27th December 1983

The Tartan Pimpernel, Donald Caskie, dies at Greenock

Donald Caskie was a Church of Scotland minister, working in France during the German occupation of the Second World War. Throughout the war, he helped more than 2000 Allied troops to escape the country.

Caskie was born in Islay, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and arrived in Paris in 1935. By this point the Nazi Party had already assumed power in Germany and its intentions were becoming increasingly clear.

Yet Caskie wasn’t afraid to speak out about the party’s actions, and he continued speaking out even after the invasion. This put him in direct conflict with the German authorities and he was forced to leave Paris for his own safety.

Monsieur Le Canard

He settled in Marseilles and there he worked as a member of the Pat O’Leary escape line, which helped airmen shot down over occupied Europe, as well as troops who had escaped detention, to get back to the UK. He operated under the codename Monsieur Le Canard and later became better known as the Tartan Pimpernel. This was used as the title of his autobiography.

However, Caskie was betrayed to the Germans and was arrested, tried, and given a suspended sentence. This was not enough to deter him, though, and when he continued helping troops to escape France he was arrested for a second time. This time he was tried in Germany and sentenced to death.

End of the war and later life

Ultimately, the death sentence was never carried out, as a German pastor interceded on his behalf and he was, instead, incarcerated for the remainder of the war. Once the conflict was over, he initially returned to Paris, and stayed there until the early 1960s when he came home to Scotland. He died in Greenock on 27 December 1983.

Several plaques have been erected in France detailing Caskie’s activities during the war, including one in Marseilles and another at the hilltop Fort de la Revere from which he helped RAF airmen to escape in 1942.



Other events that occured in December

FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.