Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Dexter St. Clair » Tue May 13, 2008 7:47 am

One fact doesn't rule out the other. My fact is that a number of people left Britain and went to Ireland primarily to avoid conscription.

Dugald pointed out another fact
I got onto thinking about this topic after having recently read on another Forum, as well as having read about it in this week's Campbeltown Courier, of another means whereby conscription into the military could be avoided. I'm referring here to a group of "conscripts" known as Bevin Boys.


Both groups avoided conscription into the armed forces. One willingly maybe one not so willingly. But for whatever reason a number of able bodied men avoided serving in the armed forces.

If you want to deny it happened you join plenty of other people who deny a whole number of things which actually happened during the war.

With respect to Dugald's efforts in making some serious contributions on one of the best topics on I'm forcing myself to restrict comments to the actual debate. there are books devoted to Ireland, Northern Ireland and WW II. The author of the Coleraine Battery website summed up in my readings an accurate description of the position.

He notes
Despite this negative mindset, 80,000 volunteers from Southern Ireland and 38,000 volunteers from Northern Ireland enrolled into the British Armed Forces. Over 4,500 of the Northern Ireland volunteers were killed in action during WWII. (Adamson, in Marrinan 1986)


Others can read the site but I doubt they will arrive at your conclusion
a six counties unionist website
.

part of the value of this thread has been the mix of alternative views within historians and actual recollections of people who were there.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby onyirtodd » Tue May 13, 2008 7:58 am

My late mother enlisted in 1938 because her father said he knew a war was coming because of the influx of eastern European refugees and the exodus (very much smaller) of workmates of Southern Irish extraction from the yard. (I think he worked in Harlands at the time).

He, and she, didn't want her to end up packing parachutes or in a munitions factory; both of which he described as 'sitting targets'.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Dugald » Wed May 14, 2008 12:34 am

When I have the pleasure of hearing Dexter say, "I'm forcing myself to restrict comments to the actual debate", it's well worth paying attention to the slight turn the "conscription" topic seems to have taken. I also had a very enjoyable read about the Coleraine Battery and it provides an excellent history of one small unit of men who to a very large extent took it upon themselves to make sure they were ready whenever the need actually arose to go to war.

It would appear a need has arisen to look a bit deeper into the "...means whereby conscription into the military could be avoided.". In 1939 Glasgow was one of Britain's highly industrialized cities, specializing to a large extent in heavy industry. This of course led to a demand for skilled craftsmen and meant, of necessity, a very large number of people working in reserved occupations... they were protected from conscription so long as they remained at their deferred occupations.

Britain's working population was greatly increased by the influx of many workers from Ireland. Britain used Irish labour much the same way as Germany used labour from some of the occupied countries (I'm not speaking of Germany's use of forced labour, but rather, of their practice of offering high earnings for people who would work in the German armaments industry). In the early years of the war Irish Navvies were employed for example, in building the aerodrome and infrastructure at Machrihanich in Argyllshire. These Irish workers were exempt from conscription, otherwise their numbers would no doubt have been mush less. I don't know about any large influx of Irish labour to Clydeside, Ireland at that time was not a source of skilled labour. These Irish war workers of course, are over and above the many thousands of Irish people who voluntarily served in the British forces.

Was there an great exodus of Irish people from Glasgow to avoid conscription? I just don't know. I never knew of anyone who left for that reason. I knew a boy who was privately evacuated from Govan to relatives in Dublin, just for the same reason that thousands of other Glaswegian children were evacuated. At my age at that time it is unlikely that I'd have known if people had beat it to Ireland in search of Irish roots.

Another means of avoiding conscription was to enroll in some of the Air Raid Precaution (ARP) jobs that became available. These people were mocked quite a bit at the start of the war, but once the bombing started, and their worth became apparent, the attitude towards them changed. As the bombing died down many of these ARP people moved into industry (wages in the ARP, were not much at all), some on a part-time only basis. I know there were some Irish people working with the ARP.

Quite a number of Glaswegians deserted. I don't have any numbers. I knew of two men in Govan who were deserters. One lived on Elder St. and he'd been in the Seaforth Highlanders. One Saturday he was picked up late at night by military police and taken away without any time to get his home life organised. Two days or so later, his father got word that his son had fallen off a train while on his way to Fort George in Inverness, and was killed. It was said that when he was taken away from Elder St. the MP's had to call civilian police for help as the deserter put up a real fight. The other deserter I knew lived on Copeland Rd. and was in the HLI. He'd been working merrily away for about a year when he got picked up by MP's at 2am. one day. His feet didn't touch the ground till he was serving in India! Yes, "desertion" wasn't the best way to avoid conscription.

I also knew two conscientious objectors, neither of whom was from Glasgow, but both worked at the same place in Glasgow... a food-distribution warehouse. They had both been in prison and were directed to work in the warehouse after having served their sentences. Other than doing fire-watching duties, they refused to take an active part in the war. They both put up with a lot and suffered a lot as a result of their beliefs. They were both fine people and had a lot of gumption to take on the courts in wartime Glasgow. Did they win ? I don't think so; I think it would have been a lot easier to take one's chance in the forces.

Despite all these ways one could avoid conscription, the vast majority of Glaswegians who got their "papers" did serve where they were sent, and we're all I'm sure, well aware that we Glaswegians have nothing to apologize for in this regard.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby samscafeamericain » Wed May 14, 2008 5:52 am

Thank you Dugald, that was a fascinating insight. Sadly I do not think the thread took an unexpected turn, it was wholly expected in this bitter wee part of the world.

My uncle, who was a Cambuslang rogue (my dear mother's description of him) served aboard the merchant ships on the convoy run to Russia. Needless to say, he and many of his comrades, on reaching dry land spent a fair chunk of their time drinking beer and vodka and not thinking about the journey home. On one such session in a pier side bothy with russian Stevedors ended when a Russian policeman came in and tried to break up the party. Uncle Willie, being drunk, but sadly very capable, knocked him cold with an uppercut and then proceeded to lob the policeman's back up into the harbour. Needless to say Uncle Willie got a 6 months reprieve from the war at Joe Stalins pleasure, only getting out after the local MP raised the issue with the war office. :D
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby cell » Wed May 14, 2008 11:28 am

I may be wrong in this, but I thought the Bevin boys were selected randomly from the conscripts to work in the mines rather than actually volunteering to avoid military service. Its a mute point that working in a mine is considered easier than going into the army. Out of interest would these guys have received miners wages or conscript ones?
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Sharon » Wed May 14, 2008 12:35 pm

Both apparently according to the BBC, and their wartime contributions were recognised recently.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7312004.stm
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Dugald » Wed May 14, 2008 11:35 pm

cell wrote:I may be wrong in this, but I thought the Bevin boys were selected randomly from the conscripts to work in the mines rather than actually volunteering to avoid military service. Its a mute point that working in a mine is considered easier than going into the army. Out of interest would these guys have received miners wages or conscript ones?


You may well be right regarding selection for the Bevin boys there Cell, but I can tell you for a fact, that the three Glaswegian Bevin Boys that I knew all chose, by themselves, to become Bevin Boys as an alternative to the Army. I don't know whether they received miners' wages, but I just cannot imagine them doing the same day's work as a miner and getting less money than the miner digging the same seam.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Lucky Poet » Wed May 14, 2008 11:46 pm

I take it the miners had a better wage than conscripts? (Please forgive my ignorance here.) In any case, I'm sure working the mines was hardly an easy option! (Or an especially safe option, come to that.)

PS not that I imagine wage comparison played much of a part in all this.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby onyirtodd » Thu May 15, 2008 8:15 am

Lucky Poet wrote:I take it the miners had a better wage than conscripts? (Please forgive my ignorance here.) In any case, I'm sure working the mines was hardly an easy option! (Or an especially safe option, come to that.)

PS not that I imagine wage comparison played much of a part in all this.


I don't know about the wages.

I had an uncle (from Newcastle) who was sent down the pit under the Bevin scheme despite his life long ambition to join the Royal Navy. When he was 'demobbed' from the pit he went straight to the recruiting office and enlisted for a life at sea. His Bevin Boy years counted towards his service and his Navy pension.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Dexter St. Clair » Thu May 15, 2008 7:36 pm

a quick google search suggest the Bevin boys were paid a lower wage. Their introduction provoked apprentice strikes probably against the dilution of labour.


However I'll probably have to read a book to confirm.




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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Dugald » Fri May 16, 2008 12:11 am

Well, from all these comments and questions it's quite clear that the HG Forum is a great place for learning, and if not learning, then at least a place for stirring up questions... and that's often the first step in learning.. Regarding the earnings of the Bevin Boys, I don't have any idea what their wages were. Dexter, having taken the trouble to do a bit of Googlesearching, points to the likelihood that the BB were paid a lower wage than the regular full-time 'civilian' miners. From the point of view of a regular miner, this of course appears quite reasonable, but from the point of view of a BB, hmmmm, that's a different story. (You can see Lucky Poet, that most of us a tarred wi' the same "ignorance" stick!). Anyway, Onny gives us a bit of info which suggests the BB didn't just receive a badge and a handshake: I'm referring to Onny's uncle who was able to count BB years towards his service and his Navy pension... a good deal!
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Dexter St. Clair » Fri May 16, 2008 7:13 am

From the point of view of a regular miner, this of course appears quite reasonable,


I'm not so sure about that. i've read stuff from the first world war where the shop stewards in Beardmores thought the dilution of labour by introducing women should be fought by ensuring they got got proper wages. However i am also sure that a number of workers just did not want women in.

Unlike returning servicemen who got their old jobs back Bevin boys did not return so easily to the employment they were removed from.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Dugald » Sat May 17, 2008 11:46 pm

I understand what you are speaking about here Dexter. The shop stewards certainly had a point, and Beardmores had a reputation of being a part of Red Clydeside's sharp point. An apprenticed-served journeyman had every right to be concerned with the "dilution of labour", as you call it, and had I been such a journeyman, I too would have been concerned to the point of striking... war or no war. I wonder though, did miners serve an apprenticeship as meaningful as say, a pipe-fitter in Fairfields? I don't think so. It might be possible to train a miner to dig coal in a mere six weeks, but not a pipe-fitter. I'm really just fumbling around here as to what the situation was with the Bevin Boys. I was under the impression the BB were entitled to their pre-conscription jobs just as the conscripted ex-servicemen were. I don't recall there being any great amount of debate or discussion at the time about Bevin Boys: it was just the accepted here-today-and-off-to-Ayrshire tomorrow, sort of situation. A valid part, I think , of our Glasgow's wartime scene.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby Lucky Poet » Sun May 18, 2008 1:31 am

I finally did a bit of google type research myself, though stupidly I forgot to save any references :roll:
However... it seems experienced miners used to be paired up with trainees, and weren't too happy with being lumbered with an unlucky conscript who often didn't want to be there - the men were often paid by piecework, and quite reasonably feared being hindered. Apparently the Bevin Boys were generally never allowed to work at the coalface itself, unless they proved themselves good at the job. Easy enough to train boys to load wagons and what not, but the cutting itself required an amount of expertise - not so much in just hacking away coal (albeit very fast) as understanding the general physics of the mining operation. I did find one reference to a strike by all the coal workers, conscripts included, resulting in an increase in the pretty meagre pay the BBs got. I'll try to find it again...

To add to the Boys' woes at facing accusations of cowardice when off work in public (no uniforms of course), they had to pay for their lodgings, and had no access to the NAFFI and all its concessionary goods. They had none of the legal advantages of ex-servicemen when seeking work after the war either.

I should add much off the stuff I read was from England and Wales, and it might not fully apply to the Glasgow experience.
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Re: Wartime Glasgow--Excluding bombing.

Postby onyirtodd » Sun May 18, 2008 8:32 am

Lucky Poet wrote:.......................

To add to the Boys' woes at facing accusations of cowardice when off work in public (no uniforms of course), they had to pay for their lodgings, and had no access to the NAFFI and all its concessionary goods. They had none of the legal advantages of ex-servicemen when seeking work after the war either.

I should add much off the stuff I read was from England and Wales, and it might not fully apply to the Glasgow experience.


It wasn't just the Bevin Boys. My father, who worked in Barr & Stroud all through the war talked of the same thing. It was OK around where he lived and was known but, in the city centre, dirty looks were commonplace. He also said that, if you went to the dancing on a night off from work or firewatching (from the top of Trinity College tower) it was harder to get a dance if you weren't in a uniform and there was often animosity from those who were in uniform.
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