for the "Real" Reel of the 51st
The Reel based on the Saltire, The
Battle Dress Badge of the 51st Highland Division in 1940
Jocks of the 51st Highland Division in France,
The Highland Division which fought on in
after the evacuation of Dunkirk finally surrenders
on 12th June 1940.
There is a
fashion for the dancing couple in this famous reel to turn each
other rather than balancing in line in turn across
the set, to represent the arms of the
Saltire, (St Andrew's Cross), our Nation's symbol and the
Battle Dress Badge of the 51st (Highland) Division. This
dance was created by Prisoners of War of the Division, which was
on 12th June 1940. The loss of the entire Division was
overlooked for many years, as perhaps, for propaganda purposes,
it would have clouded the successful evacuation of the main
British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from Dunkirk in May 1940.
Scarcely a community in the Highlands and North East was
untouched by this loss. My mother remembers 6 men from her
own village of Cluny, Aberdeenshire, were lost for the duration
of the War. Breaking the cross by turning with a flourish
rather than balancing in line may be considered not just a
flouting of tradition but somewhere approaching disrespect for a
War Memorial. Let us try to maintain and restore this
lovely dance and its poignant tradition. The following are
the correct steps, and there follows the story of its creation.
Reel of the 51st Division
(32 Bar Reel for 3 Couples in a Longwise Set)
Tune: The Drunken Piper
couple set to each other and cast off two places [2nd couple
moves up]. 1st couple meet below the 3rd
couple; and lead up the middle to face 1st
couple set to and turn first corners with the right hand
finishing in a diagonal line by joining left hands with
couple and 1st corners balance in line.
couple [leaving first corners in place] turn each other
one and one quarter times to face second corners.
Repeat bars 9-14 with second corners.
couple cross over to own sides one place down.
2nd, & 3rd couples six hands round
Repeat, having passed a couple.
Book XIII (Victory), No. 10.
Devised by: Jimmy Atkinson, Peter Oliver, and Tom Hunter
Tune: "The Drunken Piper."
History of the Dance based on The Saltire
The 51st Highland
Division were captured at St Valéry-en-Caux after fierce
fighting in the Seine Maritime of France on 12th June 1940, and
were eventually imprisoned at Oflag V11C
Laufen, a PW (Prisoners of War) camp in Bavaria near
Salzburg just across the border. Lt A P J Oliver (Peter) of the
4th Seaforths started Highland Dancing Classes.
En route he was joined by Lt J E M Atkinson (Jimmy) of the 7th
Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, also captured in
France on June 5, 1940*, a week, before St Valéry. The 7th
and 8th Battalion of the Argylls who had also taken heavy losses
in fierce engagements separate from the rest of the Division and
many had managed to escape through
Le Havre. Lt Atkinson was a keen country dancer and
they started a reel club. On his way to the Laufen, Lt Atkinson
had conceived an idea for a dance based on the Saltire,
the badge of the 51st Division. The diagonal movement
was merely a variation of the opening bars of "Scottish Reform,"
and the circle which followed it was straight out of "Hamilton
House." He and Lt Oliver began to work it out on paper, helped
by Lt Col Tom Harris Hunter, CO of the Royal Army Service
Corps, part of the 51st Division, a past
chairman of the Perth branch of the Scottish Country Dance
Society, and whose wife was Secretary of the Society through the
War. Having documented the dance, Lt Atkinson and Col Hunter
tried to send copies home. As it was written in the shorthand
used by dancers, Lt Atkinson's copy was intercepted by the
German security service, the Abwehr, who spent the rest of the
war trying to break the code! Col Hunter's copy made it to
Scotland and his local dance group began dancing it at about the
same time the PW were dancing it on the roof of the prison
hospital block in Laufen.
* He was not
sure of the time. His watch was shot off shortly before
Welcome to the RSCDS — The
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society
The 51st Country Dance (Laufen Reel), also
known as St Valery' s Reel
Reel Of The 51st Division Dancing