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My Father's War

by tarente

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Donald Grant MacDonald, Donald MacKillop, Alan MacKillop, Andrew Rankine
Location of story: 
Northern France 1939/1940; Burma
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 July 2005

My late father served in the 4/5th Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

In 1939 at the age of 18 he was called up for TA duty in Inverness, and got home in 1946.

The Camerons were the last regiment to go into battle wearing the kilt during the BEF campaign in the 51st Highland Division in France; my father fought through the retreat from Metz, round and up to Abbeville, after the Battle of the Rivière Escaut in May 1940.

To this day the town of St Valery en Caux is twinned with Inverness.

Shot in the leg, my father was evacuated at Dunkirk, and taken to a converted mental hospital in Sheffield, where he met my mother, who was a volunteer firefighter who came to visit the wounded; they kept up a courtship by correspondence and married after his return from Burma.

On recovery he was posted to India and Burma, but never talked about his experiences out there except to say he started to smoke to calm his nerves.

In 1986, 3 years after his death, I accompanied my late mother to a Burma Star reunion at the Albert Hall, and met a room full of ex-Camerons.

One old boy, on hearing who I was, told me that he had seen my father bayonet 7 Japanese at the battle of Kohima, but we had never heard of this.

Interestingly enough the Kohima memorial was designed by one of the Cameron officers, Alan MacKillop, later architect in Inverness "When you go home, think of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today"

Alan has also passed on, but his brother Donald (also now deceased), was MTO with the 4th/(th Camerons in Italy, and he and his QM the late "Nippy" Milne, liberated a grand piano from a palazzo in Itlay, and somehow got it back to Inverness, where it occupies centre stage in the town hall to this day.

One of my late father's golfing partners was the late Andrew "Gunner" Rankine, Solicitor, ex Ministry of Agriculture; Andrew had serbed with the 1/1st Inverness-shire Battery Royal Horse Artillery in Palestine under the command of the then Lord Burton (Grandson of Nelly Bass) whose family were the Baillies of Dochfour.

The battery served under Allenby, and Andrew Rankine recalled seeing TE Lawrence during that campaign.

Andrew Rankine passed on in his 90's, but the "Battery Boys" used have their annual jolly in the Cummings Hotel in Inverness, and the current Lord Burton would always preside.

I hope these historical memories may be of interest.

"Natura il fece, e poi roppa la stampa!"

(Nature made him, but then destroyed the mould!)

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