Search for the identity of St Vallery hero gets underway

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AS the anniversary to mark the battle of St Valery-en-Caux approaches, an international search has been launched to uncover the identity of a fallen hero.

To mark the 80th anniversary of St Valery last June, hundreds of pipers around the world will play in unison in tribute to the ‘Forgotten 51st’.

Following this upcoming event a remarkable story has emerged, that one brave soldier evaded capture and was taken in by a local French family, hiding him from the occupying German forces.

CALL TO HELP UNCOVER IDENTITY OF FALLEN ST VALERY HERO|Scottish news
The 51st Highland Division soldier evaded capture during the infamous Second World War battle but would later be betrayed in the French fishing port and now rests in an unnamed grave

The 51st Highland Division soldier that managed to evade capture during the Second World War now rests in an unnamed grave. 

Days after the mass-evacuations at Dunkirk, thousands of men from the 51st Highland Division remained on mainland Europe supporting their French allies.

Patrick Prieur, a 65-year-old St Valery resident said:  “A soldier from the 51st Highland Division was hidden by a local family in the village.

“They bonded, and the family learned that he was a married man with a wife and two daughters waiting for him to return home.

“For several weeks, the soldier remained hidden, but regretfully he was eventually discovered by German troops and marched through the town to the municipal cemetery. 

“His death deeply upset the townspeople— who had been aware of his hiding—and especially my father, who was only eleven at the time.”

Possible identity of st vallery hero|Scottish news
The name order on the piece of paper may have been written in military fashion, with the surname preceding any given names, so the family name might be Keller.

Mr Prieur Contacted Poppyscotland and the Highland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association to ask for help.

Michelle McKearnon, Head of Engagement at the Highland Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association added: “We started to do our own research to unearth the fallen soldier’s identity but only got so far.

“We believe the name order on the piece of paper may have been written in military fashion, with the surname preceding any given names, so the family name might be Keller.

“We’re now at an impasse, struggling to find additional information through our own resources, so we need the knowledge of the wider community to continue our efforts.”

Legion Scotland have committed to ensuring St Valery is now marked annually, alongside other national remembrance events including Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday and VE Day.