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- 29 April 2004
I was born in 1935 in a tenement flat in the east end of Greenock. We had an excellent view of the main Glasgow-Gourock railway line, and beyond that Scotts Shipbuilding Yard, while just a bit to the west was Kincaid's Engineering and Boilermaking works.
At the Greenock Blitz I was six years old. A hole was knocked in the back wall of the wash house, under the building, to the coal cellars, thus providing a shelter for the residents. The roof of the wash house and the "dungeon" was supported on iron stantions for safety, and there the families from the twelve houses in the block gathered when the siren went. We had benches round the walls and periodically an Air Raid Warden came to tell us what was happenning. On the first night we did not have to be told. Bombs could be heard and the blast of explosions. At one particularly bad blast all the soot came out of the wash house chimney, and I remember we looked like minstrel singers. Shortly after this a Warden came and told us we had to get out, as there had been a landmine at the top of the street and an un-exploded bomb behind the church next door.
When we got to the street we were directed to a bridge over the railway line then to the main road through Greenock. The other roads were impassable due to the bombing. We were directed to a rest centre run by the Salvation Army, and on the walk there I pointed out to my mother that the two sisters who lived on the top floor - and who to me were ladies - had on their Sunday coats over their pyjamas. This observation earned me a slap!
When we arrived at the rest centre, it was padlocked, so we were sent to another one which we didn't get into either; so on to a third in a Church Hall. The walk to these places was exciting to a six year old, as there were water hoses all over the road, and, it seemed, fires burning everywhere. We spent the remainder of that night in the Church Hall, and in the morning were told we could not go back home. My Grandmother's sister lived nearby with her married daughter and they invited us to spend the next night with them.
Of course that was the second night of our
blitz. So once again it was down to the shelter, but this one seemed to me, to be down in the bowels of the earth. We had to go down a great many steps to get there. The noise either was not as bad the second night, or we were so far below ground we couldn't hear it. When the sirens sounded the "All clear" and we emerged from the depths the first thing I saw was the Municipal Buildings ablaze, and again there seemed to be fires everywhere.
The next day we were evacuated to Rutherglen, where we were billeted in a Church Hall. I can still see the rows of straw-filled matresses, and back to back benches lined with enamel basins. We were here about ten days I think before we were able to come back home.
I remember the troop trains bringing soldiers to embark at the Tail of the Bank, and how the convoys formed and grew and then you got up one day and they had all gone. A few days later a new convoy started to group, and so it went on.
All this was accompanied by watching the numerous ships being launched at Scott's, and the engines on trial at Kincaid's. The engines were on trial twenty four hours a day, but I don't think anyone ever complained about the noise as these engines were vital for the ships.
The war years, at the age of six - ten were quite an adventure, and as I was too young to realise all that war meant I feel I had the experience but was not old enough to appreciate the true horror of this time.
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