Fortune, Sir Victor Morven, born 21-08-1883, in Blelack, Scotland was commissioned into The Black Watch in 1903 and served in the First World War as Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch from 1916. A number of authors state that the regiment was given the nickname “Ladies from Hell” (“Die Damen aus der Hölle”) by German troops, allegedly on account of their kilts and fighting qualities. Later he became the Commander of 46th Brigade from 1918.
He became commanding Officer of 1st Battalion the Seaforth Highlanders in 1927 and Commander of the 5th Infantry Brigade in 1930. He became General Officer Commanding 52nd (Lowland) Division in 1935 and General Officer Commanding the 51st Highland Division in 1937. The 51st Division remained in France after the general evacuation from Dunkirk, having been assigned to the French X Corps. After naval evacuation proved impossible and supplies of ammunition had been exhausted, Major General Fortune was forced to surrender the greater part of the Highland Division at St Valery en Caux, to General Erwin Rommel, commander of the 7th Panzer Division, nickname, Ghost Division, of Wehrmacht. The Ghost Division, alongside troops from 5th Panzer Division, under command of General der Panzertruppen Joachim Lemelsen , committed numerous atrocities against French troops, including the murder of 50 surrendering officers and men at Quesnoy and the nearby Airaines. General Joachim Lemelsen imprisoned by British forces after the war, in 1947 testified on behalf of his former commander, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, during Kesselring’s war crimes trial before a British military court convened at Venice, Italy. Soon thereafter, Lemelsen was released. He died on 30-03-1954 (aged 65) in Göttingen.
One brigade had earlier withdrawn to Le Havre and avoided capture. General Fortune spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war. As senior British officer in captivity in Germany, he worked to improve the conditions of the men under his command. He suffered a stroke in 1944 but refused repatriation. He returned when the prisoners were liberated and retired from the Army He was finally liberated in April 1945 and made KBE shortly after. The 51st Scottish Division later under command of Generaal-majoor Thomas Rennie would later liberate a part of the Netherlands and Rennie died on their on the battlefield.
Death and burial ground of Sir Victor Morven Fortune.
Sir Victor Morven Fortune died 02-01-1949, aged 65, in Dalswinton, Scotland and is buried at Auchencairn Cemetery Auchencairn, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Several writers have questioned the decision to remain with the French during the battle. However, General Charles de Gaulle stated, ‘For my part, I can say that the comradeship of arms, sealed on the battlefield of Abbeville in May–June 1940, between the French armoured division, which I had the honour to command, and the gallant 51st Scottish Division under General Fortune, played its part in the decision which I made to continue the fight at the side of the Allies, to the end, come what may’. And he concluded by quoting the old motto of the Compagnie Ecossaise: ‘omni modo fidelis’ – ‘faithful in every way’.