo is on the Stalag VIIIb main page and he is the bottom centre chap. It would be great if anyone knew him during their time in captivity. He was with the Gordon Highlanders, 51st Division.

Lorraine King

Sgt. Hector Smith 2nd battalion Gordon Highlanders (d.March 1942)

I have found out a lot about Hector Smith so far. I know he died a POW. His memorial is in Kranji Row 77. What I don't know is what camp he died in. Also, I have been trying to find out if I can get a copy of his pow card he is mentioned on the roll of honour.

Hector Smith Boyle

George Hall Wilson 51st batallion Gordon Highlanders

Dad was Pipe Major George Hall Wilson and was captured at St Valery along with the rest of the 51st Gordon Highlanders batallion.

He'd married mum (who was aged 19 at the time) just a few months before and she didn't see him for the next 4 years - he was in Stalag 8B. My brother, John, was born 9 months to the night that dad returned home!! Sadly, he died, aged 3 in a road accident when mum and dad were posted to Essen after the war. I lost mum this year, aged 92, to Alzheimers. Dad wouldn't talk about his POW days and I'm trying to piece together a family history of sorts. Does anyone remember him?

Jackie Waller

Cpl. Richard William Greene 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders (d.23rd Oct 1944)

My cousin Richard Greene was in the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders and was killed in an attack on a HitlerJugend Stromgpoint on 23rd August 1944 aged 24. He saw service in the desert and Sicily campaigns, and boxed at Btn. level.

His last letter home from a hole he dug in a field somewhere in Normandy written 3 days before his death, talks of how he was thoroughly sick of war. He was fighting for revenge for all his mates that had died, and was hoping he could get home to his girlfriend. He was writing by the light of shells and the noise of "burps".

I was the first male in our family born after his death, and was named Richard in his honour as now is my son and grandson. Lest We Forget. He is buried at St Desir Cemetery alongside some Gordons who died on the same day. I have visited and it is good to know he is with friends. If after all these years anyone remembers him I would love to know what he was like.

Richard Totten

CQMS. John Wilson "Jocky" Geddes 6th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

My late father John Geddes was captured at St Valery 12th June 1940. He spent some time in Stalag 383 although I'm not sure just how long. He was a prisoner with others from his home village of Aberlour in Banffshire, Scotland who have all now sadly passed on. This photo which was taken on repatriation and I believe all were in the same camp. On the back row extreme right is George McConnachie and in the front row from left is Jock McConnachie (his brother) who gained the MM, next are twin brothers Leslie & Thomas Gray, not sure which is which, then my father John Geddes and Charles Morrison. I would be pleased to get any info on anyone who can make connections with any of the men in the photo.

Elsie Bishop

Bombardier Leonard Thomas "Pop" Howell D525 BTY Gordon Highlanders

My father served in the Gordon Highlanders during the Second World War. He was posted to Burma during 44/45. I am not sure of the full details of how or when he arrived there but I do have a photograph of him in Chaubattia dated 1945. He served with a chap called Joe Thornborough who was killed by shrapnel to his collar bone aged 19. He possibly came from Leeds. His death devastated my father as they were great friends.

Another friend that he had was a Dan Hinsley who lived in Walsall West Midlands. Several others that in a photograph that I have are named as

  • Maynard,
  • Robson,
  • Hinsley,
  • Sgt Smart,
  • Lomax,
  • Corless,
  • Sexton
. This photograph was taken on January 4th 1944 and is described as AA/Atk.Regt.R.A. India Command.

I hope that someone might find the information useful and also if anyone has any details of anyone that my father knew. Especially the family of Joe Thornborough who were so kind to me. I would also be grateful if anyone knows the current contact details for anyone related to Dan Hinsley.

Susan Howell

James Andrews Gordon Highlanders

I don't really have much on when my granddad was in the War. We were very close but he never spoke off the War. His name was James Andrews. He served with the Gordan Highlanders in WW2. He got shot in the arm. I'm not sure if he got shot anywhere else. He was in there for 7 years.

I'm sorry I don't have much to go on at the moment but if someone could remember him or have any pics, I would be so grateful.

Emma Andrews

Pte. John George Cowrie 2nd Btn. Gordon Highlanders

S B Flynn

Charles Aitchison Gordon Highlanders

My grandfather, Charlie Aitchison, Gordon Highlanders, was captured at St Valery 1940 and consigned to Stalag VIIIb until the end of the war. He was 6' 2" tall and was 32 years old when captured. He never spoke a word about his time in the camp, but the family believes he worked in a salt mine.

The only story I heard about his wartime experiences was told to me by my mother. It seems that he had been demobbed and had arrived home only a few days earlier. He took mother out for a walk (she was 11 at the time) and as they were walking along the street, they came across some German POWs working on the roads. My grandfather stopped and spoke to them in fluent German. After speaking to them for a few minutes, he walked off and went into a shop and came back with four pies and twenty cigarettes which he gave to the Germans. My mother asked him why he gave them to the POWs. "They're just Jerries," he said. My grandfather told her that they were just working men like him, who had been captured, fighting for their country.

It was my privilege to know this man until he died in 1968 when he was only 60 and I was 14. Any knowledge of him would be gratefully received.

Pte. Harold Baker Gordon Highlanders

Harold Baker was captured at either Tunisia or Salerno. He survived the train wreck on the 28th of January 1944 on the Orvieto North railway bridge at Allerona, Italy and was sent to Stalag 344 Lamsdorf.

s flynn

Pte. William Christie Greig CVK. Gordon Highlanders

This is the story of my father, William (Bill) Greig, after he had escaped from Stalag 8b (344 Lamsdorf), at the end of WW2. It has been picked up by both the Czech authorities and posted to a website. It has also been published in some UK newspapers a few years ago. Unfortunately my father passed away in 2007. At that time his health and memory was failing, so we have a mixture of stories to us when we were children and his recollections from the time, late in his life.

William Christie Greig was born in Aberdeen on December 15th 1921. He enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders in on 10th August 1939. We do know he 'doctored' his birth certificate, so that his younger brother Ben could join at the same time. This was later discovered after the war.

He did his initial training until 19th April 1940. After training, he was sent to France in 1940, as part of the 51st Highland Division. After some combat, the forces found themselves being surrounded and retreated to St.Valéry-en-Caux, on the French coast. He recalled ditching his anti tank rifle after seeing the shells pinging off the outside of the German tanks, during the retreat. His troop was pushed onto the beach and eventually into the sea by the superior German forces. Eventually General Fortune ordered the surrender on June 12th. My father was always amused when the Dunkirk evacuation was celebrated and shown on television. "There wasn't a single boat in sight at St. Valery when we could have done with them!" was his comment.

Bill was marched to Poland and ended up in the POW camp Stalag 8b near Lamsdorf, Poland. He was kept there through to 1945, in really tough conditions. He would only talk of his comrades and any funny occasions at the camp. We do know he became (as did many) malnourished, with raw turnips being a staple part of the limited diet. He never ate them again after returning to Aberdeen after the war and couldn't stand the smell of them being cooked. This poor diet nearly killed him later in life when the stomach ulcer he developed burst and required major surgery to save his life.

Most soldiers consider it their duty to try to escape. Few managed it but my father and 3 mates did eventually escape. On a march to nearby Glatz, Bill, his friend Tommy Vokes and two others seized an opportunity to hide under some bushes before rolling into a ditch to escape. Foraging for food by day and sleeping in a local cemetery by night, they managed to avoid capture. Eventually, they were befriended by a Czech family who took them in. They were fed and clothed and then taken to the local railway station, to catch a train to Prague. The head of the family, Frau Babca arranged for them to be met in Prague and given a place to hide. Tommy and my father split from the other two soldiers to go it alone. The family in Prague took good care of the Bill and Tommy, who were probably expecting to wait out the end of the war in some safety and comfort.

However, their arrival coincided with the Czech Uprising. This started with the capture of the Prague Radio building from the Germans in late April 1945. There was then a radio broadcast for all Czechs to take up arms and to liberate Prague from the German forces. With the Nazi's grip weakening, the Uprising leaders were frustrated by the lack of support from the Allies and their failure to move into the city, despite being just a few miles away from Prague. They were not to know that a deal had been struck with the Soviets that the Red Army would be the liberating force, with Czechoslovakia falling under Stalin's rule after the War. Meanwhile the Germans attempted to take back the Radio building with fierce fighting. Throughout Prague the Czech resistance movement built barricades and engaged in may street battles to defend strategic parts of their city.

My father and Tommy volunteered to help the resistance movement and were asked to help defend the precious Prague Radio station building , that was their only real link with the outside world. They were given a rifle each and spent may hours lying on the stairs, defending the station from German attacks. With the threat of the Radio Station being overrun and the likelihood of the Germans defeating the Uprising, my father was asked to make a very important radio broadcast in English. He remembers being taken down some stairs and through a tunnel to where the broadcast equipment was housed. He was given a script and made a number of broadcasts

"The Germans are attacking us with tanks and planes. We are calling urgently our allies to help us. Send immediately tanks and aircraft. Help us defend Prague. At present, we are broadcasting from the radio station and outside there is a battle raging" He made a number of broadcasts and it's obvious the Czechs (and my father) were becoming more desperate. “Hello, hello, hello! This is Prague calling London. Once again we repeat what I have already said three or four times. The Germans did not keep their promise. Prague is in great danger. The Germans are attacking with tanks and planes. We’re calling urgently our allies to help. Send immediately tanks and aircraft. Help us defend Prague. Do not let Prague be destroyed. We don’t know how long we can hold out. We are hoping for the best – that English, American or Russian troops will reach us in the next few hours. It has to be very quick and very soon. Good night!” The broadcasts had the desired effect and Allied aircraft destroyed an approaching German column and effectively ended the conflict in Prague.

With the Russians approaching, my father and Tommy helped an old Jewish couple escape to the west and in return the couple game them their car. They attempted to travel to Northern France but the car broke down halfway. Luckily they were 'acquired' another car and were given fuel by the Americans. They eventually made it back to Aberdeen.

For his actions, my father was awarded the Czech Military Cross and also a civil honour of the Radio Memory Distinguished Order, in 1948. Communications from General Ludwig Svoboda from the Czech military and The War Office are attached. Interestingly, the War Office sent the initial letter to the wrong William Greig, who informed them he had nothing to do with the Prague incident. They contacted Tommy Vokes who had my father's correct address and they managed to get the MC medal to him safely. My father returned to the Army to 'see out his time' and was transferred to the Cheshire Regiment, until he was demobbed. Bill married my mother Ann Milne Rose in 1947 and went on to have my two sisters and me. My mother passed away in 2010.

I'm very proud of my father's bravery in a situation where most would be looking to avoid further conflict after 4 tough years in one of the Nazi's notorious POW camps. He was always very modest and refused to accept he was a hero. The recent interest shown by both the Czech and British media clearly demonstrates the small (but hugely significant) roles my father and Tommy played to end the conflict in Czechoslovakia. Letters from those he met and helped in Prague show their gratitude for his actions and bravery. Recordings and transcripts of my father's broadcasts can be accessed on the following website: A Scottish Hero of the Prague Uprising.

William Greig

Lt. Hoodless McIntyre 6th Btn. Gordon Highlanders (d.26th Sep 1944)

I have a letter from Major Lewis Smith (Kings Own Scottish Boarderers) describing how Hood lost his life. He had only recently joined the 6th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, he was second in command and they were somewhere in the Gallic Line, Italy. He had volunteered to go forward after the wireless operator had been injured. He died on 26th September 1944 and is buried at the War Graves Cemetery in Fienza, Italy.

Nora Clyde

Pte. Thomas Swinton Robertson 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders (d.28th Jan 1944)

Pte. Thomas S. Robertson, Gordon Highlanders

On the 28th January 1944, a train carrying 800 Allied prisoners of war was bombed when it was crossing the Allerona bridge in Italy. The POWs had been evacuated from POW camp PG Campo 54 at Fara in Sbina, Italy. My father Thomas Robertson was on that train which was bombed by American B-26 aircraft (friendly fire).

The men were being moved to Germany in unmarked cattle cars. The POWs were padlocked in the cars and were crossing the bridge when the B-26s arrived and blew up the bridge. The train driver stopped the train on the span, leaving the prisoners locked inside to their fate. While many escaped, approximateley 400 were killed, my father being one of them. I was only 18 months old at this time and never knew my father.

I contacted the Military Records Office and asked for his service records. They told me if I paid £30.00 they would give me a copy but it would take up to a year to get them, which I thought was unreasonable. After all, my father gave his life for his country and Britain puts a price on it. Is there anyone out there who had relatives on that train or who were in that Regiment - I would love to hear from you.

Tom Robertson

Pte John Edward Milne Gordon Highlanders

Private John Edward Milne (playing the Accordian)

The reverse of the photograph

My Father John Edward Milne, as part of the 51st Highland Division, was captured by the Germans, at St Valery-en-Caux, in June 1940. He did not tell me very much about his experiences as a POW except that he escaped twice. The first time early in his captivity whilst being marched across Holland and the second escape was late in the War where with others he tried to get to Danzig but was re-captured.

The photograph shows him with an accordion and two other POWs one playing slide guitar. My father 'Eddie' was a very good accordion player and had been booked on the BBC in Scotland before the war. I have copies of the fee receipts from the BBC and a cutting from the Radio Times dated 1939. I included a picture of the reverse side of the photograph which was used as a postcard which has the camp stamp on it. I would not be surprised if he had played in the camp big band. He used to also play alto sax and piano.

During my childhood he would sometimes wake in the night shouting in German and the experiences he had in the camp must have been pretty bad. As a young child I found a picture in the bottom of a drawer of a very emaciated man in a striped jacket with his head shaved. My mother told me it was my father who was found in that state when the camp was liberated. He weighed four and a half stone. With many others he was flown by Dakota transport aircraft straight to England where he spend six months in hospital to build him up before he could go home. I now regret tearing up that photograph because it is part of the evidence record of what went on. I am sure his relatively short temper and nerves were a result of the treatment he received as a POW. That said, he was a good father to me and always provided well for his family.

After the war whilst still in the army he was promoted to corporal before being demobbed. He was a musician all his life and played with a show-band in the 1960s & 70s. In the 1960s whilst on a family holiday on the Isle of Wight he met his old Company Regimental Sergeant Major Ferguson (I remember the pair of them went on a two day bender, which annoyed my Mother but thinking back on it they were entitled to a good drink after what they had been through). One odd thing occurred in 1966/7 new neigbours moved in next door to my parents house in Chadwell Heath, Essex. My father met the new neighbour Les whom he immediately recognised as a fellow POW. I cannot recall Les's surname his wife was Madge. Les died in the late 1960s I beleive. My father died in 1997 and since then I have visited St Valery and the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. These places are well worth a visit.

Robert Milne

Pte. Hugh Hillan Gordon Highlanders

My dad Hugh Hillan was one of the many captured at Anzio and interned in Stalag VII-A Moosburg until the end of the war, his POW number was 127846 ... would like this oppertunity to thank all who fought and sacrificed their lives to make sure we have had a safer future

Neil Dawson

Pte. Thomas Henry Bullamore Born Gordon Highlanders

Thomas Born served with the Gordon Highlanders. He died in 1973

Chris Wright

Pte. George Mackenzie 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders

Pte George Mackenzie

George Mackenzie enlisted 1938 and served in the Intelligence Section. He was captured at St Valery and held at POW Stalag XXA (152) location: Thorn, Poland. Work detail there included road making (2 years), farm labourer (14 months), cooking for working party (18 months).

At the end of the war he was commissioned (SSC) from emergency commission as Lt, 1st July 1949 with seniority from December 1946 (source: London Gazette 21st October 1949). Office number thought to be 376296. Transferred from Gordons to RPC 21st May 1952 with seniority to 15th June 1944 (source: London Gazette 23rd September 1952). Promoted to Captain 21st May 1952 (source: London Gazette 18th November 1952). George retired on the 31st March 1973.


Henry Simpson Gordon Highlanders

My uncle, Gordon Highlander Henry Simpson from Maud, was a POW at Lamsdorf 344 (Stalag 8b). He was part of a group called the Lamsdorf Loons.

Liz Ross

Glennie Gordon Highlanders

My dad was in the Gordon Highlanders and landed on D-Day. He was wounded and captured and eventually ended up in Stalag 4b, where he was a POW for six months. His memory of the camp was of being hungry.

James Glennie

George Monaghan Gordon Highlanders

My father was a prisoner at Stalag IVB. His name was George Monaghan and he was, I think, in the Gordon Highlanders. Does anyone remember him?

Kevun Monaghan

Sgt. Price Watkins Gordon Highlanders

My father, Price Watkins, served in the Gordon Highlanders and during WWII was a sergeant on tanks. He was injured following a direct hit on his tank and was evacuated home.

David Watkins

George "Jock" Todd Gordon Highlanders

My father, George (Jock) Todd of the Gordon Highlanders (now deceased), was imprisoned at Stalag 8b.

John Todd

Cpl. William John Wilson 51st Highland Div. Gordan Highlanders

My grandfather, William John Wilson, was a Corporal with the Gordon Highlanders (51st Highland Division) and was captured at St Valery in northern France in 1940.

After the war my father recalls seeing a book of memoirs based on the Gordons' time spent at Stalag 383, possibly written by Willie Kemp. The book has been lost for some time now, and I would be grateful for assistance in locating a copy of the book.

Ian Wilson

Robert "Bully" Dunbar Gordon Highlanders

My uncle, Robert Dunbar (Bully Dunbar), was in Stalag XXA. He was in the Gordon Highlanders. He was in the rearguard at Dunkirk and was captured in June/July 1940. I have recently found a photo of him inside his hut in a group of 21 POWs (post marked 00.3.42--0, M-Stammlager XXA Gepruft 19. - Sender R. Dunbar cpl No. 5212 Stalag XXA(5)). I have been trying to gather information on him.


Sgt. Charles Gillan Nicholson "Jock" Taylor 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders

My father, Charles Taylor, joined the Army in 1936 as a boy soldier with the 1st Bn North Staffordshire Regiment and served in India and Palestine until 1939.

On the out break of the War he joined part of the newly formed 59th Staffordshire Division and arrived in Normandy on the 26th June 1944 as part of the follow up to the D-Day landings. At the end of July 1944 after heavy fighting and suffering heavy casualties around Caen and the Orne river the 59th was disbanded and the remaining troops dispersed to other units/divisions.

My father was sent to the 2nd Bn Gordon Highlanders and continued the advance through France and Belgium to Holland. On the 31st October 1944 near Asten in Holland he was wounded whilst attacking a farmhouse and woke up in a German Field Hospital flash blinded and with shrapnel wounds. When he recovered his sight and was well enough he was moved initially to Stalag 9C and then to Stalag Luft XIB where he spent the remainder of the war until liberated in April 1945.

He said conditions were harsh and food was scarce but towards the end of the war they were able to trade with the locals and some guards which helped. He even managed to obtain a camera and took some of the attached pictures for posterity. He told few stories of his time as a prisoner but he did appear in the newsreel at the gate of the camp when it was liberated which gave much relief to his family at home when they saw him.

Charles returned to the army when he recovered from the months of malnourishment and served until 1948 before being demobbed. He served in Germany as part of the British occupation and bore no grudge against the ordinary German people who he became quite fond of after the war.

Colin Taylor

Pte William Andrews 1st Btn Gordon Highlanders (d.8 June 1945)

William Andrews was my uncle (my mothers young brother). I visited his grave at Randville in France. His name will never be frogotten along with all his brave comrades during WWII.

John McCabe John McCabe

Sgt. Alexander Walter Cleland 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders

serving in the Khyber Pass

POW letter to Mother

Alex Cleland was born at 22 Eve Road, Plaistow, East Ham, Essex. He went to the Napier Road School, and left at the age of 14. He joined the Army Territorials, before joining the Gordon Highlanders, he signed on for 7 years on the 23rd of Aug 1928. He served in India and Palatine leaving the Army in 1936. He joined the British Post Office but was returned to the Army for the 2nd World War on the 2nd of September 1939 and was promoted to Sargent. He was captured during the British retreat at Dunkirk on the 12th of Jun 1940 and was a POW until 19th of Apr 1945 in Stalag XXA Thorn, Poland and Stalag XXB Marienburg, East Prussia. He spent time in hospital and recuperating at Hatfield House, and was discharged on the 13th of Nov 1945.

Graham Cleland

Pte. Frank Rayburn Gordon Highlanders

Frank Rayburn, my stepfather, was taken prisoner as a result of the British Armies retreat at Dunkirk. As a Gordon Highlander he and many others were left fighting a rearguard action and was captured by the German Army.

The little I do know was that he was eventually transported to what is now Poland and worked on various farms. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war until his release in 1945. He rarely spoke of his time as a prisoner. He was very young when captured and stayed in 'The Gordons' serving in Germany and The Far East until his eventual release in the late 1950s. He met my mother in 1961 and they married in 1962.

Tom Bee

L/Sgt. Thomas Nealings Tait 100th Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery

From what I can find out from bits and pieces my father has told me, Tommy Tait served in the 8th Gordon Highland Battalion, which was converted to the 100th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery. He was possibly an oc-driver in Burma.

Can anyone help me fill in some or all of the gaps, please?

Maurice Tait

Cpl. Frank Felton 5/7th Btn. Gordon Highlanders (d.12th Feb 1945)

Frank Felton was my granddad. I am trying to find out more information about him. A newspaper article from 1945 called his platoon the 'Dead End Kids'. They took part in an offensive on the German/Holland border in the Reichswald Forest where, outnumbered, they overcame the German force.


WO2. Alexander Gedde Reid Gordon Highlanders

Alexander Reid served with the Gordon Highlanders.

Anthony Leach

Pte. Henry George Sivewright Gordon Highlanders

Henry Sivewright served with the Gordon Highlanders in Malaya from 1939 until being captured in Singapore 1942. He was a P.O.W until 1945, where he worked on the Thailand, Burma railway. He was repatriated in 1945, demobbed 1946.

Robert Sivewright

Pte. Charles Sivewright Gordon Highlanders

Charles Sivewright served in Malaya with the Gordon Highlanders from 1939 - 1942. He was captured by the Japanese in Singapore and was a POW from 1942 - 1945.

Robert Sivewright

A/Sgt. William Hunter Dunlop MM 1st Btn. Gordon Highlanders (d.13th Feb 1945)

My uncle William Dunlop served with 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, in Egypt and Libya was recommended and awarded the Military Medal, his citation reads: "This NCO led his section (and subsequently a platoon) during the period 23 October - 5 November 1942 with outstanding ability. On one occasion, on his own initiative, he attacked and wiped out an enemy M.G. post and held the captured position with two men for a period of 24 hours before relief was forthcoming. Throughout the whole period he displayed great initative, organising patrolling in the area he occupied and infusing into the men a keen offensive spirit. His skill and determination in carrying through minor actions, combined with his exemplary bearing, was a continual example and encourament to all who served under him."

He died on 13th February 1945 in the Netherlands and is buried in Milsbeek Cemetery. How I wish I could have met him.

Annie Dunlop-Bibb

John F. Hull 9th Battalion Gordon Highlanders

B Coy 9th Gordons in Sept 1941

Jack Hull joined the 9th Gordon Highlanders and went to India in June 1942. Upon arrival, they became the 116th Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, part of 267th Indian Armoured Brigade. In October 1942, the 116th Regiment transferred to 255th Indian Tank Brigade. In 1944, the 255th came under the command of IV Corps and were involved in the Battle of Meiktila, Battle of Pokoku, Irrawaddy River operations and the Dash for Rangoon.

David Hull

Pte. George Moffat Gordon Highlanders

My Dad, George Moffat, was a prisoner with the WW2 Japs for 3 years, he was a Dundee man who joined-up with the Gordons in Aberdeen before the war. I visited his lonely grave in England, after decades of searching. I also visited the Gordons Museum in 2005. He served in Singapore.

My late Dad came back from the war a broken man with his soul crushed, he was given a De-mob suit and 20 pound and told.... go on old chap your free now. How he managed to find a women to marry my late mum, and find work and function have three bairns, myself and two sisters is amazing indeed. He could not carry on and left Dundee to die in a small town near Bury England in 1966ish. I told my sons about their late Grandad, how he was brave man, a boy soldier who served his country as did so many fine men.

Raymond George Moffat Hughes

Pte. James Brereton 1st (London Scottish) Btn Gordon Highlanders (d.4th Feb 1944)

Jimmy Brereton was my cousin. I was only a child of seven when he died but I remember him clearly as he used to visit us quite often. He had only recently married his childhood sweetheart just before he died. My father was serving in Italy at that time and he and another relative had arranged to meet Jimmy but failed in their attempt.

Florence Swinton

William Morrison Duncan Gordon Highlanders

William Duncan was my grandfather. He never spoke much about the war but he did say he was lucky. He worked for a lovely Polish family on a farm who treated him well.

Brenda Crawford

Sgt. Frank Unsworth 2nd Btn., D Coy. Gordon Highlanders

My father, Frank Unsworth, didn't speak much of the war. He was wounded in action on 15th January 1945.

Gordon Unsworth

Recomended Reading.

Available at discounted prices.

The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East

Alistair Urquhart

A book you must read (DAILY MAIL ) Riveting, powerful, moving (OBSERVER ) A remarkable memoir (FINANCIAL TIMES ) Book Description * An extraordinary and moving tale by an ex-POW and last surviving member of the Gordon Highlanders regiment that was captured by the Japanese in Singapore, out now in paperback


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