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15 October 2014
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Home Guardsman 'Curly' Gow Takes on 'Dicke' Goeringicon for Recommended story

by SOEForce136

Contributed by 
SOEForce136
People in story: 
James Gow
Location of story: 
Argyll Scotland
Background to story: 
Argyll Home Guard
Article ID: 
A2069769
Contributed on: 
22 November 2003

Gamekeeper turned soldier

My grandad, James ‘Curly’ Gow, was quite a character. A Highlander, he was a native of Dalnaspidal in northern Perthshire. He was a gamekeeper, by profession, on a Perthshire estate.

In 1914, he volunteered for war service, joining the 6th (Perthshire) Battalion, Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch), Territorial Force. Re-designated the 1/6th Battalion, in early 1915 it was brigaded into the 51st Highland Division, a territorial formation.

On the Western Front

He served with the 51st on the Western Front, as it forged a formidable reputation as one of Haig‘s spearhead ‘shock’ divisions. Having attained corporal’s rank, in 1918 he was promoted to sergeant and transferred to a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, a veteran senior NCO to bolster young, untried troops.

A fellow sergeant he made friends with had also been transferred from the 51st Highland Division, Sergeant Neil Weir, late of 1/8th Btn Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Castle gamekeeper

After the war, my grandad was introduced to Neil’s sister, Margaret Anne Weir, of Glendaruel, Argyll. She was a housekeeper at Glen Caladh Castle and a native Gaelic speaker, as well as a gold medallist, for singing at the spinning wheel, at the National Gaelic Mod.

My grandad took up the post of gamekeeper at the estate and married Margaret, my gran. My father, James (Hamish), was born in Glen Caladh Castle.

A crack shot

In time, they moved to another estate over in Kintyre, Argyll, again as gamekeeper. My grandfather became quite a local figure during the 1920s and 1930s, being a crack-shot with his shotgun and winning many trophies.

He was also something of a musician, an accordionist, playing Scottish and Highland dance and pipe music. He was offered a record deal with Beltona before WW2, but declined for work reasons. Then war came.

In the Home Guard

After Dunkirk, the LDVs or Local Defence Volunteers, then the Home Guard, were raised. Kintyre, too, had its Home Guard unit, which local veterans of the WW1 51st Division joined, including my grandad.

They built and manned roadblocks, patrolled the Kintyre coastline and searched the black night for any sign of U-boats, known to use isolated Atlantic inlets to rest-up and recharge their batteries before harrying Allied convoys. He anticipated some form of action would occur, but when it did it was most unexpected.

Steeled for action

Early one morning, in March 1941, he was up in the hills, attending to his game-keeping duties. As he walked over the rolling, heather-clad hill tops, the spongy, peat soil yielding below his walking boots, he carried his ’broken’ shotgun in the crook of his arm.

Perhaps he knew, perhaps he didn’t, but the Luftwaffe had just bombed Clydeside, one of many such raids. His thoughts were interrupted, however, by a distant, pulsating beat, the sound of engines.

Lone bomber hugging the hills

As the noise got louder, he turned round to see a large plane hugging the hills and heading toward him. It was not the RAF but a Luftwaffe bomber, making its way down the spine of Kintyre toward the Irish Sea, having just bombed Clydeside. Perhaps it had lost its bearings, perhaps it was taking the chance to shoot up a Clyde convoy.

Letting fly with both barrels

Till the day he died in 1945, my grandad never knew what made him do what he did next. As the bomber, probably a Heinkel 111, came close and showed its German-cross emblems, he closed his shotgun and raised it to his shoulder.

Then, as it was nearly overhead, he let fly with both barrels. He could see the forward gunner in the nascelle, training his machine gun on him. Grandad knew his time had come.

Spirit of a feisty, old Scotsman

Then, in a moment, the plane was gone and on its way. Even the rear belly-gunner refrained from firing on him.

Why? Did they see a feisty, old Scotsman? Perhaps they liked his style! British bulldog spirit and all that. He also wondered why he’d done something so dangerous, rash and ineffectual.

Bomber with other priorities

The plane long gone, he went back to his duties. Soon, however, he would hear how a lone German bomber had flown over Campbeltown. Of how it had strafed the main streets with machine-gun fire and killed the town’s provost. The provost had died saving a young girl by diving across her and using his own body as a shield.

So perhaps the German gunners spared my grandad, not out of compassion for a crazy, old man but rather as they’d wished to save ammunition for Campbeltown.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - luftwaffe over scotland

Posted on: 24 November 2003 by greenhill2

Twice in WW2 as a schoolboy I had the unique experince of being targetted by the Luftwaffe!
In October 1939 while travelling by train accross the Forth Bridge I was an eye witness to the bombing of ou Naval warships which turned out to be the first major attack of the War.
Curiosly the train journey was to go on holiday to relatives in Aberdeen from my home in Edinburgh.Later in the war after the Clydebank Blitz and some local bombing of Leith (1942)I was returned to Aberdeen for safety!!
All was well for a few weeks although Jerry used to com over and harass the Bofors batteries on the Esplanade.
With my cousin we were in Duthie Park on a Saturday morning when the sirenes went off.Feeling safe in the open park we carried on walking until we heard gunfire from the Seafront amoment later a Heinkel flew over us aun so low we could see the Observer in the nose.We saw spurts in the grass nearby but I'd like to think he was only trying to scare us rather than hit two teenageers!!Suffice to say I was back home to Edinburgh next day.

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