Veteran of St Valery, Donald Smith of Forres celebrates his 100th Birthday
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A LOCAL Second World War veteran celebrated his 100th birthday on a weekend break with family.
Don Smith and his wife Helen from Macrae Court, Forres, their daughter Maggie, grand-daughter Zoe and 16-year-old great grand-daughter Mia enjoyed a five day stay in a cottage and granny flat at Balnagown Highland Estate Luxury Retreats near Invergordon where they were treated to a personal performance from a piper and complimentary refreshments.
Don said: "I like visiting the countryside so my family organised a stay away but the venue was hush hush until we got there - I got a big surprise! It was a real country place and the owners sent me a beautiful birthday card and Balnagown whisky from Harrods department store.
"Our visitors brought a cake that they had specially made by an Italian friend of theirs. It had 'HD' on it, standing for Highland Division as well as Helen and Don!
"We had a lazy day on my birthday but we did a lot of sightseeing on the other days. We loved the waterfalls - the grounds were lovely with beautiful views of the open country and hills."
Don was born in Glasgow on October 3, 1920 and moved to Leeds with his parents shortly afterwards where he was brought up with his brother Kenneth. His mother died when he was just three-years-old and his father - a power station worker - eventually re-married and his sister Pat was born.
Aged 18, Don joined the Army and was trained at Fort George. He was part of the 51st Highland Division ordered to fight on in France to help complete the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940. He was captured by German troops during the battle at St Valery and wasn't released until 1945, during a 1000-mile "death march" when his captors fled advancing allied soldiers.
Don and Helen married on July 27, 1957, going on to have three children - William, Margaret and Crawford - two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
He became an engineer and followed the work from their home in Bridgewater to Lossiemouth. He worked part-time for car dealer Macrae and Dick as a handyman before retiring in 1985.
Don said: "We moved to Forres around seven years ago after we were broken into in Lossiemouth. We actually saw the robbers in our house while we were there. Lossie wasn't the same after that.
"We love the people in Forres and the layout of the place - it's very homely and we're never too far from the country."
Looking back, Don appreciates the long life he's had with the support of his loved ones.
He said: "The secret to it is a good family and a good drop of Scotch! I've been very fortunate with a great wife and family.
"There was no such thing as television or websites when I was a kid. My dad lived to 92 and I remember him talking about all the changes and new inventions during his lifetime ... I'm doing the same thing now!"
Helen added: "We've had a very happy, active life together. We enjoyed bringing up our kids and doing lots of walking, cycling and swimming.
"I saved hard to contribute to Don's 100th birthday and we really appreciate everyone else's contribution. When we got home from Balnagown we were even sent a beautiful hamper from Brodie Countryfare!"
Representatives from Forres and District Pipe Band were joined by Lord Lieutenant of Moray, Major General Seymour Monro for a special tribute to Don at his home.
Maj Gen Munro said: "It was wonderful to see Donald in such good form. He was proudly holding on to the card he had received from The Queen and wearing his Seaforth glengarry.
"Donald is one of only two veterans of St Valery where 75 years ago the Highland Division, which included the 6th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders in which Donald was serving, had to surrender to Rommel.
"Donald and Helen loved reminiscing and hearing Pipe Sergeant Jonathan Scott playing all the best known regimental tunes. It was a privilege to be with Don on that special occasion."
Pipe band chairman John Channon confirmed Don and Helen are big supporters.
He said: "They have on occasions generously made a donation to us - we genuinely tried to resist but they forcibly insisted!
"They are the nicest of couples andrepresent a time when turnout, bearing and considerate behaviour was the norm and that stands out now as one of their most endearing features.
"It is always a pleasure to play for them and we look forward to continuing to do so during Donald's second century!"
Don and Helen (80) are finding it more difficult to get out-and-about these days and have been trying to raise funds for a mobility scooter for him.
"I'm too heavy for my wife to push about now," said the centenarian. "We've tried all sorts of organisations we thought could help but haven't had any luck so far."