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How difficult Scots Gaelic seems to be has been manifested to each of us who have ever tried to read one of the Gaelic geographical names off a map of Scotland. Or tried to pronounce the names of some of the Scottish distilleries. The most puzzling examples include Abhainn Dearg and Allt-a-Bhainne, though quite often the seemingly easy Strathisla can cause a lot of confusion.
As it turns out, speaking a difficult and rare language can have its advantages. The story of American Indian languages, notably Navajo, being used during World War Two to pass on information about air raids, troops relocation, etc. comes to mind immediately.
Scots Gaelic was also quite useful at that time, although the known scope of its wartime use was limited to just three Scottish soldiers who happened to find themselves in the middle of enemy area in 1940. Their only hope of avoiding imprisonment was to pretend they were a different nationality. They were captured shortly after the failed defence of a castle near Abbeville in France. They had got rid of their uniforms to avoid being recognised as British soldiers, switched to Scots Gaelic and refused to react to attempts at an interrogation in French, German or English. When an atlas was produced to determine where they came from, the clever boys from Ballachulish played va banque – they pointed at Ukraine, a part of the Soviet Union at the time, a temporary ally of the Nazi Germany. The commanding German officer consulted three others and then freed the Scots as friends of the Third Reich.
The story is to be used as a starting point of a new film made by a Scottish film company Burning Horseshoe Productions. “In the Darkest Hour”, however, will not be a faithful re-enactment of the war adventures of Pte William Kemp, Cpl Sandy MacDonald and L/Cpl James Wilson, and apparently only the theme of bamboozling the Nazis by means of the use of Scots Gaelic will find its way to the script. So far not much else is known about the rest of the film’s plot, which is said to be a high-concept action drama.