Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Surviving the Blitz, by Elizabeth McLaughlin

burned-out tram
In 1941, Clydebank, on the banks of the River Clyde, was a bustling, densely populated small town on Scotland's west coast.   The main industries were shipyards such as John Brown’s, the Singer Sewing Machine factory and lumber yard, the Royal Ordnance Factory, and, of course the distilleries.  An Admiralty oil storage depot was also housed in Clydebank. Munitions factories were added as the prospect of war loomed.  As they had done for centuries, the women took over while the menfolk were in the services.

Apparently, Clydesiders were quite confident they were safe from aerial attacks because ‘the iron in the mountains’ would knock the German radar askew.  What they hadn’t counted on was the waters of the Clyde estuary, the docks, the river, and the parallel Canal becoming glittering silver ribbon guides under the full moon on that clear frosty night of March 13th, 1941.  The strictly enforced blackout was not much use.  Under that merciless light, 266 of Goering’s Heinkels followed the silver ribbons and struck the town in a nine-hour barrage.  When morning came the destruction was unbelievable.  Whole families had been wiped out as their homes took a direct hit and collapsed, trapping them.

homeless - a wee cuppie tea helps
Emergency crews were overwhelmed; roads were blocked by the damage, preventing aid coming from neighbouring communities.  The town was still burning when the second wave of bombers returned the following night.     

Stunned, homeless they may have been, but hardship was nothing new to the Clydesiders, and their spirit was unbroken.   Nor was their innate sense of humour quenched.  Their story deserves to be much more widely known, and this, in small measure, is what I hope to do with my book in progress, Alec’s War.

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