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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Govan in the War

by BBC Scotland

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
Mrs Christine Gibson
Location of story: 
Govan, Glasgow
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7590477
Contributed on: 
07 December 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Mairi Campbell of the BBC on behalf of Mrs Christine Gibson and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

I was only 5 years old when WW2 broke out. I lived in a tenement in Govan and the River Clyde was on our doorstep, shipbuilding was the main industry, there was also Harland and Wolff, Fairfields and Stephens, this made it a target for Germans Bombers.

My memories are of hearing a loud wailing sound, this turned out to be the siren that warned us that German planes were approaching. My mother always had our clothes ready to jump into, then we would run down three flights of stairs (we lived in the top flat) as fast as our legs would carry us to the bottom of the back close where all of our neighbours were gathered with blankets, flasks and biscuits. We never knew how long it would be before the ‘All clear’ was sounded. The children thought this was a great adventure and would tell ghost stories to pass the time not realising at all how serious it was.

Some neighbours chose to go to a stone built shelter about 5 minutes from our home which was supposed to be safer than the back close but my mum didn’t see the point in this as the shelter wasn’t far from our house and if a bomb dropped the whole area would be flattened.

We had blackout curtains pinned to the windows so that no light would show when the planes were flying overhead. Air Raid Protection or A.R.P’s as they were known used to patrol the streets tp check that no lights were visible and woe behold anyone showing a chink of light, they had to wear tin helmets to protect then from shrapnel, this was pieces of metal which scattered once the bomb exploded, they also carried haversacks but I never found out what was kept in them, they were all volunteers.

My last memory is of the Gas Masks the government issued to every family; even babies were in a sealed unit. I couldn’t stand the smell of the rubber, this was to protect us from poison gas, I can still smell the rubber to this day.

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