Kirkcaldy woman’s book tells of dad’s bravery at Tobruk

Alice Soper with her book. Pics by Fife Photo Agency
Alice Soper with her book. Pics by Fife Photo Agency

Finding an old suitcase full of papers and photos led Kirkcaldy woman Alice Soper to write a book about her father – The Piper of Tobruk.

Pipe Major Robert Roy, MBE, DCM, was a Black Watch piper who gained his prestigious title for his bravery in 1941 at the famous breakout of Tobruk where the Black Watch soldiers were beseiged by Axis forces.

Pipe Major Robert Roy, the Piper of Tobruk

Pipe Major Robert Roy, the Piper of Tobruk

Despite being felled by a bullet early on, Pipe Major Roy got up and continued to play his bagpipes to rally the men. He was hit a second time and again got to his feet only to be hit a third time. Unable to get up again he continued to play lying on the ground.

Mrs Soper (70) who is a dedicated community leader, president of Kirkcaldy Rotary Club, chairman of Growing Kirkcaldy, a member of the Beveridge Park Development Group and more, decided she wanted to collate all the information about her dad, who died at the young age of 51, for future generations of her family.

“When I started doing this, little did I realise just how far it would take me and how many relatives and friends of my dad’s I would meet along the way,” she said.

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“My research took me off on tangents and I found out about my grandparents who had died before I was born. I went right back to 1700 and discovered that although my father was born in Glasgow, his family came from Perthshire before moving west in the 1850s, probably to find work.

“There were newspaper reports from 1941 about all the battles he was involved in, like a real life history lesson.”

It took her around three years to write the book, with many interruptions along the way, and it was only at the end she decided to try to have it published so others could read his fascinating story.

“It describes not only his distinguished Army career but also the challenges he and others faced in their personal lives,” she explained.

“I’ve included some of my father’s own written accounts of battle and a few controversial experiences, none of which have been previously published.

“I found accounts of his experiences in Crete where he and other soldiers were left behind when the British Army withdrew. They were taken prisoner by the Germans and shipped to a camp in Athens but my dad managed to escape and was looked after by Greek families.

“He got a forged passport and managed to travel through Syria to rejoin his regiment in north Africa.”

And during a visit to Dalhousie Castle where some of her father’s artefacts are displayed in the Black Watch Museum, the curator put her in touch with a publisher.

“The stories are fascinating and being able to retell them has been a real labour of love.”