- Contributed by
- Location of story:
- Carnoustie, Scotland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 September 2005
I was born and brought up in the seaside town of Carnoustie on the East coast of Scotland, best known for its championship golf course. At the beginning of the war I was four years old and my first memory was watching my father walking away to join his army unit in Perthshire in August 1939.
A large area between the sea and the golf course had been used for army training since the Boer War (and is still today). This area was mined and separated from the golf course by an inadequate fence we called the “Government Fence”. The first casualty was a golfer who stepped over to retrieve his ball, thinking wrongly that no mines would have been laid so close to the course. And that, as they say, was that. Two other casualties later in the war were Polish soldiers stationed in the town.
Carnoustie lies at the mouth of the Tay and twice during the war ships were blown up and their cargoes washed up on our beach. They were Scandinavian vessels, carrying food. Scenes on the beach were reminiscent of Whisky Galore as townspeople carried away what they could in barrows, prams etc. I still remember the taste of the tinned gammon we took home.
I remember the Polish soldiers as rather sad people. A few were welcomed into our home because they worshipped at the Roman Catholic Church where my grandmother was a regular attender. When I was very ill with mumps their doctor visited to check that our family doctor was giving me the correct treatment. On a more sombre note, a boy from my class at school, aged about seven, and one of his friends were tormenting a Polish soldier cleaning his gun. He threatened to shoot them if they didn’t go away. Not being aware that the gun was loaded (an army offence) he pulled the trigger and my little school friend died on the spot.
I suppose it must have been summer 1944 when every street was full of army trucks, hundreds of them. They were there at lunchtime and, when we left school at the end of the day, they had gone. It was only decades later that the penny dropped and I realised that, although we were hundreds of miles from the South Coast of England, they were part of the great invasion force.
My father was 35 years old when the war started and was therefore saved from active service abroad. Nevertheless we saw very little of him since he was always stationed somewhere “down south”, a foreign country to most of us at that time. I have a number of postcards which he sent home with requests to keep them for him. They picture a rural England which no longer exists. We visited a village in Hampshire where he had been stationed and a local farmer pointed out where the search light he had been in charge of was situated.
Another memory I have is of my mother sitting beside the wireless with tears pouring down her face. Later I realised she had been listening to the news of the D-Day landings. She had no idea where my father was at that time because there was a ban on correspondence for a while.
I had thought that I had no memories to speak of about the war since I was so young. Our way of life did not seem to me to be affected much. We had no food problems that I was aware of since we were part of a rural economy. My mother bought hens to help out although she was terrified of them. We had a very carefree childhood all things considered. I imagine Hitler had no great interest in our corner of the world. If he had, we were ready for him-we had our minefield and mother had a stirrup pump!
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