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- 23 July 2004
PAISLEY DURING THE WAR
I was born in 1933 in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire. My family moved to Paisley soon after my birth. When I was 5 years old I joined the North School in Love Street, Paisley.
One year later the Second World War started and we were all given gas masks to carry around with us. Barricade walls were built in front of each close. When the siren
sounded everyone got out of their houses. The Love Street and Glen Street families made their way to the Fountain Gardens in Love Street where there were long air raid shelters buried deep in the ground. We stayed there until the siren sounded the all clear.
This went on summer and winter. I remember it was always very dark and cold. There were searchlights that lit up the sky, looking for the bombers. There were also barrage balloons in the sky — I never knew what they were for. Our school also acted as an air raid post where men and women were taught First Aid and acted as air raid wardens, helping people in and out of the shelters.
We lived near Sanderling Naval Base (now Glasgow Airport) and across the Clyde stood John Brown’s shipyard and a lot of engineering works. So Paisley, Clydebank, Govan and Renfrew were all targets for the bombers.
My mum was issued with ration books — one for each of us. Inside were pages of coupons and you cold only use so many of these coupons each week. It was not much for a family. There was no fruit available. We got a box of cakes on a Saturday for Sunday night tea. We could get potatoes and other vegetables, and my mum made big pots of soup. Milk was also rationed but we all got a small bottle of milk at school each day. There were no eggs if you lived in the town — just powdered egg in small brown boxes. Meat was very expensive but people could do a hundred things with mince. Sausages were also a great family meal. I think people in the 1940s were a lot healthier than they are nowadays.
My father worked at Lobnitz shipyard in Renfrew, which made the pontoons for the Mulberry Harbours used in the 1944 Normandy landings. People worked very hard to get them finished in time for D-Day. Women worked in the factories and kept the war effort going while their husbands were at war. That was really the start of married women working. Over this period of time there was great comradeship among the people and it kept their spirits high.
Near the end of the war Erskine Hospital, which cared for injured and disabled servicemen, was very much needed. Some men are still there today who served in the war. Erskine Hospital has been rebuilt and it is the best-equipped hospital for ex-servicemen in the country.
By 1945 the war was over and men came back from serving overseas. Families were re-united but at the start it was hard to get work and a lot of local families emigrated to Canada and Australia.
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