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75 years after VE Day, veterans are enlisted to help Scotland remember

© Kenny SmithVeteran and former ‘button boy’ Myles Shandley, now 91, in Edinburgh last week
Veteran and former ‘button boy’ Myles Shandley, now 91, in Edinburgh last week

Ministers are ­appealing for Second World War veterans to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe.

The Scottish Government’s Veterans’ Minister Graeme Dey has asked for surviving members of the armed forces, or anyone who played a part in the war effort, to be part of the commemorations.

While still a work in progress, the celebrations of the end of the Second World War in Europe on May 8, 1945, is likely to include a parade and a concert in Edinburgh.

Veterans and their families have also been offered free travel and accommodation in the capital for the events.

The Scottish Government, working with Legion Scotland, knows of 25 veterans but is appealing for more to come forward.

Mr Dey said: “That’s the key message. It’s not a military parade or a military event – it’s about the veterans.

“We’re hoping the launch event will spread the word. It’s open to everyone and I really want this to be an opportunity to commemorate the service of some amazing people.”

Mr Dey was joined at the launch by three veterans – Myles Shandley, Margaret Landels and Catherine Drummond.

Mr Shandley served as a ­button boy (climbing up to the button on top of the mast on a ship) in the Royal Navy during the war, taking part in both the Atlantic and Arctic convoys.

Mrs Landels was part of the Women’s Royal Naval Reserve, while Mrs Drummond served in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a radio operator.

Dr Claire Armstrong, the chief executive of Legion Scotland, said the charity was looking to reach as many veterans as possible.

She said: “We wanted to identify as many people who were involved in the Second World War – in the effort at home and overseas.”

Dr Armstrong believes it is “vital” to ensure younger generations learn about the war effort and the sacrifices of those who served.

She said: “We’ve got first-hand testimony and stories and we get to meet these fantastic people who gave up so much. That’s something that’s really precious.”

Educational ­materials will be sent to schools in an attempt to help children understand more about the conflict.

Icelanders attacked the Americans… we had to go ashore to quell the riot

© Kenny Smith
Myles Shandley

Myles Shandley was a button boy – a sailor who manned the button-shaped platforms at the top of the mast – and, just after VE Day, he and his crewmates were told by their captain to put on their dress uniforms, known as their “number ones”.

They were preparing to go ashore in Iceland to celebrate the end of the war in Europe, which had happened a few days earlier.

But instead of enjoying the festivities and their impending return home, Mr Shandley and his colleagues were called on to stand with local police to suppress a riot.

Mr Shandley, who spent three years at sea during the war, will be part of commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany.

He said: “We got all dressed up, ready to go ashore but when we got to the gangplank, there was a riot going on ashore.

“The Americans had marched through with the stars and stripes and playing all their tunes and the Icelanders attacked them. We had to go and quell the riot.”

Upon his arrival home, the father-of-four said he could see “big crowds on the shore” as the ship sailed up the Clyde – which he expected to be well-wishers celebrating their return.

But the crowds turned out to be American servicemen returning home on the Queen Mary.

His time in the armed forces was extended when he made the jump to the British Army after the war, going on to serve for another eight years.

Speaking on his experience at sea, Mr Shandley said: “I hated every minute of it.”

He said seven of his fellow sailors had to be taken ashore after being overcome by paranoia that U-Boats were in the water, ready to strike.

US family to attend Skye tribute to crash pilot

Lieutenant Paul Overfield Jr

Relatives of an American military pilot killed on Skye’s Trotternish Ridge during the Second World War are to make an emotional journey to the island this week.

The family members will attend a commemoration of the tragedy when the B-17 Flying Fortress crashed during fog at Beinn Edra in Staffin on March 3, 1945.

The plane had been travelling from America to an RAF base in Wales when it crashed, killing all nine crew members – including 21-year-old pilot Lieutenant Paul Overfield Jr.

The Staffin community on Skye will mark the 75th anniversary of the fatal collision on Tuesday.

After the crash, local men attempted to rescue the stricken crew. And Lt Overfield’s family are travelling from Arizona to pay their respects and learn more about the disaster.

His sister Betty Foote, now in her late 80s and living in Florida, is not able to make the trip but is delighted her family will be represented.

The family was unaware the crew’s names were added to the Staffin War Memorial five years ago to mark the 70th anniversary.

Mrs Foote recalled the day she was told her brother had died. “I was 13 and in eighth grade. The minister came to the school and took us home. We received notice of the crash within days and his letter came after the telegram.”

Former Army chaplain, the Rev Rory MacLeod, will lead the commemoration at 11.15am on Tuesday at Staffin War Memorial. The US relatives will then visit the Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre in Portree to discover more about the crash.

The commemoration has been organised by Staffin Community Trust, supported by Staffin Community Council.