World

International Search For WW2 Battle's Unknown 'Scottish Hero'

The search has been launched to uncover the identity of a soldier who was captured and killed following the Battle of St Valery-en-Caux.

An international search has been launched to uncover the identity of a fallen hero killed following a Second World War battle.

The Battle of St Valery-en-Caux, sometimes known as the 'Other Dunkirk' or the 'Forgotten Dunkirk', took place on 12 June 1940 in northern France.

It was just days after the Dunkirk evacuations, with more than 10,000 people from the 51st Highland Division being killed or captured after a fierce battle in the French fishing port.

An unknown soldier evaded capture during the infamous World War Two battle, only to later be caught.

Their body now rests in an unnamed grave, marked as 'A soldier of the 1939-1945 War – Known unto God', in the Franco-British military cemetery.

Following international commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of St Valery last June, a remarkable story emerged.

Dr Claire Armstrong, Chief Executive of Legion Scotland, said: "We were contacted by Monsieur Patrick Prieur, a 65-year-old St Valery resident whose grandparents and father remained in the town during the entirety of the war.

"As we approach the 81st anniversary of the battle, we hope to identify this Scottish hero, give him the recognition he deserves, and bring peace to his family."

Patrick Prieur recalled the tale his late father told him: "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."

A piece of paper with the name of a fallen soldier who died following the Battle of St Valery-en-caux, more than 80 years ago (Picture: Poppy Scotland).

After being forced to dig his own grave, the soldier was positioned against the cemetery wall and shot.

He went on: "His death deeply upset the townspeople, who had been aware of his hiding, and especially my father, who was only 11 at the time.

"My father had been gifted a piece of paper on which the soldier's name was written, 'Keller Len Scott', and this became his prized possession."

In 2014, Mr Prieur's father died and he recently contacted Poppyscotland and the Highland Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association for help with the search.

After hearing Monsieur Prieur's story, Michelle McKearnon, Head of Engagement at the Highland Reserve Forces' and Cadets' Association, said: "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."

Dr Armstrong said: "As the 81st anniversary approaches we want to capture the hearts and minds of the public once more.

"We are urging anyone who believes they know of or has any information about our 'unknown soldier', no matter how small, to get in touch.

"We are also inviting pipers to take centre stage again at the 2021 commemorations by leading tributes in their local communities playing 'Heroes of St Valery' on 12 June at 10:00.

Poppyscotland is eager to hear from anyone with information that could help with the soldier's identity.

Cover image: The unknown soldier's grave, marked as 'Known unto God', in the Franco-British military cemetery (Picture: Poppy Scotland).