A SQUARE in a French village is to be named after celebrated Musselburgh war veteran Tom Renouf who “conquered the hearts and spirits” of its community.

Dr Renouf MBE, who died in June 2016 at the age of 91, fought with the 51st Highlanders during the Second World War and helped organise numerous trips overseas for the Highland Division Veterans Association members to commemorate their bravery.

He received France’s highest military honour, the Légion d’Honneur, for his part in liberating French communities.

And a square will now be named after him at Veules les Roses in Normandy following a unanimous decision by its council.

Dr Renouf’s family, including his wife Kathleen, are planning to travel to the town for the naming ceremony on September 23.

Event organiser and councillor Jean Louis Angelini said: “In a very short period of time, Tom was able to conquer all hearts and spirits in Veules. The square which will be named after him is an old one, in a very charming location, overseeing the river.”

He said: “We came to know Tom thanks to Raphael Distante who is a city councillor in Saint Valery en Caux and a long time active supporter of the Franco-Scottish friendship. Raphael had known Tom for years and every time Tom came over to France, Raphael was there to help in everything. Raphael also is a frequent traveller to Scotland.”

The harbour town of Saint Valery en Caux and Veules Les Roses were involved in fierce battle in June 1940. The 7th Panzer Division under the command of Erwin Rommel pushed the French 10th Army Corps and the British 51st Highland Division back to the sea at Saint Valery.

After a last stand, the outflanked 51st Highland Division and French 9th Army Corps surrendered to Rommel. At Veules, men were holding the enemy at bay to shield the beaches.

But having exhausted their ammunitions, the French surrendered.

Meanwhile, the ships managed to evacuate more than 3,500 soldiers, mostly British.

Mr Angelini said: “Since then a solid friendship has been established between Scotland and our region. Visits by veterans and their families are quite frequent, often to pay tribute to those who fell on our soil and rest in the numerous British military cemeteries.”

A former pupil of Musselburgh Grammar School, Dr Renouf was called up in September 1943 and posted to the 2nd Battalion London Scottish and latter was transferred to the Tyneside Scottish, which then became part of the 5th Battalion, Black Watch.

He landed in Normandy as part of the D-Day landings, took part in the liberation of France, Holland and Belgium, and

the Rhine crossing where he was awarded the Military Medal and promoted to lieutenant. He was wounded in France but went back to his regiment.

Commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation were held in Veules and Saint Valery in 2014 which were attended by Dr Renouf, the only 51st Highlanders’ veteran.

Mr Angelini was also delighted to receive a dedicated copy of Dr Renouf’s book ‘Black Watch’ during a meeting in Saint Valery.

He said there was already a ‘Place des Écossais’ in Veules and a ‘Sente du Capitaine Derek Lang,’ called after Captain Derek Lang who also served with the 51st Highlanders. After being captured in Veules in June 1940, he managed to escape three times and, after an epic road trip through France, rejoined the British army in the Middle East.

The naming ceremony in honour of Dr Renouf will be followed by a tribute to Captain Lang and singing national anthems at the clifftop Memorial du Canon.

In the evening there will be a gala dinner with a delegation from Alfriston, an East Sussex village which is twinned with Veules.

Irene Tait, chairman of Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council, said: “This is a lovely gesture and so well deserved. Tom never forgot the men he left behind.”

The community council recently installed new seats and a plaque at the war memorial in Musselburgh in memory of Dr Renouf.

Asked what she felt about a village in France honouring him, Mrs Tait replied: “It makes you feel proud that they are honouring someone from our town. That’s wonderful. Local people can be proud of Tom Renouf.”

The wording in tribute to Dr Renouf for the French square will read:

Square Thomas “ Tom” J Renouf

Chevalier de la légion d’Honneur, MM, MBE

5th Battalion Black Watch

51st Highland Division

Un des Libérateurs de 1944

Inlassable Artisan du Souvenir

de la Fraternité d’Armes Franco-Britannique