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Veteran who fought in Dunkirk rearguard defence celebrates 104th birthday

Major John Errington fought in France in 1940 and spent five years as a prisoner of war after being captured.

The oldest veteran of the Royal Scots regiment, who fought in rearguard defence during the Dunkirk evacuations, is celebrating his 104th birthday.

Major John Errington, from Shrewsbury in Shropshire, fought at the battle of Le Paradis in Northern France in May 1940.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Scots, reduced in strength to just 400 men by more than two weeks in action, prepared for their last stand at Le Paradis, 30 miles from Dunkirk in north-east France on May 25 that year.

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

Wartime picture
John Errington (left) in 1941 during his time as a prisoner of war (The Royal Scots/PA)

Major Errington was eventually captured and spent five years as a prisoner of war.

He is celebrating his birthday with family on Friday.

Brigadier George Lowder, chairman of The Royal Scots Regimental Trustees, said: “John Errington has been a very loyal member of our regiment and has shown exemplary service, especially during the Second World War.

“On behalf of the regiment, we send our warmest congratulations on this special birthday, his 104th.”

The regiment said that the 1st Battalion The Royal Scots’ orders, to “Stand And Fight To The Last Man”, played a pivotal role in enabling the withdrawal of 337,000 Allied Forces from the beaches of Dunkirk.

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John Errington with his wife Brenda on their wedding day (Errington Family/PA)

However, this three-day rearguard defence against overwhelming odds led to the Battalion’s destruction.

Brigadier Lowder said: “Their fighting spirit was undaunted, although they had been in continuous action for 17 days delaying the German advance over 200 miles and had 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.”

Major Errington served with the Battalion’s French liaison officer, Captain Michel Martell, a family member of the Martell Cognac Company.

He recently received a special bottle of cognac from Captain Martell’s grandson, Thierry Firino-Martell, who sent the gift to celebrate the veteran’s enduring comradeship and bravery.

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