D-Day landings hero and Highland shepherd dies

A FORMER paratrooper in the Lord Lovat Scouts, who played a major part in one of the biggest strategic operations of the D-Day Landings, has died aged 91.

Donald Cameron with his sheep dogs after the war. Picture: Contributed
Donald Cameron with his sheep dogs after the war. Picture: Contributed

Shepherd Donald Cameron used the skills he learned as a boy growing up on a croft in Lochaber to survive as one of the coveted elite force of commandos during WWII.

Mr Cameron was raised at the remote Swordland croft beside Loch Morar in the Western Highlands, one of eight children.

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In 1940, at the age of 17, he signed up for the army and trained at Achnacarry, Spean Bridge in the Highlands, to join the Lovat Scouts.

Donald Cameron (L), one of Lord Lovat's Scouts. Picture: Contributed

The training with commandos involved beach landings under live fire and survival skills on the land, which he had learned as a boy on the croft.

The Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy, on 6 June 1944, required the capture of Benouville Bridge behind the German beachhead defences across the strategic Caen Canal in France.

He was one of the many brave Scouts who parachuted in after Horsa gliders had landed from the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.

The object of this action was to prevent German armour from crossing the bridge and attacking the eastern flank of the Allied landings at Sword beach.

Benouville Bridge was secured by the paratroopers and subsequently renamed ‘Pegasus Bridge’ in honour of the shoulder emblem worn by the British airborne forces, which is the flying horse ‘Pegasus’.

Mr Cameron’s later army service included 80 parachute jumps, the liberation of Hitler’s Belsen concentration camp and service in Palestine.

Friend Dr James Douglas said: “After the war he returned to the West Highlands and rarely spoke of his experiences.

“The medals were never on display and he remained reticent about his bravery. He joined Cameron of Locheil’s estate as a shepherd and lived beside Loch Arkaig.

“He had returned to look after sheep at Achnacarry Castle where he had been trained in combat skills as a Paratrooper in 1940.”

His wife-to-be, Emma Briddick from Fife, had been working at an envelope factory which supplied the British Army in an era before internet dating.

It was the custom for the girls to slip a note of their details in the envelopes for the troops. On return from the war the young shepherd from Achnacarry walked to Spean Bridge station in the Commando tradition and arranged to meet his blind date under the clock at Edinburgh Waverly Station.

Dr Douglas added: “His skill as a shepherd was legendary and he worked across Lochaber. He was the old crofter who would often speak to tourists on the Ben Nevis tourist path when his flock were up Glen Nevis.

“He married Emma before eventually taking over the family croft at Swordland. The beautiful, remote Swordland croft is on the hill above Loch Morar with no road access and requires a boat for transport.

“He lived between Caol and the croft with sheep in various locations. They had three children, Angus, Marion, and Catherine.”

Angus tragically died of a brain tumour at the age of 31 with his parents nursing him at home.

Mr Cameron lost his Catholic faith after this personal tragedy but regained it in later years after caring for his wife in ill health until she died.

They had just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

Dr Douglas said: “Mr Cameron remained the definitive, quiet, local hero who was still caring for his sheep and training his collie dogs at the age of 90.

“He died peacefully in his own bed in the care of his daughters and Jake the collie dog. The family will continue the Swordland croft.”