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Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:40 pm
by Socceroo
I have finally got round to reading the excellent “This Time of Crisis – Glasgow, The West of Scotland and the North West Approaches in the Second World War” by Andrew Jeffrey.

Its sheds much light on many of the Posts made on this thread over the last 3 years or so. Here is a fairly comprehensive and grim account of what was the worst single incident of any bombing raid in Scotland which occurred in Glasgow on the 13th March 1941 :

Nelson Street

“At one minute to midnight bombs exploded in McLure and McIntosh’s factory in Florence Street in off Ballater Street and in Chapel Lane in the Gorbals. These were followed by two Parachute Mines on Tradeston. The first exploded in Nelson Street and the second on the stationery and fruit departments at the SCWS warehouse in Morrison Street.

The Mine in Nelson Street came down between a Tram and a Tenement at the corner of Centre Street. The blast was so powerful that it killed three French sailors in the Broomielaw on the other side of the river. Some 110 people died and a further 118 were injured. Eleven of those who died were in the tram from where, despite its complete destruction, 20 people were rescued.”


“Another 40 were trapped at 101 Nelson Street, Buildings collapsed on an underground shelter at 90 Nelson Street trapping 41 people, 36 of whom were brought out alive.

Head Warden E. Jones commented that ‘It should, however, be placed on record the splendid manner in which the civilians of Tradeston came forward and put themselves under the charge of Wardens and other Services, and rendered assistance with total disregard to danger. They were really splendid’

Local residents were organised into three rescue parties, one each for the tram, 90 Nelson Street and 61 Nelson Street. On 14th March, 11 bodies were recovered from the ruins in Centre Street, nine from 101 Nelson Street, four from 92 Nelson Street and four from the back court at 146 Nelson Street. The corpses had begun to decompose by 19th March and urgent requests were sent to Main Control for protective gloves and disinfectant. Two severed female feet were recovered from 120 Nelson Street on 21st March, each still clad in its black lacing shoe. The incident post was not closed until 8th April and Nelson Street was not fully re-opened to traffic until 10 April.”

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 11:31 pm
by HollowHorn
Great post, Socceroo.

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 4:27 pm
by Fossil
HollowHorn wrote:Great post, Socceroo.

yeah 8)

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 9:43 pm
by Targer
Socceroo: I am indebted to you for your outline of the wartime incident on Nelson St. Although young at the time I remember it well ( and a few other incidents). I lived at 146 Nelson St.

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 11:28 pm
by Socceroo
Thanks for all the appreciation of the post, but the appreciation should really go to Andrew Jeffrey the author of
“This Time of Crisis – Glasgow, The West of Scotland and the North West Approaches in the Second World War”.

A quite remarkably detailed book which came out in 1993. Until recently it was quite difficult to get a hold of other than the likes of Abe Books. I see more copies of it available now that Amazon Marketplace has opened up a bit more.

The book reinforces what we have have collectively learned over the last 3 years or so looking into this subject on HG. That is that Glasgow was much more heavily bombed than many of us initially thought and also the sheer terror that Glaswegians must have faced in those days is fairly incomprehensible to younger generations.

Targer you obviously know this, but you are very lucky to be here. I was astounded at the information in Andrew Jeffrey's account of the Nelson Street bombing that tells us that 3 French Sailors were killed by the blast and shrapnel on the Broomielaw on the other side of the Clyde.

These Mines which were dropped on Glasgow were horrific weapons. Air Raid Shelters could offer a sense of togetherness in the time of an Air Raid, but against these Mines little all else.

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 7:18 pm
by escotregen
Once again I find it sobering and instructive in the ‘official’ line (‘really splendid’ civilians and all that) and the realities that even the wartime-censored details give away. In this case highlighted by Socceroo I was a bit agape at how corpses were uncovered on 11th March and how:

The corpses had begun to decompose by 19th March and urgent requests were sent to Main Control for protective gloves and disinfectant.

Bloody Nora! Over a couple of dozen corpses were left lying openly unattended to by anyone in authority for at least eight days! Time and time again when I’ve delved into the details of WW2 Glasgow and elsewhere you find the same story – uncaring, inept and sometimes callous authority combined with civilians who had to just get on with it; and doubtless had the decency to remain stoic when they later heard of the official line of heroism and ‘we can take it’..

But, regardless, an excellent find Soccerroo, that I wasn’t aware of.

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 12:22 am
by Dugald
Great post here Socceroo! I went to Centre St. on the Sunday following the blitz and it was still in one heck of a mess, but through the eyes of a young boy it looked like everything was well under control... special constables as I recall wouldn't let us near the debris. I recall (why i don't know) a woman saying "Whit aboot the steamie, whit'll ah dae?"

The Co-Op Fruit warehouse further along Morrison St. also referred to in your article, looked a lot worse than it appears it really was. I think about eight or nine fire-watchers were killed in the warehouse and the thing about this that I recall is the rumour running around at the time that the hair of one of the fire-watchers had turned white in the explosion. But hair it seems, doesn't really do this, even in an explosion... but anyway, it made for good in-the-know conversation!

Interesting comments Escotragen. "Over a couple of dozen corpses were left lying openly unattended..." Certainly would justifiably lead to a "Bloody Nora!" Exclamation, so much so, that I find it very hard to believe and I'm tempted to question the accuracy of Andrew Jeffrey's claim. To me it is inconsistent with the top marks that Clydeside got for the great work done by the ARP people over the 13th and 14th March..

I was at the bombed and burning Linthouse building within hours of it having been hit and I saw the plain (wooden?) coffins lined up on the pavement... mere hours after the explosion! Things were a long way short of being organised; I went through the closes into the back yards (and looted!) and watched the ARP men digging frantically. There were police and firemen all over the place; there were also some soldiers there but not in any great numbers. I recall nothing I'd describe as "uncaring, inept and sometimes callous authority". I left Linthouse feeling we were winning the war!

Great stuff Socceroo, and interesting comments Escotragen!

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:49 am
by escotregen
And good comments from you Dugald. I'm especially interested in your disagreeing with my somewhat robust on officialdom. My views are based on extensive reading of materials... but you are giving an authentic first-hand recollection. You testify to the special constables doing sterling work in this case, but I recall reading personal testimonies about looting (even of corpses) in the Clydebank Blitz.

Certainly I can recall reading how there was ample evidence in other cities like Plymouth of the local Establishment abandoning, after the first raid, the local population to subsequent days and nights of Luftwaffe raids. I have cited elsewhere about how Churchill when he tried his much vaunted "we can take it" routine in the blitzed East End of London he was told in blunt language to F*** off and it was felt advisable to have him leave the scene. On an interesting side-note, the King and Queen were subsequently better received because Buck House had been bombed with them in it - which had a strong impact on popular impressions among East Enders whose own homes had been bombed.

On a less dramatic level, I do have first hand testimony of how in the Rutherglen Burgh, local Big Wigs were able to pull-strings and secure priority allocation of Anderson shelters for their own families. Either way, I'm sure we agree that's it's important that we all strive to collate all the evidence we can, for our and subsequent generations to make their own judgements. In amongst all that, the personal testimony of people like yourself is invaluable. I do want to exempt the RP men and women from any criticism - they were truly underrated heroes doing it all out of wholly voluntary motives and I have not come across any criticism of them.

My more critical stance is not intended in any way to disrespect the ordinary men and women who did show stoicism and endurance - however, these folks are being disrespected when the powers-that-be try to perpetuate a falsely heroic and 'Boys Own' version of the brutal and squalid reality of war on civilians.

I was reminded about this need for evidence last weekend when watching the excellent BBC digital channel programme on British (i.e. English) wartime films. In essence, what happened was after a few great war-time examples of telling a were-are-all-in-together version (like "The Way Ahead"), by the 1950s the whole story was being treated as a jolly English public school game where the Brylcream boys won it in the air and the 'True Officer Class' won it on the ground. Meantime the entire working class were just bit-part chippy jocks and cockneys... but that's getting off thread.

On your doubting the story about the guy's hair going white; I agree with your doubts because I have read or heard about this story so often in unsubstantiated cases in Glasgow that I think it's a forerunner of the urban myths.

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 1:23 pm
by Socceroo
I would tend to agree with Escotregen, in that the reading that i have done on the subject throws up doubts on the preparedness and general ability of the Local Authorities to deal with the Air Raids when they occurred.

What i have read in Andrew Jeffrey's book only serves to reinforce what i have read in the Mitchell Library Archives and the documents on the Glasgow Raids that i have been sent copies of from Edinburgh and London over the last year or so.

A good example is that the Fire Service in Scotland was completely disparate during the War years with every Local Authority and Burgh having it's own Fire Service and often with different Appliances and different Hose Fittings etc. Not until the first Bombs fell did it occur to some Councils that the Luftwaffe did not recognise the Burgh Boundaries and only then did it appear that a more cohesive approach to dealing with the crisis evolved.

The ARP Service Chiefs came in for enormous criticism after the initial Air Raids over Glasgow, one early account tells of a boy heard clearly talking through the rubble of a bomb site only for the ARP Service to leave for the night, not to return to the following morning due to the Blackout. Rules were taken to the letter of the book without any scope for individual management of the situation.

I would agree with Escotregen that the ARP men and women should not come in for any individual criticism, the problem seems to have lay with the pre War beauracracy which the Local Authorities hung onto until the first Bombs were dropped. Indeed i could post as many accounts of heroism about the ARP men and women in Glasgow as i could on the initial bureaucratic blunders.

I will post more of both later. I'd better get back to work :( .

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:33 pm
by Roxburgh
They do say that hindsight is 20-20!

I am not trying to mitigate any criticism of the authorities but I do think it is important to put things in the context of the time.

Firstly, there was no real experience of mass bombing of civilian targets and it is hard to make contingency plans for the unknown. This would have been exacerbated by many of the pre-war staff being conscripted into the services and replaced by less experienced ones. It would be much more telling if there is evidence (or not) of an improvement in their performance subsequent to the initial raids.

Secondly, the bombing was just one of a number of emergencies at the time. The army was still rebuilding after losing all its heavy equipment and many men in France, the Battle of the Atlantic was in full swing and, at the time, we were losing it, invasion was still a very real concern and the entry of Italy into the war mean't that we were now fighting in and around the Mediterranean. As a result, the bombing will not have had the full attention of the authorities.

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:59 pm
by Dugald
Another interesting piece of work Escotregen! I can only agree with your comments about looting during the Blitz. This of course went on at all levels of authority. Similarly, even at the family level, I'd guess almost every family was involved to some degree in some surreptitious graft. Yes, the special policemen always impressed me, but maybe I was influenced by having known three of them quite well: a farmer at Whiting Bay, one of my school teachers, and a neighbour on Crossloan Rd whose son-in-law was captured at St,Valery... these men always made me feel good about being on their side!

Yes, this despicable corpse-looting to which you refer, always left one with a particularly bad taste. No doubt it happened, just as I'm sure it happened in every place where widespread bombing occurred. Looting of every kind was a part of bombing, and it was a crime which we were constantly made aware of. I 'looted' too, but it was always souvenirs I was after. I recall an episode in the British "Foyle's War" where looting by ARP rescue workers was set up like a business. This made good drama, but I don't know if anything just as well organised as that really took place. I never even heard a rumour of a looter being convicted in Govan, but this is not to suggest it never happened.
One often heard of this "F*** off" treatment handed out to Churchill in London's East End. I also heard it said the same thing happened when Churchill was in Glasgow being driven along Scotland St. I never witnessed it actually happening, but I don't doubt that it did.

String-pulling by " local Big Wigs" as in Rutherglen, I'm also sure took place. But, for an Anderson shelter? I don't recall them being in short supply... even hovels in Campbeltown at the tip of the Mull o' Kintyre had these shelters before the Clydeside Blitz! We in a Govan tenement building enjoyed air-raid shelters even before the bombing started, and the use to which they were put had little to do with air raids! After the Blitz, shelters were partly furnished by the people 'up the close' who were served by it, and taken much more seriously.

At the start of the war, when the war was still at the "sitzkrieg" stage, ARP personnel were subject to a great deal of criticism and mocking: Lazy types getting paid for scrounging around or polishing lamps. Maybe some were. I lived round the corner from the ARP post at the Harhill St. Swimming Baths. There was a permanent staff of paid uniformed ARP people as well as other unpaid volunteer air-raid wardens... the "Put out that bloody light" types. I don't recall ever hearing anything bad about them, and they gave a fine account of themselves on March 13th and 14th 1941.

Your comments about the British wartime films are readily understood. There was some truth in the "Brylcream boys" winning the war in the air. They did. I once heard an airforce man refer the fighter Command aircrew as being a private club, and if you weren't a member of the club you didn't get to sit in a Spitfire! ( Yes, and this included Glasgow's own fighter squadron). You're right, ground crews of course received little if any mention when it came to heroics. Same thing happened when Bomber Command took over the headlines... who ever heard of a squadron engine-fitter getting a medal for his efforts in getting 16 Merlins serviced in time to do the same thing tonight as they had done two nights ago?

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 11:33 pm
by Dugald
Well Socceroo, I disagree with both you and Escotregen on the preparedness and general ability of the Local Authorities to deal with the air raids when they occurred. When it comes to preparedness, I firmly believe our authorities in Glasgow performed wonders! I feel the city's most striking achievement was the "Evacuation". The city, through the schools, evacuated an enormous number of children from Glasgow to safe places all over Scotland, before the war even got under way. This massive exodus was all accomplished by and large in one day! Try and imagine the amount of organisation required for a task of this magnitude; it was just incredible. Imagine if you can, in today's Glasgow, if the schools were all suddenly closed and all people associated with schools were no longer working at the school around the corner! I still find it hard to believe Glasgow managed to do this and had most of these children sleeping far away from Glasgow by the end of September 3rd.

Let's just take a look at Glasgow's preparations. Gas masks had already been distributed throughout the city before the war started. Air raid shelters, baffle-wall and reinforced closes, were well established throughout Glasgow long before the bombing started. Top floor landings in tenement buildings were provided with ladders, stirrup pumps, sand and easy access to roofs (hmmm, this could have been after the blitz). All surface public transit vehicles complied with the stringent lighting, and air-raid procedures were well-established and thoroughly practiced before the first sir-raid. I knew an air-raid was imminent on March 13th before the sirens sounded by taking a look at the lights on the trams.
Oh, and there were the barage balloons. The municipal and Wesmisnster authorities got cracking on these and they had the balloons were well-established in good time. Remember, none of these people at the municipal level had any idea as to how the civilian population were going to cope with a big fat balloon at the end of the street.. Uist St. in Govan for example.

Well, with regard to the Fire Services, it seems at least they did get it sorted out before the big Blitz. One must bear in mind again, that these people in municipal authority were coping with something the vast majority of them had never experienced. Before the war the closest thing Glasgow's leaders had to enlighten them what an air raid would be like came out of H.G. Wells' books, and that was terrifying. Our "buttts" finished up as good as the best... and I got that from a London fireman who moved up to Glasgow (as an aside, he also told me 1000 firemen lost their lives in the London Blitz).

"The ARP Service Chiefs came in for enormous criticism after the initial Air Raids over Glasgow, one early account tells of a boy heard clearly talking through the rubble of a bomb site"

This account of the ARP Service abandoning a living boy in the debris of a bombed building because there was no light, I'd place in the same chapter as Andrew Jeffrey's "Over a couple of dozen corpses were left lying openly unattended..."... but I'm even more than tempted to question the accuracy of this claim, in fact I'd call it nonsense. I think it's an author's "attention getter".

Yes, Socceroo, I agree with you regarding the pre-war Bureaucracy which the local authorities hung onto until the first Bombs were dropped. I guess they just didn't know what else to do. None of them had any experience in the sort of changes that were being very quickly introduced to their city... a policy I guess, of when in doubt, hang on to what you have.

Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 11:44 pm
by Dugald
Roxburgh, I agree with your reminder on this hindsight being 20-20! It is easy enough for us now to see much better ways in which some WWII things might have been done in Glasgow. Much of what i posted on my replies to both Estregen and Socceroo makes mention of the inexperiance of the people in charge of Glasgpw's war-time preparations. Your mention of the pre-war staff being conscripted into the services must certainly have played a major role in attempting to overcoming all these new challenges. And yes, as you point out, over and above this air-raid business Glasgow was struggling up a few other very steep mountains!


Re: Bombs over Glasgow in WW2

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:40 am
by Socceroo
Dugald wrote:This account of the ARP Service abandoning a living boy in the debris of a bombed building because there was no light, I'd place in the same chapter as Andrew Jeffrey's "Over a couple of dozen corpses were left lying openly unattended...".

Dugald, where did i quote Andrew Jeffrey's book as stating "Over a couple of dozen corpses were left lying openly unattended..." I did not state this in the passage from his book. Please do read it again. He did not state this in his book. What he was describing was that the situation in Nelson Street was such that it was a number of days before the area was cleared due to the magnitude of the blast

The scenario where a boy was allegedly left in the ruins is again from the Public Records in that the ARP recorded that his brother was about to make a complaint to the Master of Works about the situation.

I'll post more later on this.


PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:49 am
by katherine
JayKay wrote:[i].
Possibly further to this I heard that South Crosshill Road in Bishopbriggs suffered bomb damage and a bumber of houses were destroyed. It was apparently caused by a damaged aircraft shedding its load of bombs.
Apparently the new houses were built on where the houses were hit, the older homes are the ones that missed. The new houses follow a straight line, and there in the park at the end of Kenmure Drive close to Bishopbriggs Golf Course there is the site of what was (apparently) a very large crater, turned into a wooded area of the park, where according local legend the plane finally crashed.
Obviously much of this is based on local legend. However according to my late aunt who lived in the area at the time, a german bomb did come through the roof of Bishopbriggs library, which was the school in Bishopbriggs at the time.

I just finished reading this, and called my mum who was brought up in Bishopbriggs and went to school there - she used to tell us stories about the bombings when we were kids. She can remember it quite clearly. One morning she set out for school (the old library now) and was sent home because there was bomb damage to the middle section of the school. The bombing took place on 8th April 1941.

3 bungalows across from the school on South Crosshill Road were flattened and there were a number of fatalities. One of the people who died was the school janitor's wife. People in surrounding houses put money together to help the families toward the cost of the three bungalows being rebuilt.