RACHAEL Newton should have been on her way to Guernsey for this weekend’s VE Day commemoration, which has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Rachael’s grandfather, Glasgow-born Sergeant-Major Robert Shaw, was the first British soldier to land on the island after its liberation from German occupation at the end of the Second World War.

“He talked often of that moment, of riding off the landing craft on a motorbike followed by a string of armoured vehicles, and being mobbed by locals,” smiles Rachael.

“The first person he met was a young boy called John Rault, who was cycling on the right-hand-side of the road. My grandfather stopped him and told him he should cycle on the ‘British side’ in case he was knocked over by the vehicles behind him.”

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She adds: “Forty-seven years later in 1992, my grandfather went back to Guernsey with several other war veterans, to receive commemorative Liberation medallions.

“After the local newspaper printed his story, John Rault got in touch and the two met up and stayed in touch until my grandfather died in 2005, aged 89.”

Robert Shaw was born in Springburn. He was part of Task Force 135, the British Military Contingent which liberated the island as part of Operation Nestegg. As Sergeant-Major of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers unit, he had travelled from Plymouth overnight and was first to disembark when the ship arrived at L’Ancresse Bay.

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After the war, Robert married Esme Collinson, the English nurse he had met and fallen in love with while serving in the army, and the couple moved to Kirkintilloch.

“My uncle tells a funny story of how my grandfather was unsure whether or not to get in touch with Esme after the war, so he flipped a coin to decide,” smiles Rachael.

“Thank goodness for all of us it landed the right way.”

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Robert and Esme retired to Millport on the isle of Cumbrae and Rachael has fond memories of weekends and holidays spent sailing with her grandfather in the Firth of Clyde.

“He loved to be out on the water,” she recalls. “He’d take us out on the boat every opportunity he could."

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Eleven members of Mr Shaw’s family including his great-grandchildren, Rachael’s twin daughters who are eight years old, were planning to travel from Glasgow and across the UK to meet up in Guernsey on Friday.

“My grandfather was the loveliest man, a real character who always had a cheeky glint in his eye, “ adds Rachael. “We’re planning to visit Guernsey next year to remember him and to pay tribute to him and his fellow soldiers.”

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Times Past is devoting its pages tomorrow and Friday to our readers’ wonderful memories of VE Day.

All public celebrations of the 75th anniversary have been cancelled. Instead, Glasgow’s Lord Provost Philip Braat and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will post messages online and Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland’s online service of remembrance which will be broadcast on the organisations’ social media channels from 10.40am until 11.15am. An online concert will run from 11.45am until 1pm.

Poppyscotland has produced a range of online educational resources families can use to learn about VE Day and participate in marking the 75th anniversary at home.