1922 USSR formed by Soviet states
1895 Marconi invents wireless telegraphy
1830 French Revolution
John Bremner 1912 - 1997
The Carreer of kind and gentle Scotsman
Was born February 12, 1912 in Broughty Ferry, Scotland . He was a Scotsman of the very best type; about five feet ten inches in height, medium build, well limbed, with a full smiling face. Excellent power of reasoning and generous to a fault, dark hair and average complexion. His Father Archibald Bremner worked his way up from shipbuilder at Denny, Dumbarton to become a Naval officer and his younger brother Eric was to become the youngest serving officer in the Navy in 1940. His older brother Dick, an engineer officer in the Royal Navy, was killed in action off Crete in 1943 when serving in HMS Greyhound.
Dick Killed in action off Crete 1943
As a boy he was brought up near Carlisle and very nearly died from scurvy as baby had it not been for a sailor who recognised it - he was given oranges and recovered quickly. His Father was at sea for most of his childhood, the First World War starting two years after he was born.
John and his brothers appeared to have enjoyed the freedom this gave them. He remembered the First World War and Zepelins chasing the maids down the street, however as a young boy the war seemed quite distant and had little effect on him.
John in his Caneo
His parent moved to Haslemere where he went to school at Fernden prep school, Surrey, for one term only in 1920 ( Fernden closed down in 1985). His brother Dick was there from was there from 1918-23 before going on to Dartmouth (archivist of the Fernden Society, John Brownrigg)
.He used to play on his uncle's farm where Hurn airport is currently positioned.
His Uncle William (Bill) was to serve in the Navy and was a pioneer in the use of what was later to become Motor Torpedo Boats.... William was part of an attack on a Russian naval port at Kronstadt : his boat was rammed by a following torpedo boat after helping to sink the Russian naval ship the Petropavlovsk in the dark, he was picked up by this boat. Following the death of the captain he took command despite being badly wounded and carried out a further attack on another Russion ship, with complete disregard for his own life. His boat was was bombed and sunk and he was captured; although injured he was held in a Russian prison for some months until the then Prince of Wales intervened and personally organised his repatriation having been a friend at school. Commodore Augustus Willington Shelton Agar , VC , DSO , RN (1890-1968) who led the attack obtained a Victoria Cross and mentions William Bremner in his book. Later books mention him and suggest that he should have been award a VC too but there were already two VC given out in this operation. During this period he was also involved in secrete mission to drop spies into Red Russia, later in his career he worked secrete service helping to setup operations in Cairo
Craigflower, seat of the Colville family at Torryburn, Fife in the 1920's became Craigflower preparatory school under F.G Wailes headmaster. John A Bremner became first new boy and later joined the teaching staff: from 1935 -1939 he served as deputy headmaster. Had the Second World War not broken out in 1939, Mr Wailes had decided that John Bremner should take over from him as headmaster. John Bremner joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and was called up and joined the 51st Highland division which was which was moved to the Saar region under French command to gain experience on the Maginot line. As 300,000 strong, the British expeditionary force was taken off at Dunkirk. The 51st Highland Division (Seaforth Highlanders, Cameron Highlanders, Gordon Highlanders and the Black Watch) fought on without orders as the French had capitulated and were no longer controlling the assets provided by Churchill to keep them in the war. Gen Fortune surrendered the bulk of the 51 Highlanders after a gallant effort and running out of ammunition and supplies - often fighting battle against tanks with only small arms they became completely surrounded and overwhelmed by Rommel's 7th Panzer Division at Saint Valéry-en-Caux on 12th June 1940. John Bremner continued to fight on with a battalion of Seaforth Highlanders in a town above the hill. They broke up into smaller groups and moved slowly north up the coast: after three days of virtually no sleep he came across a farmhouse and asked for food. However they were betrayed by the French farmer and surrounded in small wood by a Panzer Group. They had found a small boat and the married men were sent off to sail this back to England, (unfortunately these men were captured later as none of them could sail). The remaining men were left to escape during the night but it was hopeless and with no ammunition or food they surrendered along with John Bremner. Later he was to speak warmly about those that captured him in the Panzer group and he was treated well. However they were taken to farms, here they were kept waiting with nothing to eat for a week. Most units ended up in Prisoner of War Camps in Poland and Upper Silesia.
John was the last officer of 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders to be captured with his men. Marched with POWs through France, Belgium and Holland, the journey taking months, during this time he was in either cattle trucks or on foot, sometimes being kept in these trucks for 3 to 4 days without being let out. They had nothing to eat and marched about 21 miles every day. Along the way, French women came out of their homes and gave them bread with so little food or water he became weak and others around him were fainting from the 722 miles from Saint Valéry-en-Caux to Laufen. He was lucky and obtained sour milk from a farmer who was about to throw it away. He passed through a holding camp at Kassel by barge then on to Laufen on the Austrian border near Salzburg.
Laufen, formerly the Prince-Archbishop's palace and now an office block. John Bremner is thought to be in this photograph below of a prisoner count
Laufen by MICHAEL GOODLIFFE
In 1941 he was taken to Titmoning, a picturesque castle in South Eastern Bavaria, North of Salzburg on the river Salza. Here the Germans gave them a quarter of a pint of very watery soup for lunch and 1 loaf of "black bread" between 5 in the evening, and large amounts of ersatz coffee
Tittmoning as it is today
About one year after being captured the British Red Cross parcels started to arrive. They were given one parcel between two: each parcel contained 2oz of tea, 1/2 lb of sugar, sweets, chocolate and condensed milk. After about a further year they started to receive Canadian Red Cross parcels, of which they were given one each per week containing 1lb of butter, 1/2lb of coffee, 1lb of sugar, a large bar of chocolate, sweets, one tin of powdered milk, a large packet of biscuits, 50 cigarettes, etc. The Red Cross parcels became a lifeline to survival in the camps. He often spoke about the jam and chocolate. Often the Germans emptied everything in one bowl so rice, jam and biscuits were all mixed up. He also spoke about the de-lousing as lice were a continual problem: they used to have to walk through creosote baths to kill the infestations and have their heads regularly shaved.
In 1942 he was taken back to Kassel in East Westphalia. Then in 1943 to Eichstätt.
He forgets whether he went first to Eichstätt and then to Westphalia and then back to Eichstätt. During this period in 1944 he was given an unexpected break by his German captors - he was taken from Eichstätt to Berlin. But as thousand bomber raids occurred over Berlin he was moved first to a suburb East of Berlin, then to Russian POW camp and then to a little prison in the Bayerische Wold on the border of Czechoslovakia for a fortnight before being return to Eichstätt. Jock his son remembers his Father telling him that certain prisoners were called forward and lined up without explanation; these were the prisoners learning German. They were then told they had been selected for a “holiday”. He later discovered this was Captain Faulkner's suggestion, the officer who taught him German. I expect the Nazi command thought it would make great propaganda. Clearly some freedom was given to them as the photo indicates they were on some kind of Parole walk whilst at Stalag 383
Oflag VIIC at Eichstätt , Michael Yates
Eichstätt had a well-organised escape committee with contacts to MI9, the branch of British military intelligence set up to communicate with prisoners of war through coded letters and to assist them with maps disguised as handkerchiefs and other aids. It was much larger than Titmoning. It is likely that John was moved mainly to other concentration camps as the Germans moved the prisoners regularly to prevent escapes although these now cannot be remembered. During his four years in captivity he became friends with David Moore, born around 1921, who currently lives in North Berwick. He was in the medical corps and John helped him pass exams for his school certificate that later allowed him to join the Forestry commission.
In March 1945 as the American army headed up by Patton pushed the Germans back, prisoners of war were handcuffed (this was against the Geneva convention) and marched slowly back into Germany by night as during the day they were strafed by the allies and refused to cooperate. John was taught German by a Mr Faulkner from the German diplomatic service, he was not a Nazi and was kind to the prisoners of war; he warned them that Hitler would use them as hostages due the number of aristocrats associated with the royal family that had been captured. (After the war John tried to find and help Mr Faulkner but sadly failed to locate him, he had hoped that he was not badly treated). After this warning and believing it was not safe to stay he escaped one evening in March. As the Germans prepared to move John from Eichstätt to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to be held as hostage he and three other officers seized the chance. The handcuffs could be broken open by striking them with a large stone. The Four escaped and hid in barn with the aid of German farmer who provided a ladder, in return they provided a note saying that he had helped them escape. German solders came in, bayoneted the hay below their feet but thankfully did not look up and soon had to leave to join the departing column. Given the strong possibility that they would be shot trying to get through the American line the four dug a hole in the ground, lined it with ferns and found pheasants eggs which they ate. They were positioned near a stream which provided drinking water. Eventually after three days they sighted an American tank which they waved down. They returned back through the lines, were questioned and flown back in a Dornier to the UK whilst still being shot at by the Germans below. On returning home at the age of 28 he was 7 stone and forced to stay in hospital until he had received new glass which had been broken. He met his parents at Marlow Hotel. His first recollections of luxury were the white sheets he could sleep in. Six months later the war ended.
During John's term in German prison camps he read History and was tutored through the Red Cross by Dr Welbourne from Cambridge; on returning home he wished to read Psychology and was invited by Dr Welbourne to a Cambridge Dons' party but told it would not be possible as he had not passed his matriculation with 5 credits in one go. However, after the party the Dons retired into a room and he was told that they would accept him as there was space. Thoroughly delighted by this opportunity, he read Psychology and Philosophy and graduated with a good 2nd Class Honours degree. After completing his degree he joined the Tavistock Clinic that had just started, along with Mary Boston. After leaving the Tavistock clinic with qualifications in Child psychology he wrote to Dr Mildred Creek at Great Ormond Street and was taken on part time there and at Kingston Clinic as a child psychotherapist, he co-authored a book Explorations in autism (Donald Meltzer, John Bremner, Shirley Hoxter, Doreen Weddell and Iska Wittenberg. Scotland: Clunie Press, 1975). In 1954 John lived at the Bembridge Hotel, 12 Dorset Square NW1. He purchased a small Meshersmit car reg VPK 590 parked out side his House 5 Wyndham Place W1
In 1956 he married Diana Sanderson
then moving to 27 Hamilton Terrace St Johns wood in 1957 were Diana gave birth to Jock (John) in 1958
Alexander (Sandy) in 1960
and the twins Alastair and Donald in 1963.
Here their 1st Day at Arnold House Aged 5yrs
Finaly moving to 69 Carlton Hill in 1969 when he suffered a heart attack. He was due to travel to the Dell hotel, Aviemore but instead went to the doctor; he had his heart attack in hospital that night when he would have been on the train. Cutting down and working part time at St George's he was to live until 1996 when one day he walked round the garden, came back and sat in his seat and went to sleep, dying with his hand still holding the stick across his lap in no pain.
As a Father he was a quite retiring man who liked one-on-one talks and disliked large crowds. He loved gardening. He felt an enormous loss over the death of his brother Dick who he admired enormously and was also interested in the family history and tradition, he would have wanted to join the Navy but his eyesight prevented this however he was extremely proud of his Scottish heritage. He loved children and was a great Father. He very rarely lost his temper. He would have liked to have been younger and more able to have joined in with the activities we enjoyed as children and young men. He was always there and was a good listener suprising trendy and understaning given his age of 84 years born the same year that the Titanic sunk.
The 51st Seathforth Highlanders
Their valour is recalled in the pipe tune "The Heroes of St Valery" and even better in the Scottish Dance "The Reel of the 51st" in which the dancers recreate the Saltire, the badge of the 51st Division. The dance was created by Lieutenant J.E.M. ‘Jimmy' Atkinson of the 7th Battalion Argyll along with the officers of 51st Highland in their prison camp at Laufen during the long dark days of captivity following 1940.
The Beaches Of St Valéry (by Davy Steele )
It was in 1940 the last days of Spring
We were sent to the Maginot line
A fortress in France built to halt the advance of an army from a different time
For we were soon overrun out-fought and outgunned
Pushed further back every day
But we never believed high command would leave us
So we fought every inch of the way
Till the 51st Highlanders found themselves on the banks of the Somme one more time
It still bore the scars of that war to end wars
The old soldiers scars deep in their minds
But we couldn't stay long for the Panzers rolled on
And the battle raged west towards the sea
Then on June the 10th when sapped of all strength
I entered St Valéry
And all I recall was the last boat leavin!
My brother on board waving and calling to me
And the Jocks stranded there wi' their hands in the air
On the beaches of St Valéry
So I huddled all night in a hammered old house
As the shells and the bullets rained down
Next morning at dawn my hope was still strong
For we moved to the beach from the town
But the boat that had left on the day we arrived
Was the only one we'd ever see
And with no ammo or food we had done all we could
So we surrendered at St Valéry
When I returned at the end of the war
From the stalag where I'd been confined
I read of the battles the allies had fought
Stalingrad, Alamein, and the Rhine
Wi' pride in their hearts people spoke of Dunkirk where defeat had become victory
But nobody mentioned the Highland Division
They'd never heard of St Valéry
No stories no statues for those that were killed
No honours for those that were caught
Just a deep sense of shame as though we were to blame
Though I knew in my heart we were not.
So I've moved to a country I've come to call home
But my homeland is far o'er the sea
I will never return while my memories still burn
On the beaches of St Valéry
Sunday Telegraph, 4th June 2000
AS hundreds of war veterans converge on Dunkirk today, 70 old soldiers will gather in another French seaside town 120 miles away, to remember the events of 60 years ago after the armada of small boats had departed.
They are the survivors of the entire infantry division that was sacrificed by Winston Churchill to persuade the French to fight on against Hitler - and who were then marooned and forgotten as the other British troops sailed home.
The officers and men of the 51st Highland Division were placed under French command after Churchill told his opposite number in Paris, Paul Reynaud, that Britain would "never abandon her ally in her hour of need".
At its heart were some of the proudest regiments in Scottish history: the Black Watch, the Seaforth Highlanders and the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, and their men stood and fought as the French army collapsed around them.
After fighting their way back to the Channel and the small town of St Valéry-en-Caux, they found the sea blanketed by thick fog, and no ships there to rescue them. In a last stand that claimed thousands of casualties, and in which the grandfather of the actor Hugh Grant played a pivotal role, the division fought almost to its last bullet.
When its commanding officer, Gen Victor Fortune, finally surrendered to Rommel, more than 10,000 men were taken prisoner and marched off to spend the rest of the war in captivity.
The loss of the division shocked the small Highland communities from which its members were drawn. Alan Carswell, the curator of the National War Museum of Scotland, said: "It was a huge blow throughout Britain, but particularly in the Highlands. The 51st had been regarded since the previous war as perhaps the most effective division in the British Army."
Moreover, many of the the survivors are still bitter at the way in which they were left to their fate while more than 300,000 other men were plucked off the beaches.
"We are still very angry about it," said Tommy Parton, then a 20-year-old private who had joined as a regular with the Seaforth Highlanders."We were sacrificed by Churchill because he was eager to keep the French fighting. We were placed under poor command, and expected to fight alongside men who didn't have the stomach for it." Mr Parton found himself taking part in a bayonet charge against German positions without any support "because the French tanks didn't turn up".
Some elements of the division managed to escape to Le Havre, and on to England by boat, but most of the 51st found itself in St Valéry, which was pounded by artillery and Stuka dive bombers, and surrounded by Rommel's tanks.
When Gen Fortune eventually ordered his officers to surrender on June 12, many broke down and wept. However, one of the battalions of the Seaforths continued to fight at its outpost in a village outside the town.
The men had been led by Major James Murray Grant, the grandfather of the actor Hugh Grant, after their commanding officer collapsed under the strain of weeks of continual fighting. Major Grant called his officers and pointed out that no battalion of the Seaforths had ever surrendered before.
Running out of ammunition, he sent out his wounded, carried by the men who wanted to surrender, and then organised the rest into small parties who made a break for freedom under cover of darkness. Many were killed, and others were captured, including Major Grant, who was later awarded the DSO.
Saul David, a military historian, believes that Churchill sacrificed the 51st because he was anxious that the French continue fighting from her colonies, or at least resist long enough for Britain to prepare her defences.
However, Capt Ian Campbell, Gen Fortune's intelligence officer and who later became the Duke of Argyll, said shortly before his death in 1973: "It has always been abundantly clear to me that no division has ever been more uselessly sacrificed. It could have been got away a week before but the powers that be - owing I think to very faulty information - had come to the conclusion that there was a capacity for resistance in France which was not actually there."
Next Wednesday the survivors of the 51st will gather at the granite memorial to their dead comrades, which was shipped from Scotland and now stands on a cliff overlooking St Valéry.
Mr Parton knows what he will remember most. "People who weren't there think of it like some black-and-white news reel, but film will never tell you about the smell of battle or the cries of your friends who are dying."
Fleet Paymaster Bremner 1837-1898
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