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St Valery
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Military, History & Adventure
Publication Date
03 March 2011
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
16pp b/w plates

St Valery

The Impossible Odds


eBook also available from the iBookstore

’A wonderful memorial to those who did not return’ – Saul David, BBC History Magazine

‘Bill Innes’s work and the stories his protagonists have to tell are remarkable, both in their content and in their sheer quality of writing’ – Nairn Telegraph

The gallant rearguard action which led to the capture of the 51st Highland Division at St Valery-en-Caux (two weeks after the famous evacuation of the main British army from Dunkirk) may have burned itself into the consciousness of an older generation of Scots. But it has never been given the wider recognition it deserves. This new book re-examines that fateful chain of events in 1940 and reassesses some of the myths that have grown up in the intervening years.

Of the countless volumes about the Second World War, in which many of them deal with the experiences of prisoners of war, relatively few were written by private soldiers, far less those who could take a poet’s perspective on the experience. Two of the main contributors to this collection of reminiscences, Angus Campbell from Lewis and Donald John MacDonald from South Uist, were both traditional Gaelic bards. Their work has been translated from their native language and reflects both the richness of the vocabulary they had acquired through the Gaelic oral tradition and their individual gifts as natural story-tellers born out of that tradition.

These vivid accounts bring alive the chaos and horror of war and the grim deprivation of the camps and forced marches which so many endured. Yet these personal stories resound with the spirit, humour and sense of comradeship which enabled men to fight on in desperate situations and refuse to be cowed by their captors.

Bill Innes, from crofting in the Hebrides to a career as an airline pilot, has had a variety of occupations. Retirement has given him the opportunity to develop his love of Scotland as broadcaster, lecturer, translator and writer on subjects as diverse as music, Gaelic poetry, aviation and history.


1 Most useful customer reviews (see all reviews):
valery hollier [nee Swatton]
Jan 16, 2016
I must get this book, I have returned to St. Valery. I never see many books or reviews of the events of St. Valery, I am Secretary of the Bournemouth and Poole Branch of the Dunkirk Association. As you see my name is spelt VALERY, my late father was captured at St. Valery en Caux and liked the spelling so when I came along VALERY it was. My Dad was captured then a POW till 1945 and was on the Death March, which he never told us about but said the Germans marched us round and round in circles, and we accepted that BUT I learnt more from one of my Dunkirk Veterans who was in same camp and he told me about Death March. It is very humbling to be their Secretary and Welfare Officer. My Branch traveled to Dunkirk 2015 with the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.