Renowned historian angers Scottish World War II veterans


By Oliver Farrimond

FURIOUS Scottish World War Two veterans are demanding an apology from a renowned historical writer after he accused them of COWARDICE.

Anthony Beevor’s eagerly anticipated new work – titled “D-Day – The Battle for Normandy” – contends that Scottish troops failed in key objectives during the landing, badly letting down Allied forces.

And now livid vets are “disgusted” by the passages, and say that Beevor should have interviewed them rather than relying on secondary sources.

Quoting a Canadian major, Beevor wrote: “The thing that shocked me was the 51st Highland Division.

“The Scotties threw away their weapons and equipment and fled.”

Another quote from Field Marshal Montgomery describes the 51st Highland Division as “at present not battle worthy – it does not fight with determination and has failed in every operation it has been given to do.”

But surviving veterans of the Normandy landings have hit out at the claims, describing them as a “gross injustice”.

They say that the 51st Highland Division – which includes the Black Watch – played an important role in the fierce fighting that followed the amphibious invasion of the Normandy beaches.

Dr Tom Renouf, secretary of the 51st Highland Division Veterans Association, said that although the unit had suffered from poor leadership, the courage of the soldiers had never been in doubt.

He said: “This myth that the 51st Highland Division had lost its bottle must not be propagated.

“It is true our initial commander, Major General Bullen-Smith, had failed to inspire confidence and was replaced prior to the breakout.

Gross Injustice

“But to say we never fought with determination is a gross injustice.”

The group say that they are seeking a formal apology from Beevor.

D-Day landings veteran Ron Titterton, 88, added: “In Normandy, the fighting was ferocious.

“We were under attack by mortars constantly – 760 in one afternoon – but my regiment held the line for 10 days.

“Montgomery sent 10,000 cigarettes to be shared between the men, and he wouldn’t do that if he didn’t think we’d done a sterling job.”

The 62-year-old historian, who has written a series of popular histories of the Second World War including best-seller “Stalingrad”, defended the claims in his book.

He said: “The 51st Highland Division went through a bad patch, but its morale and fighting ability was rapidly restored in late July, as I emphasise in my book.”