Dalmore Daytime

Dalmore Daytime
Sandy Beach

Monday, 5 May 2008

Domhnull Lamont wins the Military Medal (M.M.)

Domhnull Lamont came to stay in Dalmore with my aunt and uncle,but even in this small village,he did little in the way of "ceilidh"(visit/parley). He preferred to roam the moors and glens,he helped out with the animals but,more than anything,he loved sea fishing off the tall rocks at Bandaberie. Infrequently he would drop in to his cousins' houses,and I was there in Taigh Glass(No.5)when this giant of a man stooped under the lintel to enter,sitting on the being(bench),resting his enormous hands on his dungaree trousers. I was primed to question Donald,and thinking he would be responsive to my innocent enquiry,with a beatific smile on my face,which I'd borrowed for that moment,I said."Donald,could you tell me how you won your medal?" Donald put down his scone and tea cup,turned round to face me as I sat on grandpa's chair by the fire,and replied in a sort of strangled bellow,"Medals?,medals? What good are medals? - they're only scraps of metal,scraps of metal!" I felt he had nothing to add to this statement,and my mother's headshake confirmed as such. And so my first interview with a war hero was brief,but I got the impression that he thought of this as something that happened a long time ago, on which he had nothing to say. Or so I thought.
My Shoudie uncles(Maclennans)were as friendly with Domhnull Lamont as anybody could be,and Iain Shoudie could be quite persuasive,armed with a good bottle of whisky. It would have been around 1968 when my 4 year old daughter,Carolyn came running over to No.5 saying excitedly, " Dad,Uncle Iain says,that you had better hurry across to Taigh Shoudie,because Domhnull Lamont is there".When I arrived I might as well have been invisible.Talk was of old times,and with a few more drams,Iain gestured that I say nothing while he steered Donald round to a certain night in France,a long time ago. I could not believe that nearly 15 years on,I was about to hear of "Donald's medal" from the man himself.
It was dark, and Donald and "a small man from Glasgow" were on guard duty. A river separated the German troops from their erstwhile combatants,the British. Everything was quiet,the night was clear and Donald and his wee pal could see the camp fires burning on the German side,as well as on their own. There was no artillery or rifle fire, as calculating range and trajectory in the dark,was a waste of time and munitions. Donald and his buddy were positioned on a high prominence overlooking the river,and as they watched,they could just make out some movement on the farther bank of the river,but in total silence. As they continued to watch,they quickly realised what the Germans were preparing to do. They were launching pontoons,securing them together with ropes,and gradually a bridge was advancing towards the British side. "We'd better get the hell out of here and back to camp,Donald",said the wee Glasgow man, "and tell our men what's happening". Seems to me the wee man had it right. "Stay where you are",intoned Donald,whose intonation sounded very like an order. Under the very nose of our two intrepid guards(well,one at least) the German pontoon bridge was nearing completion,and German units were lining up,ready to cross. The wee man made a final plea to Donald to get the hell out of there. Donald pointed to the full box of hand grenades lying beside them,and suggested what use might be made of them. " If you won't throw the grenades,then at least you can pull the pins." There was no time now but to fall in with Donald's "plan".The German soldiers,perhaps a many as 150,were silently advancing across the pontoons,and when the bridge was full,the wee man started pulling the pins,and Donald hurled one grenade after the other onto the unsuspecting German soldiers, " I could see heads being blown off,arms and legs going sky high and falling back into the river.I think that those who weren't killed by the grenades,probably drowned in the water." Although this was a terrible carnage,Donald and his fellow soldier probably saved the British camp from an equally dire fate.Donald was recommended for the Victoria Cross(it was said),but in the end he was awarded the Military Medal(M.M.). Two postscripts to this story :-
1. The medal was to be presented to Donald at Carloway school,in front of a large gathering. Mr Ronald Macdonald,the headmaster,went across to Stornoway to meet the Seaforth Highlander's officer designated to make the presentation of the M.M. to Donald. After a little discussion and discreet enquiry,the officer realised that,of all the Donald Macleods in the Seaforths,he had reason to remember this particular Donald Macleod. He related the story to Ranald Macdonald,how as a sergeant major,before the war at Fort George,he had unwittingly insulted this man,and had paid the price. He asked Ranald to turn his horse and trap around,and to present the medal to Donald in his stead,which he duly did.
2. Donald's brother, Angus Macleod,also won the Military Medal in a completely different action. These brothers certainly served their country beyond the call of duty.

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