Watching Dunkirk the New Evidence, last night on Channel 4, I learned that contrary to myth, the RAF had not abandoned the men on the Dunkirk beaches but were actually fighting the Luftwaffe further south, out of sight. A few days previously, my daughter had been to see the film on Dunkirk with her favourite Cillian Murphy the main attraction. I remember asking her whether the film had touched on the denied evacuation of the 51st Highland Division. It hadn’t. Neither did the Channel 4 programme.
This reminded me of one of the many reasons for my longer-term hostility to the concept of Britain, Scotland’s place in it and my desire to get out of it– where we stand in the minds of English elites.
Some readers may know the story but briefly, on the 4th June 1940, the day after the Dunkirk evacuations, ten thousand Scots not so far away in Normandy were ordered to attack German forces. Outnumbered, outgunned and deserted by their French allies on either side, the were massacred in huge numbers and forced to retreat. When their commanding officer sought permission to retreat to the port of le Havre for evacuation, Prime Minister Churchill, ordered them to fight on. There were more deaths, capture and then five years of captivity in brutal conditions in the East. They really did have no air cover as the RAF fought to save the troops on the Dunkirk beaches.
Reading the story again (see below for a link), I was reminded of other examples of how Scots soldiers’ lives stood in the minds of British elites. Perhaps the most striking was the fatality rates of Scots (26.4%) compared to English (11.8%) regiments in World War I. Our forefathers were often first in.
There are earlier tales such as those of English General William Wolfe’s notorious remark that it would be ‘no great mischief if they fall’ about Highland soldiers at the Battle of Quebec in 1759.
I know, ‘it’s all in the past’ but were we to be fighting for Britain again in a major war and huge numbers of Scots had been conscripted, knowing the current British elites’ true sentiments, would Scots regiments not be first in again?
The sacrifice of the 51st Highland Division and the ‘other side of Dunkirk’ at: http://www.thenational.scot/library/15357629.The_sacrifice_of_the_51st_Highland_Division_and_the__other_side_of_Dunkirk_/