Clydebank Blitz - when Hyndland was also bombed

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Postby Ronnie » Fri Sep 10, 2004 11:24 pm

Thanks, Mr Kola
The Peter Reed book is indeed wonderful, but a bit pricey.
I suppose it comes down to having a selection of books to refer to, and filling in the gaps of one with another.
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Postby lightbody » Sat Sep 11, 2004 7:29 pm

A friend of mine did research for a book based during the time of the blitz and we went together to interview an old woman who lived in Dudley Drive.

This wee, sweet old lady told us horrendous stories of the street getting bombed - she remembered it all very clearly indeed...
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Postby Closet Classicist » Mon Sep 13, 2004 5:05 pm

With regards to the budget that decimated Glasgow tenement construction there is some information about in Raymond O'Donnell's excellent new book: James Salmon 1873 - 1924 published by Rutland Press. Victorian and Edwardian Tenement construction in Glasgow was mainly speculative with tenements being constructed essentially as middle class pension plans. Lloyd George's Peoples Budget of 1909 - 10 put a 20% tax on the increment value of all heritable property. The impact of it is made clear by the Dean of Guild records: applications for private housing works fell from 4000 in 1902 to 250 in 1911. This was also partially due to an ecomomic downturn but the bill massively compounded this. James Salmon vehmently opposed the bill and and felt it was a moral injustice. He lobbied MP's and the the chancellor David Lloyd George to this end. Salmon belived it would have a detrimemtal effect on the quality and standard of building fabric and (guess what) the course of the century proved him right!

There were two schools of architecture at the turn of the century in Glasgow: a high Edwardian Baroque as espoused by the likes of JJ Burnet and James Miller and the Glasgow style with CRM Mackintosh and Salmon as its proponents. The former was highly commercial and conservative the latter highly personal and radical. Guess which one weathered the LLoyd George's construction downturn better? After the the onset of the First World War both Mackintosh and Salmon's careers wain as the private work dries up and by the end of the twenties they have died having producing relatively little post war work. Mackintosh, for instance, was painfully dependent on Kate Cranston's charity. Both JJ Burnet and James Millers' practices, on the other hand, with strong commercial roots go from strength to strength producing banks and government buildings.

I enjoy both schools but how much richer our city would have been if both had had the opportunity to flourish. Great shame.

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Postby Closet Classicist » Mon Sep 13, 2004 5:31 pm

The tenement never really came back into fashion until the 70s; although some were built in the intervening years, none approached the scale or grandeur of those found in Hyndland or Hillhead. It is really only in the last 30 years that these buildings have begun again to be appreciated for the architecural marvels that they are.

Just read this bit. Hello? I object! As a southsider tenement dweller I can't let this go unanswered. What about the all stonking Victorian and Edwardian tenements in Pollokshields, Queenspark, Govanhill, Shawlands and Camphill? This includes Glasgow's campest tenement at Balmoral Crescent on Queens Park Drive. How many Hyndland or Hillhead tenements are crowned by a Statue of Liberty? Eh that would be none... Plus we pay less for the privilege of staying there. Need I say more.

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Postby escotregen » Mon Sep 13, 2004 6:49 pm

I would like to add an important socio/political aspect to the excellent postings on the reasons for the 'decline' of tenement development after the early 20th century. The Lloyd George Peoples Budget was significant; but the hit on capital values and subsequent inheritance could have been compensated for by the endless cash cow of rising rents, but the final decisive factor maybe was the rent freezes and controls that started with World War 1. These restrictions were mostly in response to the agitation against 'profiteering' landlords from the working and lower middle class 'womenfolk' on the Home Front . The 'menfolk' returning home after the war mostly did not get Lloyd George's promised 'Homes Fit For Heroes', but they did get increasing controls on private landlords rents and a slowly growing supply of highly subsidised local authority housing. This combination of price controls and an alternative state subsidised supply, lead to a classic market-failure. The result was the exodus of the private landlord long-term investing class. The rest is, as they say, history... possibly with the moral that if the price is cheap the goods are surely crap.
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Postby red_kola » Mon Sep 13, 2004 7:33 pm

Closet Classicist wrote:Just read this bit. Hello? I object! As a southsider tenement dweller I can't let this go unanswered. What about the all stonking Victorian and Edwardian tenements in Pollokshields, Queenspark, Govanhill, Shawlands and Camphill?

South of the river, innit... Does that even count as Glasgow??? :wink:

Joking aside, fair point. Certainly the tenements around Maxwell Park and opposite Queens Park are superb. And thanks for filling in the info about the decline of tenement building.
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Postby red_kola » Mon Sep 13, 2004 7:36 pm

Closet Classicist wrote:I enjoy both schools but how much richer our city would have been if both had had the opportunity to flourish. Great shame.

I'm sure we'd still have driven a motoway through some of the best of it in the 60s and 70s either way, alas :(
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Postby john-g » Tue Sep 14, 2004 11:26 am

Just read this bit. Hello? I object! As a southsider tenement dweller I can't let this go unanswered. What about the all stonking Victorian and Edwardian tenements in Pollokshields, Queenspark, Govanhill, Shawlands and Camphill? This includes Glasgow's campest tenement at Balmoral Crescent on Queens Park Drive. How many Hyndland or Hillhead tenements are crowned by a Statue of Liberty? Eh that would be none... Plus we pay less for the privilege of staying there. Need I say more.

Totally agree. The quality of housing stock in Dennistoun is as high as the west. I recall reading there used to be some fine Robert Adam tenements on High street, alongside the fantastic City Improvement trust tenements. And what about Parkhead Cross? Magnificent. There's a superb red sandstone crescent overlooking a park out towards Bothwell too. I recall reading there used to be a spectacular group of tenements in Gorbals too, which had an unbroken line of sixteen conical stair turrets at the back, it was apparently quite spectacular, like a ginormous mediaeval castle.

The slum connotations of these areas was due to the conditions the buildings had been allowed to deteriorate into. The actual buildings were as good as you'll get. New roofs, electricity. running water, a clean, create larger flats and Glasgow would have been one of the best cities in the world.

The Gear regeneration programs, did begin to kick in in the late seventies but in actual fact the vast majority of the destruction took place in the seventies. I remember reading a book by Pevsner detailing the architecture of Glasgow, at the back there was a huge list of dates telling you when each was demolished.

And much obliged for the info classicist.
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Postby Closet Classicist » Tue Sep 14, 2004 12:15 pm


The tenements that you are referring to in the Gorbals were Abbotsford Place a fantastic ruthlessly architectural street. One of the best in the city. The closest impression you can get of what it must have been like are the great tenements crowning the crest of Garnethill on Hill Street i.e. Breadalbane Terrace and Peel Terrace by Charles Wilson. In my opinion the loss of the Gorbals was the Glasgow's worst planning mistake of the 60's / 70's. If it had been preserved and rehabilitated then it would have definitely been an outstanding conservation area by now and in parts (such as Abbotsford Place) would have rivalled streets in the new town of Edinburgh.

Glasgow still claims to have the finest preserved Victorian city centre in the world. Whilst that is true the people who actually came out with those statements; such as Lord Esher and John Betjemen said them at the end of the sixties before the worst of the comprehensive redevelopments took place. Would they still be saying it now I wonder? It would have been a lot better if the city fathers hadn't been quite so evangelical in their zeal to wipe out the past and Glasgow would be a far more rounded city. To think that we still had the likes of Greek Thomson's masterpiece tenement Queens Park Terrace until it was casually demolished for the aborted M74 extension in the early 80's is difficult to conceive. I was astonished when I first saw photographs of it. Why couldn't the council grasp just how valuable these things where?

Couldn't agree more with you about Dennistoun and Bridgeton and Parkhead Cross by the way. Not to mention the Sauchiehall Street tenements including Charing Cross mansions, Albany Chambers, St Georges Mansions etc etc.

In reply to escotregen. You are correct the socio/political aspects were just as important as Lloyd George's Budget. The women who organised the rent strikes were quite correct to do so. Given what was happening to their men on the front the attitude of the landlords was callus in the extreme. Ultimately this combined with legal challenges to the feuing system in the 1930's which made the factoring and maintenance difficult if not impossible are largely responsible for the decline of the tenement stock.

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Postby tom waters » Sat Sep 18, 2004 6:18 am

re. Clydebank Blitz ..My father( Andrew Waters, of Govan) was in theA.F.S as a fireman and fought the fires. He worked in the Stephens Shipyard during the day and fought the fires at night.Unfortunately this exhausted him and he fell to his death while working on S.S. Melbourne Star. He worked out of the Knightswood Fire Station. I emigrated in 1956 and ended up living in Melbourne, Australia. Coincidence? I love reading about Glasgow. I grew up in Govan and have always been proud of it. Thank you Tom Waters
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Postby HollowHorn » Wed May 16, 2007 8:01 pm

Here are some items about Clydebank & Cardross:
Cardross Old Parish Church suffered extensivly during the Blitz, as can be seen from the photographs below, only the frontage remains. Note also the shrapnel damage to the gravestones (photographed yesterday)


Cardross has it's own VC winner:

Personal experience of the Cardross blitz

The Helensburgh Advertiser...11/05/2007
WWII Nurse watched as mob hung Mussolini’s mistress Clara Petacci
Cardross residents are mourning the death of a War heroine Meg Brown - natural historian described by those who knew her as "a truly remarkable woman". She became a Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nurse, serving in France, Africa, and Italy during WWII. She nearly drowned when a boat she was travelling in was hit by a torpedo. She also spent time in an Italian POW camp, and watched as an angry mob hung Benito Mussolini’s mistress, Clara Petacci, up by her ankles. She was awarded 5 medals for bravery, including the Geroge IV Medal, and received a letter of commendation from the King for her War efforts.

Scottish Parliament Wednesday 14 March 2001

Clydebank and the Blitz
The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): We come now to members' business, which is a debate on motion S1M-1464, in the name of Des McNulty, on Clydebank and the blitz. The debate will be concluded without a question being put. It will be helpful if members who wish to take part in the debate indicate their wish to do so now. I ask members who are not staying for the debate to leave the chamber quietly.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the sacrifices made by the people of Clydebank in the Blitz of 1941, the 60th anniversary of which will be commemorated this year, and the trail of death and devastation that was left in the town and commends the resilience of its people and that of people in other parts of Scotland affected by the bombing.


Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): As we in Scotland enter a new century with a new Parliament, it is particularly important and appropriate that we remember the horrors of war. The reason that I have been anxious to have this debate today of all days is because, after 60 years, the memory of what happened in Clydebank should not be allowed to die.

It is fair to say that we in Britain, particularly those of us who live in Scotland, have been relatively insulated from some of the dreadful horrors of war in the 20th century. The devastation of Dresden and such things as happened at Paschendale and Auschwitz have not happened within our borders, but we have lost many people. Many of our people died during that same period.

The single largest loss of life that resulted from war during the 20th century happened in Clydebank. The statistics on what happened over the two days of 13 and 14 March 1941 in Clydebank and the neighbouring areas are our reminder in Scotland of the horror of industrialised war. Let me highlight some of the issues. More than 500 people died, and many more were seriously injured. In those two nights 4,500 buildings were destroyed, and only seven buildings in Clydebank were left undamaged. As a result of the blitz, during that period and immediately after, the town population was substantially dispersed. Many people went to other places, some of them never to return.

The damage that was done in Clydebank by the bombers took many years to put right. Interestingly, just six weeks ago, I attended the opening of a new housing association development on Second Avenue, which was one of the worst-affected streets. The site on which the

Col 529 new building was constructed had been left following the destruction of the Holy City, which was the epicentre of the bombing, and was subjected to assault by high explosives and the destructive force of fire.

It is sometimes forgotten that, proportionately, Clydebank had more people killed and more buildings destroyed than any other equivalent town or city in the United Kingdom, yet the extent of the bombing was for a long time hidden. It was obscured during the war, ostensibly to support morale, and perhaps afterwards to cover over official embarrassment at the lack of support and recognition that was given by officialdom. The fact that the story is now more widely known is due to a considerable extent to the efforts of local people who did a lot of research to uncover not just the scope of the devastation, but the names of those who died, and also the stories of some of the survivors.

I have with me a book of the untold stories. It is a selection of stories from survivors of the blitz that have been gathered together. I do not propose to read out some of the stories, but I will quote from Naomi Mitchison, a writer well known to many of us. She was involved in an experiment during the war called mass observation, which looked at the impact of the war in different parts of Britain. She visited Clydebank a week after the raid, and said:

"A week after the raid: still smoking. The people all looked incredibly strained and tired, grey-faced. A lot of buildings were burnt out, others badly cracked and unsafe, some completely smashed. Off the main road it was worse; here and there houses were being demolished, blasting going on sometimes, traffic being cleared, here a railway bridge propped up, there a loudspeaker van telling people where to go for money or food. All windows gone everywhere ... everywhere was the smell of plaster and burning, everywhere this incredible mess, everywhere people trailing about with a mattress or a bundle or a few pots and pans."

The resilience of the people of Clydebank, faced with what had been done to their town, is remarkable. I would like to celebrate that as part of this commemoration process.

In reflecting on what happened at Clydebank, there are some links that I wish to draw between the past and the present. It is important to remember, as I have said already, that the restoration of Clydebank took a long time, and it was funded largely by the people of Clydebank. The people of Clydebank are still paying a significant debt as a result of the reconstruction process. The fairness of that has to be questioned.

The shipyards that were the magnet for the German bombers during the war have now closed down, and so have the engineering works. The famous John Brown Engineering, which once employed 10,000 people, is no more. The Singer plant, which employed 12,000 people, is no more.

Col 530 In Clydebank we have high levels of unemployment, and that is an issue. When we rebuild Clydebank and consider how the blitz affected it and the opportunities that exist, I would like some support to be given to older industrial areas, not only because of the blitz, but because our policies focus on social justice. It must be recognised that Clydebank rebuilt itself and that Scotland and Clydebank must consider taking forward prosperity.

In Clydebank, there is pride in the extent to which Clydebank and its people survived the blitz. Clydebank is a symbol, and many people in Scotland recognise it as that. I want it to be a symbol not only of the blitz and what happened during the war, but of the new prosperity that we are trying to build. If we can overcome Clydebank's problems and produce high levels of employment, rather than unemployment, at the end of that process, I and the people of Clydebank will be satisfied.


Mr Lloyd Quinan (West of Scotland) (SNP): I thank Des McNulty for securing the debate and suggesting that I might want to take part. My connection to the Clydebank blitz goes back to early 1981, when I was the associate director of the Scottish Theatre Company. We commissioned from Bill Brydon, the then director of the National Theatre in London, a play called "Civilians", which we toured round Scotland.

I had the great honour of meeting many of the survivors of the Clydebank blitz. I was struck particularly by a woman who had been at a Girl Guides meeting on the night of the attack and had taken part in the emergency first aid. She told me that no one anywhere should ever have to suffer what people in Clydebank suffered that night. That raised the question whether she felt like that on the night. I asked her that, and she said that she did. When she found out after the war what the allied aircraft had done to civilians like her in Germany, France and other parts of Europe, she felt that the price was not worth paying. I found that interesting.

At the same time as many hundreds of bombs dropped from the Dorniers and the Heinkels over Clydebank, four unfortunate men from Dumbarton were in an anti-aircraft battery stationed on Cardross golf course. They were killed that night when one of the German aircraft dropped its bombs before arriving at Clydebank. When other aircraft dropped their bombs before arriving at the designated target, several civilians who were on Dumbarton's Glasgow Road and who were on fire-watch at Denny's shipbuilders were also killed.

I will bring us up to date. In the past decade, it

Col 531 has been sad to see civilians bombed from the air in Baghdad and Belgrade. Irrespective of the regimes that ruled over those people, they were civilians; they were non-combatant. Aerial bombardment, war by wire and war at a distance are not civilised. We would be very unfortunate if, in a place similar to this in a couple of hundred years' time, people talked about the second blitz of the Clyde.

The Americans have an insane plan for their national missile defence, which will put Scotland, and particularly the Clyde, back as a front-line target. That is a sad, sad thing. Faslane is a dedicated first-strike target in this world of mutually assured destruction. There is the possibility, faint though it may be, for a considerably more devastating repeat of the Clydebank blitz across central Scotland. I call on all members to move forward for total disarmament of the United Kingdom, Scotland and Europe.


John Young (West of Scotland) (Con): At the time of the Clydebank blitz, I was just over 10 years old, but I remember some incidents. My family lived at the extreme west end of Knightswood. In 1941, the area beyond was open land that extended beyond Yoker to Clydebank.

I clearly remember a giant glow in the sky before we entered an air-raid shelter. Four adults, including my mother and father, and four children remained in the shelter all night. I remember a sort of heave in the shelter. That is the sort of thing that small children remember and it must have been very alarming for our parents. It would have been alarming for all parents.

I also recall the sound. Anyone who was alive in that period will never forget the chilling sound of the air-raid sirens. Occasionally they can be heard on radio or television nowadays, but I will never forget waking up and hearing that sound. For adults with children, the sound must have been worse in some ways. I experienced three air raids in the Glasgow area, one in Stirlingshire and one when I stayed with my grandmother in Leith. I remember hearing the throbbing of aircraft engines on one occasion. It was difficult to know whether they were German or British aircraft.

There was damage in Knightswood. The main store at Bankhead school was destroyed, together with its blankets and first-aid equipment, and a number of people were killed in houses that were destroyed, but the destruction was not on the same scale as at Clydebank. Clydebank became the Scottish Warsaw or Rotterdam. Des McNulty mentioned shipyard workers. They suffered many deaths. Two were our neighbours, one of whom was 22, the other 31. The latter's body was never

Col 532 recovered. Indeed, I think that his mother died shortly afterwards.

Records released well after the war show that 236 German planes were involved in the raid on the night of 13 March 1941. On the following night, 203 planes were involved. A similar number were involved in succeeding nights. The Luftwaffe dropped 272 tonnes of bombs on 7 April. It is more than likely that, on the night of the Clydebank raid, the Luftwaffe dropped in excess of 300 tonnes. That was a considerable amount of high explosive in a very built-up area.

As Des McNulty said, in the days after the raid, in a certain area of 10,000 houses, only seven were left standing. It was subsequently revealed that the glow from Clydebank's fires could be seen as far afield as Arran and the west Highlands. Whole families were wiped out. Recently, there has been mention in the papers of folk coming home on leave to find families all dead. On many occasions, the bodies were never found.

It should be borne in mind that the United Kingdom stood completely alone. Seven mainland European nations that had become allies were occupied. It may well be that, on the night before the raid or in the later hours before it, excerpts of the national anthems of those countries were played. The BBC tended to play excerpts of the allied national anthems every night—along with speeches by Winston Churchill and coded messages broadcast to the underground in Europe by a mysterious figure always announced as Colonel Britain. The speeches from Berlin of the traitor nicknamed Lord Haw Haw were met with laughter and contempt.

The adult population knew to quite an extent what we faced, but the fight was at every level. The bravery and spirit shown by the people of Clydebank is an example that deserves to be remembered. As Des McNulty said, we should give every encouragement to Clydebank in the 21st century. That would be very good indeed. I associate myself not only with Des McNulty, but with Lloyd Quinan and a lot of the things that he said.

Clydebank fully deserves to be honoured in a special sense. We were losing the war at that point. People did not know what was going to happen next. There was always the worry that German paratroopers would come down and other such fears. The people of Clydebank set the example. The turning-point may well have been at that time.


Robert Brown (Glasgow) (LD): I associate myself with the comments that Des McNulty and others have made about the Clydebank blitz. In

Col 533 particular, I associate myself with their comments about the indomitability of the human spirit, which the Clydebank blitz exemplified.

I will take a slightly different angle. It is not generally known that, despite what John Young said about us being alone at that time, there was a Polish ship in Clydebank on that occasion: the warship ORP Wodnik—I do not answer for the pronunciation. The ship was there as part of the Polish contingent that, after the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, joined with what became in due course the allied forces and continued the fight throughout the war on behalf of its homeland, which had been occupied at an early stage of the war. The ship took part in the defence of Clydebank—one of the few guns that fired the other way.

It is not always appreciated that, in Scotland today, there is a large contingent of Polish exiles who, because of the history of the war and subsequent communist rule in Poland, chose to remain in the UK after the victory in 1945. Last year, I was privileged to attend the annual dinner at the Polish Ex-Servicemen's Club, along with the provost of West Dunbartonshire and others who had had associations with the club over a period. In large measure, the club consists of gentlemen in their 80s, war heroes to a man, each of whom has tales of their experiences in the service of their country. As we know, many were condemned to exile for many years after the war until the circle was completed with the restoration of Poland to democratic rule after the Solidarity era.

I make those points for two reasons. First, the war affected the whole of Europe—not just the United Kingdom, not just the enemy forces, not just the occupied countries, but Europe in a very broad sense of the word. Since the war, we have managed to build up the European institutions that have gone a long way to making further wars difficult and, I hope, impossible. The way that people have been pushed about by exile as refugees is tragic. I am thinking in particular of the experiences that they suffered on those two nights in Clydebank.

It is very rare—and Lloyd Quinan touched on this—for an air raid of that kind to achieve a result. It did not in Clydebank, it did not in Coventry, it did not in London, and, oddly enough, it did not even in Berlin. Whether air raids made a contribution towards victory by one side or the other in the war effort is very doubtful. If anything, they served to revitalise and reinvigorate the opposition that people felt towards their enemy.

Happily, we have not had to go through such experiences. Like others who have spoken, I was born after the war. My father served in the war. At the time Clydebank was bombed, he was being bombed in Malta as a member of the Fleet Air

Col 534 Arm. It was a time of experiences being forged, brave deeds done, and considerable human suffering. The debt that we owe to our fathers and grandfathers who went through such experiences in Clydebank and elsewhere is immeasurable. They laid the foundations of today's civilisation and society, and of the freedoms that we too often take for granted. It is in that context that I would like to join in the tributes to the people of Clydebank during the blitz of 13 and 14 March 1941.


Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab): I congratulate my neighbouring MSP, Des McNulty, on securing this debate. The member for Clydebank and Milngavie has told, in an eloquent and moving way, of the fate that befell Clydebank during the blitz of 1941. He has paid tribute to the fortitude of Clydebank's citizens during that hellish episode—it was justifiable recognition of the heroism and humanity of ordinary men and women and of the courage that manifested itself even in the face of ferocious aggression. I wish to associate myself entirely with Des McNulty's praise for the people of Clydebank and their resilience.

In my brief contribution, I wish to focus on the part of Des McNulty's motion that mentions

"people in other parts of Scotland affected by the bombing."

John Young referred to Knightswood. In that area of my constituency, on the night of 13 March 1941, Bankhead school was hit by a landmine or parachute bomb. The school was being used as a civil defence station—a combined fire station and first-aid post. Its 800 pupils had been evacuated or decanted. Almost 40 people died and much of the school was reduced to rubble.

It is thought that the possible targets for the landmine had been nearby marshalling yards or one of the many shipyards on the Clyde, including Yarrow's. The incident in Knightswood, just a few miles to the east of Clydebank, was one of the worst single episodes to occur during the bombing raids. Clydebank suffered to the greatest extent; hundreds of people died but others were affected terribly.

Until recently, little had been recorded about that aspect of the blitz. However, thanks to the efforts of two eye witnesses, Mr David McLintock, then aged 14, and Mr Bryan Cromwell, then a child of five, that terrible incident and the sacrifice of those who died was properly commemorated yesterday. An oak plaque was unveiled on the spot where so many fell, following a suggestion by Mr McLintock that there should be a permanent reminder of the tragedy. Survivors, local councillors and members of Strathclyde fire brigade attended. As the local

Col 535 MSP, I applaud all those involved in the erection of the memorial—I want to put my gratitude on the parliamentary record. I hope that the memorial will serve as a reminder not only of the innocent dead, but of the horror of war.

I would like to quote the words of Mr Cromwell, as they illustrate vividly and eloquently the diabolical effects of modern warfare. He said of the aftermath of the blast:

"I saw bits of bodies lying about the street in Broadley Drive and Killoch Drive among the debris. I think I just stared curiously at lumps of burned, charred flesh and bits of uniform attached to limbs. I don't remember being horrified by what I saw, just a feeling of detachment like it was all unreal."

There is little, if any, glory in war. Certainly, as Lloyd Quinan said, there is none when non-combatants and civilians are caught up in its horror with little means of defending themselves and little hope of escape. I believe that we owe it to the memory of those who were slaughtered in the blitz to do all in our power to resist any future descent into war—into what the writer John Rae called "the universal perversion".


Colin Campbell (West of Scotland) (SNP): I thank Des McNulty for securing today's members' business debate.

I lived in Ralston, between Paisley and Glasgow, just over a mile from the Rolls-Royce factory in Hillington, which made aeroplane engines for the Royal Air Force. There was a mobile smoke generator at the railway bridge in Penilee Road, on the Glasgow to Paisley line. There was an anti-aircraft battery two roads behind where I lived. Like every child in the area, I knew precisely where our sticker bombs, jettisoned from a great height, had landed—one in Penilee Road and one in Barshaw Park, which did no harm, and another in Seedhill Road in Paisley, which killed people.

My father reported to a civil defence post in Williamsburgh school and was unharmed by bombing. A fellow doctor, who lived across the road, reported to the only purpose-built blast-proof civil defence post in Oakshaw in Paisley, and was killed with nearly everyone in it when a landmine hit it. The late Dan Trushell of Kilbarchan, an old friend of mine, watched the horror of Clydebank on an evening visit to Barrhead. After the blitz, he was drafted in to salvage slates from ruined buildings. He was sent out on to the fragile parts of the roof, because he was so slightly built. One of his friends found a child's hand in a roof valley.

A friend of mine watched the Clydebank blitz from Greenock and realised for the first time that sirens were not for fun. Subsequently, his area, which included Wallace Street, Thom Street and

Col 536 Minto Street, was bombed and landmined on two separate occasions. His home was damaged twice and he recalls that he and his brother sat with filled rolls and mugs of tea on their Anderson shelter as dead neighbours were dug from the ruins of their homes. When they decided to leave Greenock for Largs and safety, by a convoy of buses from George Square in Greenock, they saw lines of people with cases and bundles fleeing from the town as refugees. People escaping from the bombing at night to the hills around Greenock were subjected to machinegun fire from the planes overhead.

On the train yesterday, I met a guy who had been at school with me and we chatted briefly about the bombing. His family left the then tiny rural village of Houston in Renfrewshire because a landmine blew their windows out when it missed the Royal Ordnance factory at Bishopton.

I had the choice of doing a systematic, history teacher's piece in this debate or being random. I chose to be deliberately random, because that was the nature of a war that was fought with imprecise weapons, operated by people who were capable, like all of us, of human error. No one was safe anywhere.

While Clydebank suffered an accumulation of individual horrors, which collectively surpassed anything else in the Scottish experience, the individual experiences of bombing and the fear of bombing were part of an experience that it is difficult for us to understand.

As a parent, I was profoundly privileged because my wife and I did not have to raise our sons against a background of the immediate possibility of random, imminent death. When the war was on, I was too young to realise its implications. I pay tribute to all the adults, in Clydebank and throughout Scotland, who knew exactly what it was about, whose usual peacetime concerns for the health and welfare of their children were heightened by war and who managed to work, grieve, enjoy themselves and nurture their children in as normal a way as they could.


Mr Duncan McNeil (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab): I thank Des McNulty for securing an excellent members' business debate that gives us the opportunity to recognise the sacrifice of a generation who are now in their twilight years.

The story of the second world war is one of individuals, families and local communities. How better can we take the opportunity to remember that on the 60th anniversary of the Clydebank blitz, when those ordinary Clydeside men and women faced terrible adversity and overcame it, at home and on the front line? The fact that that generation

Col 537 had the courage to stand up to tyranny and fight for what was right gave us the country that we live in today. Were it not for their sacrifice, everything that we take for granted would be a fading memory: freedom, tolerance, security and even the critical daily newspapers.

Clydebank and Greenock had much in common: both were centres of heavy industry. It was only a matter of time before my constituency was on the Luftwaffe's hit list. The Greenock blitz began just after midnight on 6 May 1941, when 50 German planes scattered bombs indiscriminately over the town. Thankfully, damage and casualties were relatively light, but we were not so lucky the following night. Sirens sounded at 12.15 am, heralding the arrival of the first wave of bombers, which dropped incendiary bombs outside the perimeter of the town. That created a ring of fire around the target area.

The second wave concentrated on the east end and the centre of the town. One of the first buildings to take a hit was the Ingleston Street distillery, which became a huge, flaming beacon for the rest of the bombers. A third wave of bombers flew in at about 2 am. This time they dropped parachute landmines and heavy high explosives, which caused widespread damage.

Between 250 and 300 German planes took part in the attack. When the all-clear sounded at 3.30 am, most of the town was ablaze. Locals emerged to see that both sugar refineries had been hit by landmines, Rankin and Blackmore's foundry was badly damaged and several churches were left as shells. Out of 18,000 homes, 10,000 were damaged and 1,000 of those were destroyed.

Surprisingly, however, the assumed main target—the shipyards—escaped lightly. Only Lamont's dry dock and Scott's head office were hit. Thankfully, the previous night's more sporadic attack had caused much of the population to leave the town. My father, for example, went to Inverkip. My mother was disappointed to be taken off the bus and home again by her father; I do not know what that told her, but that is what happened. Nevertheless, those two nights left 280 people dead and 1,200 injured.

When we discuss the issue with younger people, they may say, "That was 60 years ago. What does it have to do with living in Greenock today?" It is manifest that Greenock has changed in the past six decades. The heavy industry has been replaced with high-tech manufacturing and the service sector. The shipbuilders are now chip-builders; the dockers are now data managers; and we have gone from working on the banks of the Clyde to banks online.

However, there are still threats to our community—not from Hitler, but from heroin; not

Col 538 from global war, but from global competition. If we are to meet those challenges and to defeat those threats and not to fall victim to them, we would do well to follow the example of those ordinary men and women of 60 years ago. The fact that they could hold their community together through the horror of the blitz and then build it again afterwards should be an inspiration as a testament to what the human spirit can achieve.

Tonight's debate allows us to celebrate that generation's spirit and resolve in the face of adversity. What better example could those people have set us?


The Deputy Minister for Justice (Iain Gray): Four words resonate in today's motion: death, devastation, sacrifice and resilience. They bring home to us the human dimension of an event in our history that we are commemorating today. It is particularly fitting that we should recognise the wartime sufferings and sacrifices of the people of Clydebank, as in many ways they epitomise those of the people of Scotland and the wider world during the second world war.

Sixty years on, it can be hard to comprehend the effects that the blitz had on Clydebank's tight-knit community. Although the main facts are widely known and have been rehearsed this evening, some of them bear repeating. Between 13 March and 8 May 1941, almost 1,500 people died in Clydebank and around 2,000 were seriously injured as a result of the air raids. On the first night alone, under a clear bomber's moon, 272 tonnes of explosives and 1,650 incendiary bombs were dropped. On the next night, guided by the fires, the German bombers returned to deliver another 231 tonnes. All but seven or eight of the town's 12,000 houses were damaged or destroyed and more than 30,000 people were left without shelter.

My parents recall what happened 60 years ago last night. They did not live in Clydebank, but in Leith on the east coast. They remember to this day sitting in their air-raid shelters and hearing the drone of bombers passing over on their way to Clydebank. Those bombers seared their way across Scotland and into our psyche. In those first two nights, they dropped the same tonnage of bombs on Clydebank as had been dropped on Coventry throughout the previous November.

However, statistics on their own cannot convey the personal sufferings, which are documented in the harrowing tales of survivors, or—as Colin Campbell pointed out—the random horrors of particular incidents, such as the six young cub scouts killed on their way to their Thursday evening meeting.

It is right that we should pause to reflect on the

Col 539 terrible destruction and loss of life and that we should commemorate the sacrifices of the brave volunteers who fought the blazes and risked or gave their lives to save others. We should pay particular tribute to the courage of the Home Guard, the Royal Observer Corps, the air-raid precaution services, the first aid and ambulance crews and the voluntary firefighters. Furthermore, it is fitting that we recall the courageous role played by the Polish destroyer that Robert Brown mentioned, whose crew helped to defend the town and saved the HMS Duke of York, which lay at berth.

The extraordinary courage shown by ordinary people during the Clydebank blitz was well summed up in a civil defence publication of the day. It said that

"countless deeds were done which belong to the fighting traditions of Scotland, though they were done not by picturesque kilted figures at the charge but by drab dungareed men and women in 'tin hats'".

I will return to that word "drab".

The strategic raids on Clydebank's industrial heart were designed to destroy the contribution to the war effort made by the shipyards there. However, once the initial trauma of the raids had passed, the resilient character of the people became evident. Survivors returned immediately to work in the shipyards and factories. The Singer Sewing factory, which had been turned over to munitions work, was back in partial production only two days after the bombing and in full production six weeks later.

Clydebank's productivity continued to play a major role in the war effort. John Brown's shipyards turned out warships of all kinds and converted the famous luxury liners that had been built in the 1930s—the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth—into troopships. Some say that Clydebank's finest engineering achievement was the collection of floating piers known as Mulberry harbours, which were used in the Normandy landings. Meanwhile, on the home front, the people of Clydebank began to rebuild their community. Within only seven months, 95 per cent of the immediate repair work to housing had been carried out.

The Clydebank people have never forgotten what it is like to suffer and they want to ensure that those sufferings were not endured in vain. The programme of events to commemorate the Clydebank blitz will ensure that the events of 60 years ago and their causes are recalled and that younger generations are made aware of them. Our First Minister and senior colleagues from other parties will join in those events to represent the Executive and the Parliament.

Churchill commented on Clydebank's war effort:

Col 540 "The world owes a debt that will not be easy to measure".

In many ways, the Parliament is the measure of that debt as the newest manifestation of a democracy that, as Duncan McNeil said, would have been snuffed out 60 years ago had it not been for the sacrifice of those who stood up to fascism then. The dungarees and tin hats of Clydebank's men and women may have been drab, but Clydebank's spirit shines down the years to us. We are proud to welcome their memory in our Parliament and our pledge is that we will not forget.

Thanks to Cumbo for noticing the damaged stones in Cardross.
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Third Stripe
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Postby glasgowken » Wed May 16, 2007 8:35 pm

Interesting post HH, the shrapnel damage to the stones is facinating.
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