One of the last Dunkirk fighters who was a prisoner of war has died

A British WW2 veteran who survived the Dunkirk evacuations which killed hundreds of men before enduring five punishing years in a Nazi prisoner of war camp has died at age of 104.  

Major John Errington, the oldest veteran of the Royal Scots regiment who fought in rearguard defence at the battle of Le Paradis in Northern in 1940, has died at his family home in Beeslack, east of Penicuik. 

Born on August 12 1918, he joined the 1st Battalion and served as a Regimental Signals Officer before being deployed to the British Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of war.

On May 25, a year after the outbreak of war, his regiment prepared for their last stand, 30 miles from Dunkirk in north-east France with a reduced strength to 400 men by over two weeks in action. 

Their defence action is said to have helped delay the German advance, allowing thousands of British troops to reach the beaches of Dunkirk.

More than 100 battle survivors, including many wounded, were later massacred by troops of the German SS Division Totenkop, regimental historians claim, a fate Major Errington avoided.

However, he was eventually captured and spent five years as a prisoner of war in a camp, where he learned to speak Arabic and Swahili.

After the war, he continued to serve in the Army for a number of years, meeting his wife Brenda – who died four years ago – while in Jerusalem, before retiring to farm on the Isle of Mull off the coast of Scotland.

Major Errington proudly displaying his numerous medals for his military service

Major John Errington from The Royal Scots' Regiment

Major Errington proudly displaying his numerous medals for his military service

Just a handful of soldiers escaped back to the UK, while 292 Royal Scots were captured by the enemy, including Major Errington, who spent the next five years as a prisoner of war.

His adjacent unit, the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment, suffered severe casualties and Le Paradis will go down in history as the site of a war crime after 97 soldiers of that regiment were massacred by the German SS after they had already surrendered.

Research has suggested that around 20 Royal Scots may have suffered a similar fate.

During his time as prisoner, his sister, who lived on Mull, arranged for food parcels to be sent to him from Edinburgh’s best shops, 바다이야기릴게임 including cigars which he used as currency, his loved ones said.

They said he was respected by his German guards because he was able to turn his hand to many practical repairs in the camp.

At one point, they claim he was in Oflag V11-C with officers of the 51st Highland Division and remembers practising the newly invented Reel of the 51st Highland Division.

After surviving the war, the veteran, who was educated at Wellington College, narrowly avoided the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946.

That happened after he re-joined the regiment before being posted to the Middle East Centre for Arab Studies (MECAS) in Jerusalem to improve the Arabic he learnt in the prisoner of war camp from a Palestinian civilian member of the Pioneer Corps.

On 22 July 1946, the regiment’s Arabic tutor kept troops into their lunch hour, which they would have normally spent at the King David Hotel.

At 12.26pm, the hotel was virtually destroyed by a bomb planted by Zionist insurgent group the Irgun, killing 91 and wounding many more, historians said.

Major Errington always believed that their tutor knew what was about to happen and deliberately held them back that day, it is understood.

Major Errington pictured above with his wife Brenda on their wedding day

Major Errington pictured above with his wife Brenda on their wedding day

After the war, 오션파라다이스 Major Errington was posted to the Combined Intelligence Centre at RAF Habbaniya in what was then Iraq, where he met, Brenda Reeves, who he married in Habbaniya in June 1948.

He attended The Staff College in 1950 before being promoted to major and posted to military intelligence in the War Office in 1952 and, later, Malaya during the Emergency from 1953-1956, for which he was Mentioned in Despatches ‘for distinguished service’.

After returning to the regimental depot at Glencorse, Major Errington’s final posting was to Libya in May 1958, again in intelligence.He took redundancy in March 1959.

Brigadier George Lowder MBE, chair of The Royal Scots Regimental Trust, previously said of him: ‘John Errington has been a very loyal member of our regiment and has shown exemplary service, especially during the Second World War.’

John Errington (pictured above), who fought in France in 1940 and spent five years as a prisoner of war, is celebrating his 104th birthday

John Errington (pictured above), who fought in France in 1940 and spent five years as a prisoner of war, is celebrating his 104th birthday

The regiment said the 1st Battalion The Royal Scots’ orders to ‘Stand and fight to the last man,’ saved the lives of many who successfully evacuated from the beaches of northern France.

Brigadier Lowder added: ‘Their fighting spirit was undaunted, although they had been in continuous action for 17 days delaying the German advance over 200 miles and suffered heavy casualties.Their contribution to Dunkirk was vital.

‘We should never forget that the vast majority of those who survived the last stand at Le Paradis spent the next five years as prisoners of war.’ 

After retiring, he attended agricultural college in Aberdeen and worked on the family farm in Kincardineshire.

A noted sportsman, he became an enthusiastic dinghy and offshore sailor, sailing his cruising yacht, Prince Vreckan, into his 90s, having taught his loved ones to sail.

He enjoyed swimming and, aged over 100, still swam in the public baths in Kirkcudbright.

Major Errington was the second of two sons and two daughters. His father and maternal grandfather had both been Royals.

He is survived by his other two daughters, Leila and Anne, six grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. His wife died in 2018, and one daughter, Jane, pre-deceased him in 2020.

In 2006, The Royal Regiment of Scotland was formed from its predecessor the Scottish Infantry Regiments and after 373 years of unbroken service The Royal Scots left the British Army’s order of battle. 

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