- Contributed by
- Gloscat Home Front
- People in story:
- Margaret Peaston (nee Miller)
- Location of story:
- Rothesay, Isle of Bute
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 July 2005
A Scottish War Time
I was born in London of Scottish parents, so our holidays were often spent visiting our grand parents in Scotland. It was while we were visiting my father’s mother in Rothesay, Isle of Bute in the Firth of the Clyde in September 1939 that our government declared war on Germany. My father was a doctor so realized that he would be needed in London, but my grandmother ran a small hotel so had room to accommodate my Mother, brother and myself. He therefore returned to London while we stayed on. My brother was 2years old and I was 6. Never did I realise then that we would be there for six years seeing very little of our Father in that time.
One of my most vivid memories is of standing on the pierside in Rothesay with other women and children as we waved good-bye to most of the young men of the island as they set of for war, and we sang the song “We wish you luck as we wave you Good-bye”. It is only in remembering these events that I realize the emotions that must have been felt in people’s hearts at that time. One of those young men was our next-door neighbour, married less than a year. He didn’t get out of France at Dunkirk, so was a prisoner of the Germans most of the war, and how much news his wife had of him I don’t know.
My grandmother having a small hotel had to give up two of her rooms to the military so to begin with we had polish soldiers billeted with us. My grandmother kept contact with one of the polish officers almost to the end of he war, but then letters ceased so we think he must have lost his life. The Poles eventually joined our forces and for a while we had no military. However as plans were laid for allied forces to land in Europe, and push the enemy back we had Canadians, and American soldiers living with us. They were very friendly with us children giving us chewing gum, and we also used to collect Sweet caporal cigarette packets from them as they had silhouettes of enemy planes on them.
The soldiers used to practice landings from landing barges on the beaches near us, often being helped if they were in difficulties swimming with all their kit on, by my young brother and his friends in rowing boats going among the men. There was about a 3 mile stretch of sea to the mainland and there was an area of very little habitation there and often the hills would be set alight as the army attacked the land with gun fire.
From my grandmother’s upstairs windows we had wonderful views of convoys of ships traveling to the mouth of the Clyde and out into the Atlantic. The convoys often included the old Queen Mary and the Elizabeth ships.
Also in the bay in Rothesay there was a boat called the Cyclops, which acted as the Mother ship to the submarines coming and going from their duty in the Atlantic. Several times during the war for National Savings Week one could visit a sub, which really made one aware the cramped conditions the men worked in.
We could see the enemy bombing raids over the docks at Greenock—but I don’t think these went on for long. Only three bombs landed on the island, and that was when a German plane was chased and landed on the moors.
As we were near the sea and on an island, with quite a number of farms, I think we did fairly well for rations—though I can remember we always seemed to have tripe on Wednesdays—boiled face clothes!! I still can’t face the thought of eating tripe!!
However I think I was one of the lucky people, as we had few traumatic events around us, and I was still with family who cared and loved us.
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