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They Escaped By Speaking Gaelic

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by The_Historian, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist

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    Almost seems too good to be true.
    "The exploits of Scottish soldiers who dodged death by speaking GAELIC to their Nazi captors is being made into a film.
    Heroic Private William Kemp, Corporal Sandy MacDonald and Lance Corporal James 'Ginger' Wilson fled Hitler's clutches in June 1940 after confusing their German captors by speaking only Gaelic and claiming they were from Ukraine - which was not then at war with Germany.
    Weeks earlier their Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment had surrendered to enemy forces following five days of bombardment from trench mortars and field guns.
    The story of the soldiers' journey already holds legendary status in their native Highland village of Ballachulish but is now set to win a massive audience as it is used as the basis for Second World War drama In The Darkest Hour.
    After initially escaping and managing to ditch their military uniforms for civilian clothes, the trio were captured by the Germans again at a checkpoint and taken to a prisoner of war camp.
    Facing down the barrel of a German commander's gun, the soldiers thought their days were numbered.
    But, as Private Kemp recalled in his memoir about the escape, the use of their native Gaelic confused the Germans and the Scots were able to convince their captors they were actually from the Soviet Union, which at the time was not yet at war with the Nazis.
    He said: 'In the morning we were brought before the German commander, whose first action was to point his revolver at each of us in turn.
    'We took this to be a warning to speak the truth or take the consequences.
    'A French officer, acting as an interpreter, asked us to state our nationality.
    'I replied in Gaelic: I do not know'. When he asked what country we were from, I then said: Ardnamurchan'.'
    Baffled by what they were hearing, the soldiers were joined by several other men in the room and questioned in seven other languages.
    Their questions were met with more Gaelic responses and, once an atlas was produced, the soldiers pointed to Ukraine.
    A few more officers came in to consult about what they were being told and, shortly after, the Scots were free to go.
    Tired, hungry and penniless, the brave soldiers made their way through occupied France to Spain, where they discovered a British consulate and boarded a vessel under cover of darkness."
    Scottish soldiers escape Nazi clutches by speaking Gaelic | Daily Mail Online
     
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  2. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    The story seems to be partially or entirely not true.
    Ukrainian is quite similar to Russian, and both can't really be mistaken for any other language: even Polish, Slovak, Czech.
    That a German officer(s) was unable to identify, couldn't recognize, Russian/Ukrainian was rather improbable.
    Just twenty years ago millions of German soldiers and officers fought for years the Russian Army, and both countries were neighbours anyway. They knew Russia well.

    And it should be mentioned escaped POWs, even in civilian clothes, couldn't be executed. It's a war crime, and one of the most serious - with almost certain death penalty as result for the German officer. The Germans usually (with a few exceptions) didn't execute Western POWs.
    The laws of war were very clear in this regard: Escaped prisoners who are retaken [...] are liable to disciplinary punishment.
    And nothing more.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  3. Ken The Kanuck

    Ken The Kanuck Member Patron  

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    Why let a few facts get in the way of a good story?

    KTK
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Aren't there a number of languages besides Ukrainian spoken in the area though? Back then even more and just pointing to an area on a map isn't very precise.
     
  5. KMZgirl

    KMZgirl Member

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    Found this on strangehistory.net
     

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  6. wm.

    wm. Active Member

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    There were, but Putin took away most of those territories, and before the WW2 they didn't belong to Ukraine anyway, which itself didn't exist too - it was the territory where Ukrainians lived, not some other people.


    Ukraine was divided between Poland and the USSR, so if the soldiers pointed to Ukraine the danger was it could have been assumed they were soldiers from the Polish Army in France. It would be safer to point further East where so many different nationalities lived nobody would be able to make heads or tails of it.

    Another problem was immigrants from Russia (and there were lots of them in France at that time) were invariably well educated and spoke some European language (or at least Russian). And weren't that young, most of them fled Russia at the end of the Great War.
    Soviet citizens weren't allowed to travel to the West (with rare exceptions), so young Soviets in France would be highly suspicious.

    But it could have happened like that, why not, maybe the German officer was tired and didn't care anymore, the war was won, he had too many prisoners already. In war everything is possible.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It's also possible that pointing to the Ukraine was taken to me somewhere in eastern Europe given the lack of understanding of the various languages mentioned (or the appearance there of) they would likely have been considered to be rather uneducated and map reading wouldn't have been considered one of their strong points. On the other hand I would expect a French linguistically expert to at least have an idea of what Gaelic sounds like or course he might not have been all that motivated to help the Germans either. How they communicated that they were suppose to point to where they were from on the map is another interesting question.
     

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