Victor Fortune

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Sir Victor Morven Fortune
The British Army in France 1940 F4698.jpg
Major General Victor Fortune, commanding 51st (Highland) Division, at his HQ at Le Caudroy, France on 8 June 1940.
Born21 August 1883
Blelack, Scotland
Died2 January 1949 (aged 65)
Dalswinton, Scotland
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1903–1945
RankMajor General
Service number18362
UnitBlack Watch
Commands held1st Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
46th Infantry Brigade
1st Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders
5th Infantry Brigade
52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division
51st (Highland) Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Légion d'honneur (France)
Order of the Phoenix (Greece)
Other workDeputy lieutenant, County of Perth
Honorary Colonel, The Seaforth Highlanders

Major General Sir Victor Morven Fortune KBE CB DSO DL (21 August 1883 – 2 January 1949) was a senior officer of the British Army. He saw service in both World War I and World War II. He commanded the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division during the Battle of France and was subsequently trapped and obliged to surrender to the Germans on 12 June 1940.

Military career[edit]

Fortune was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the British Army from 1903, joining the 1st Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).

On the outbreak of the First World War he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant and was serving as a Platoon Commander in A Company under Major Lord George Stewart-Murray. The battalion sailed to France in August 1914 where Fortune saw initial action during The Retreat from Mons and the First Battle of the Marne. In September 1914 he was promoted to Captain, taking command of A Company following the death of Major Lord Stewart-Murray at the First Battle of the Aisne. Fortune led A Company ably through The First Battle of Ypres before moving up to Battalion Headquarters as Adjutant on 11th November 1914 where he saw further action at Givenchy, Cuinchy, Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge.

He served as Battalion Adjutant until 30th September 1915 when he was appointed as Brigade Major to the 1st Infantry Brigade, serving in this key role during the costly Battle of Loos. Fortune finally returned to 1st Battalion almost exactly a year later on 16th September 1916 when he was appointed as Commanding Officer (CO) during the Battle of the Somme with promotion to Lieutenant Colonel following on 30th September 1916. [1] He led the battalion competently through the Battle of the Somme and the later Battle of Passchendaele before a transfer to command the Fourth Army Musketry School in January 1918. Fortune ended the war as Commander of the 46th Brigade with the rank of Acting Brigadier General. During his wartime service Fortune was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and twice mentioned in dispatches.[2]

After attending the Staff College, Camberley from 1920 to 1921, he became CO of the 1st Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders in 1927 and Commander of the 5th Infantry Brigade in 1930.[1] He became General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division in 1935 and GOC of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division in 1937.[1]

The 51st Division remained in France after the general evacuation from Dunkirk, having been assigned to the French IX 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.[3]

Fortune spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war. As a 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.[1] He was finally liberated in April 1945 and made KBE shortly after.[1]

Several British 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 Garde Ecossaise: omni modo fidelis – faithful in every way.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Major General Fortune". 51 Highland Division. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Victor Fortune". Generals.dk. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  3. ^ "The Heroes of St Valery". Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Speech delivered by General de Gaulle at Edinburgh". 23 June 1942. Retrieved 20 June 2020.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by GOC 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division
1935–1936
Succeeded by
Preceded by GOC 51st (Highland) Infantry Division
1938–1940
Succeeded by
Post captured in 1940