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When War Was Declared

by BBC Scotland

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Archive List > The Blitz

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BBC Scotland
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Civilian Force
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01 February 2006

When war was declared on 3rd September 1939 I was still at school at Miller Academy, Thurso in Caithness. It was while I was at home that I heard the chilling announcement on the radio that I’ll never forget — “consequently this country is at war with Germany”.

On June 3rd 1940, I commenced my three year training course. First of all I was based at the Country Branch of Yorkhill for six months as I had to be 18 years old before I could start my training. This was at Drumchapel where children were sent to recuperate after illness. I then went to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill in Glasgow to gain my Registered Sick Children’s Nurse Certificate (RSCN).

Drumchapel is not very far from Clydebank and the shipyards were continually being bombed. Every time we heard the whistle of the bombs coming down we used to say, “This is us this time”! It was us on one of those times, and what devastation; there were kitchen cupboards lying on the floor, windows shattered and glass everywhere. All the children were in cots and we had very thick blankets completely covering the cots right down the floor. We were all under the same cots holding on to the hands of the little ones who were awake. There was glass and debris on top of the cots and everywhere around but there were no injuries. The thick blankets saved us. When it was all over — I could not believe I was still under the cot. I felt I had been lifted off the floor and thrown out of the window. It was a most amazing experience.

I was visiting my aunt in Hyndland one day when the bombing started and we had to go down to the shelters. We were there for quite some time. When we came up to ground level the devastation was unbelievable. Windows shattered, curtains in tatters, chimney pots lying on the road in pieces and all other bombing debris, but there wasn’t time to do anything about it as I had to get on duty and made it to the hospital eventually.

There were three wards on each floor and the middle ward was given over to Forces Personnel. Fortunately we did not have very serious injuries but they had some very interesting stories to tell us. I remained working here and after August 15 1945 (VJ Day) when the Second World War ended I remember all the great celebrations. Everyone was so happy and parties galore — no more air raids, bombs falling and the suspense of not knowing where they were going to land, homes being wrecked and demolished. It was so wonderful to be free.

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