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[BOOK] St Valery and its Aftermath by Stewart Mitchell


This book is Stewart Mitchell's follow up from his highly acclaimed debut book, Scattered Under the Rising Sun: The Gordon Highlanders in the Far East 1941-1945. In this book, we follow the trials and tribulations of the Gordon Highlanders under their German captors during WW2 - as opposed to the Japanese in his first book.

I attended the book launch at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen on the day it was released. I managed to catch a few words with the author, a very well informed and charming man, who is also a volunteer at the museum itself. I found his new book quite an interesting read. It details the Gordon Highlanders from their call up, to their capture at St Valery. Also documented are the subsequent spells in POW camps and escape attempts, throughout the course of the war.

The book doesn’t concentrate on any individual or group of POWs but jumps about. The book attempts to capture (no pun intended) the broadest swathe of experiences from those unfortunate soldiers from the northeast who found themselves caught between the cliffs of St Valery and their German enemy in 1940.

This book is a smorgasbord of stories from the men themselves, their families and friends and it reads as such. There is no real individual story that perpetuates throughout the book. Instead the reader gets hundreds of little snippets of what these men experienced. The reader cannot really pick up this book and read through in one sitting. It must be seen as a resource and will be invaluable for anyone interested in the individuals captured in 1940. Stewart Mitchell's book would be an asset for those trying to find out more about relatives that served with the Gordon Highlanders and those who got captured.

The index is particularly impressive. It lists everyone captured and gives information about them and where available a picture of the soldier. I found it fantastic to actually view the men you are reading about. The images are a constant source of reference as you go through the book.

At times this book is monumentally sad. At other times it's humorous. The shining light through it all is the tenacity of the soldiers from the North East corner of Scotland, who through no fault of their own, found themselves in captivity for the best part of the war. I learnt a lot from this book and highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the Gordon Highlanders or prisoners of war from this historical event. It’s a great read!