My father, Kenneth Macaskill, from Melvaig near Gairloch, enlisted in the 4th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. He was captured at St Valery-en -Caux on 12th June 1940, at the age of 20 years and was marched across France, before boarding wagons heading to Germany, where he was a POW (POW number 1322) for 5 years in Stalag IXC in Muhlhausen, Hesse.
Like many prisoners, he talked little of his experiences at St Valery or his captivity. He was of a kind, cheerful and positive disposition and he preferred to look forwards rather than back. He did, however, refer to the bravery and kindness shown by the French women who would leave food at the roadside.
During his time at Stalag IXC, he was sent to work in salt mines. When asked about the food he was given, I remember him describing the watery soup and he was very thankful when the Red Cross parcels began to arrive. He had a small collection of photographs and in some, he can be seen standing by the grave at funerals, under the supervision of German officers.
On release, in 1945, he returned to Scotland and spent some time in Glasgow, training to be a hairdresser. He married my mother, Zena Gunn, in 1950 and opened his own business in Lairg and subsequently, in Inverness. He passed away in 1997, aged 77 years.
His grandchildren and great-grandchildren have completed projects relating to St Valery and his grand-daughter’s husband, Robin Watt, who plays the bagpipes and has been researching the story of the 51st Highland Division, hopes to remember their bravery when he plays the Heroes of St Valery on 12th June, in Edinburgh.