Black Watch 4/6th bn taken at St Valerie to Stalag XXA

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Fiona mcguire, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. Fiona mcguire

    Fiona mcguire Member

    I’m researching my grandfather and great uncle both who were in the Black Watch. My grandfather would say they were in the 4th/6th bn. My grandfather was a marksman .
    Their details are;

    Pte James Gordon - would have gone by Jim
    Black Watch
    Captured and taken on June 12th at St Valerie.
    Taken to Stalag XXA
    PoW number 17351

    Pte John M Gordon
    Black Watch
    Captured and take on June 12th at St Valerie
    Taken to Stalag XXA
    PoW number 17355

    Whilst marching through France they were amount a group along with Albert Mudie, Black Watch who was shot and killed on 13th May 1940. He was the first man they lost. Over the next month they lost many more. With them was a Gordon Highlander , a big man who was a gentle giant, We are unsure of his name but they joked that he was cowardice or course as this was the opposite of his name. This has led us to believe he was either a Kindness or a Courage. I have tracked down a James Milne Courage - 2869551 of the Gordon Highlanders who was killed on 11th of June 1940 near St Valerie, this ties in with the story my Grandfather told. He and John had just been relieved of Guard duty by the big man and were walking back to their sleeping area when they were came upon by Tanks. There followed shooting and when they turned back to the guard spot they found the Gordon Highlander dead. He had been shot in the head. He spoke of how unpleasant it was to see but that had he not relieved them of duty then he and John would not have returned from War.

    After they were captured they were marched , and put on trains till they reached Stalag XXA. Out of boredom he sharpened a piece of metal and was then tasked with slicing the bread between 6 men. He hated doing this as everyone was so hungry and it was tricky to get the portions exact with such terrible conditions. He don’t not speak much of his time there expect that he was able to go with a work camp to work on a farm which he enjoyed as this was his job prior to the war. He was able to ride horses and work the fields. They received better food there too. As winter approached John was picked to go work at the docks unloading ships at Danzig. My grandfather took Johns place knowing that it would be unpleasant. Unfortunately John ended up at the docks anyway. There they unloaded sugar beet and such things. One day a pile of wood collapsed near to where they were working John would have been crushed had an old German man not pushed him out the way. They had nothing with them but managed to get the old man a bar of soap as a way on thanking him. A few days later the man approached them to thank them and to say that his grandchildren now smelt wonderful.
    We are not sure what camp they were moved to after Stalag XXA was closed. They spoke of it not always being so terrible and being able to play sport and joke with their fellow soldiers. My grandfather met Harry Nicholls whilst in a camp , my grandfather was a very good artist and Harry would often sit with him and talk about his drawings. My Grandfather always thought that Harry was from London as he had never left Scotland and had no idea that Harry’s accent was not a Londoners.
    At the end of the war they were marched through to another camp in was a treacherous journey. By this point my grandfather had swapped everything except his overcoat which he knew he would need as it would keep him warm and dry. He was wearing a tattered old french uniform and boots that flapped when Americans liberated them. An American soldier approached my grandfather and began talking to him in french at which point my grandfather claimed he was a Scot !!!

    Both men returned from the War. My grandfather was then sent to Egypt. He returned home from war and met and married my Grandmother and they began their family in Dundee.

    My grandfather is the man on the right and John is sitting. We do not know who the man on the left is.

    My grandfather on the left and John on the right.

    66143999-93CC-4A0B-BDE2-F6D9A426D1D3.jpeg 5F9EDD0B-878E-4ACB-A0D2-F672B01378E3.jpeg FC7A7B97-4900-4ECE-AF2A-631796844E04.jpeg
    Pictures taken whilst in PoW camps

    My grandfather in Egypt after the war

    My grandfather , holding my dad and my granny with my Auntie and Uncle.
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive


    There was no 4/6th Battalion of the Black Watch in France during 1940.

  3. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Perhaps he meant one brother was in 4th and one in 6th Battalion.
  4. Fiona mcguire

    Fiona mcguire Member

    That is how my grandfather referred to his battalion. We believe that they were in the 6th but amalgamated with the 4th. Both my grandfather and great uncle stayed together throughout the war. Save for a few weeks when my grandfather was sent to the docks at Dansig but John joined him there.
  5. Fiona mcguire

    Fiona mcguire Member

    The 6th Battalion went to France as part of the 51st Highland Division, January 1940, and soon after transferred to 12th Brigade of the 4th Division. It was north of Brussels when ordered to withdraw, stopping southwest of Menin, and continuing on to Dunkirk. Survivors of the battalion were evacuated to England. The 6th reformed on the Isle of Wight as front line invasion defence. It remained in Britain until 1943 when it sailed to Algiers (March 1943).
    The 4th Battalion Black Watch had been sent to France and along with the 1st Battalion was caught in the German assault of May 1940, first fighting on the Maginot Line, then between the Somme River and Dieppe. It withdrew to Dunkirk and was successfully evacuated from France to Southampton. In July 1940 it went to Gibraltar, returning in 1942 to England, where it remained until the end of the war.

    Of course we know that many battalions were split up and separated and many were captured regardless of whether their battalions made it home. As my grandfather was a marks man he was sent to help others. He hated having to carry the tank gun round with him as it was extremely heavy and it was useless.
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Fiona

    I can't help much post 1940 but let me know if you want help to find out what he was doing in France during 1940, I know a little bit about what happened there.

    I think you have have some of the stories confused over the passage of time. The reason from the Battalions swapping divisions was the 51st Division was a Territorial Army and being part time soldiers were not very well trained compared to their regular army colleagues so the Generals decided to miss regular and TA battalions with divisions for training purposes and technically slightly reduce the effectiveness of all divisions rather than having strong and weak divisions. Marksman trained and used the .303 Lee Enfield Rifle. The 'tank gun' you mentioned may be the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle. It fired a .50 calibre round and in 1940 was capable of knocking out most German armour apart from the MkIV tank but from memory there was only a few hundred of those in the campaign so he'd have been unlucky to have met one of those. He could have been in the Brigades Anti-Tank Company carrying a much heavier round but again these units did good work in knocking out German armour with the French 25mm Hotchkiss Gun.

    As a side note the 4th Battalion were part of Arc Force in 1940 defending Le Havre and around 4,000 men from this ad hoc unit were evacuated so during this campaign they wouldn't have amalgamated with the 6th Battalion.

    Your best bet as a starting point may be to appy to the Ministry of Defence for a copy of their service records and work forward from there.

    Good luck with your research :)
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
  7. Fiona mcguire

    Fiona mcguire Member

    My grandfather was previously in the TA we have his records from signing up. from what he said about the gun he said he hated lugging it around as it was so heavy and it was a pea shooter.
    We know he was with the 4th around May as he was there when Al Mudie was shot from there we know they made their way to St Valerie and was there when General Fortune surrendered. He then spent the rest of the war in Stalag XXA and XXB until they were put on the death march to Germany.
  8. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    I see they were both Territorials in Royal Artillery, 1929 - 1933.
  9. Joe Horsburgh

    Joe Horsburgh Member

    Very interesting story. My grandfather is mentioned here, Albert Mudie
  10. Joe Horsburgh

    Joe Horsburgh Member


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