Poppyscotland will receive a min of £2.97 depending on your service provider. Texts cost £3 plus your standard message charge. To opt out of all future communications end your text with NOINFO. Helpline 0131 550 1567 .
|Our father, Raonuill (‘Ran’) Ogilvie, was a platoon commander with 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders at St Valery. He was commissioned into the Gordon Highlanders in July 1939, shortly after his 19th birthday, and within three months was in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). After the relatively peaceful few months of the ‘Phoney War’, he was in the thick of the 51st Highland Division’s desperate fighting withdrawal, ending with surrender at St Valery-en-Caux on 12th June 1940. He spent his 20th birthday marching through Germany to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Like many of his generation he was reluctant to talk about his wartime experiences for many years, but eventually he opened up and wrote about his experiences in France, primarily for his family. He also joined other veterans in visiting St Valery on the 50th and 60th Anniversary commemorations, and put his thoughts at the time down on paper. I would like to share an excerpt from his notes on the 50th Anniversary.
“50 years ago we were young soldiers and proud that we were Gordons. Like most of our comrades-in-arms we enjoyed, with the exuberance of youth, the anticipation of the unknown which lay ahead; the adrenaline coursed through our veins at the thought of danger and, in moments of excitement, smothered the occasional sparks of fear – which only the liar denies – and spurred us on to be the heroes of our own heroic imagination!
Now fifty years older and, hopefully, as many years wiser, our youthful exuberance tempered by a lifetime of experience, we can look back to fallen comrades and lost youth with some regrets, but also with pride and pleasure in the comradeship that bound us, and bunds us still – old soldiers and old Gordon’s – mindful of those days half a century ago. St Valery stole five years – the most precious of our youth – when fate marched us into captivity.
It is our old soldiers ‘way’ to retell experiences and to exchange reminiscences – perhaps harmlessly embellished, or improved in minor detail and a shade in color, but still with truth in the telling, never dishonorably.
Black moments of fear or desperation are made light of, and the little personal acts of courage are neither labored or denied, but subordinated to the memory and praise of comrades lost, or to the courageous acts of each brave or fearful fellow Jock, without whose courage and comradeship each was naked in the firefight of the heat of battle.
Such is the soldier’s way of reliving and refreshing his memories of those he trusted and who trusted him in moments of personal crisis.”
Raonuill Ogilvie served on after the war, serving in Malaya and Cyprus among other places, and finishing as Second-in-Command of 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders. Following a year’s attachment to the Royal Navy, he left the army in 1959.
The photograph shown Raonuill (on the right) in France in September 1939, with Private Bruce and a French family they were billeted with.