MRS SUSAN FORTUNE talking to G & M Makins 15/2/2001
COLONEL BRUCE FORTUNE
This photo of Eisenhower - which is said to be in Berlin but is actually Hanover- shows my husband, Colonel Bruce Fortune. He has just lowered the sword as he has passed the Colours. My husband is also shown in the photo in the Eisenhour Rooms at Culzean, I recognise him tho' his face is hidden by his sword in that one.
My father-in-law was given the opportunity to return to Britain from captivity, because he had a stroke, while he was playing squash, and they wanted to repatriate him. And he said, no, I brought the men out, I'll come back with them. This was long after they were captured, probably late 1944. He came home in 45.
The General's batman was Private MacAllister, and he managed to keep his batman right throughout captivity. When he was sent to Poznan - that was some sort of punishment, not for him personally but because something had happened - the batman went with him. He was finally released with the General (Quote) 'Major General victor Fortune, who refused repatriation, even for his daughter's wedding, was released yesterday, with his batman, Private MacAllister (also taken prisoner at St Valery). He and his wife worked for my parents-in-law after the war, cooking and gardening.
GENERAL FORTUNE'S WORK FOR HIS FELLOW CAPTIVES
The Germans had huge respect for him. He did a tremendous amount for the prisoners of war, writing and making sure they had everything they should have, and so on. He was knighted because of his work for them. The prisoners had all sorts of activites and sports. They had their own paper. They also had a book in which they did cartoons which were very interesting. Some of these [cuttings] are interesting - they show the human side as opposed to the military side. This letter (see file), written by the General, is arranging for MacAllister's son to go to the Dunblane School - that's an army school.
Here are things from the prisoner of war camp - here's an actual letter, I got someone to transcribe it. September 5 '43, & he says 'we are all very well & in good heart (that's in the prisoner of war camp).
A MEMORY OF MEETING THE GENERAL IN THE PRISON CAMP (Extract from a book by Stuart Chant Semple, pub '85)
' ••• pushing me gently one of my guards indicated that I had to cross the bridge. There on the other side waiting for me was a surprising sight. A white haired distinguished looking man in khaki service dress, breeches & puttees and the shoulder badge of a Major General in the British Army. As I leant towards him he held out his hand and said 'I can't really welcome you here but it's good to see you. My name's Fortune', & looking at my red pips said 'I see you are in the 60th (Green Jackets). 1 stopped & coming to attention in front of him said 'Sir, thank you, but I'm not in the 60th, I'm a Gordon Highlander.' 'Never mind', he said, 'come in and meet everyone'. I've never forgotten that scene and the mixed emotions I had on meeting General Fortune, the then senior British officer of all British prisoners in Europe at that time, some 200,000 officers and men. The General had served with great distinction when commanding the 51st Highland Division andw went into captivity with the troops after fighting a valiant rearguard at St Valery.'
There was one of the prisoners of war, he's dead now - well there were several I believe - who was picked out to have coded letters, I mean, certain things that they wrote had meaning. So the parents of this particular prisoner, directly a letter arrived from the prison camp, had to send it to the War Office.
AFTER THE WAR
After the war, the General was paralysed slightly, following the stroke, but he did improve. He came back in 1945, and he had some little strokes. I remember one night, 1 was terrified, and next day he recovered and said 'I bet I terrified you last night!' & he did! He died in January 149.
Grandfather bought this place (Bengairn House) in 1904 or 1905, but then he did extensions. This is the old outside wall, then he built this on, & he built the tower, & he built on at the back. The dining room - that was a room - the front hall, as far as the staircase, that was another room, and all the back there was the old farm house which must have been entrancing as it had a spiral staircase from downstairs. Part of it now is in what we call the back stairs, & it was an 18th C farmhouse. Grandfather served in India, in Calcutta. He was injured, and they all retired fairly early. They were from Fife as a family, but he wanted to retire here and he came back several times looking for a house here & eventually got this. His sister was married here, they were all fairly grown up when they came here.