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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Alan Shaw
User ID: U894689

I was born in 1916 at 129 Lochend Road, Leith, the port of Edinburgh. This address was a first floor flat in a red sandstone tenement so typical of Leith, Edinburgh and Glasgow.My father was superintendent of Leith Electricity Works, which was only a mile or so from our home, so he would come home for lunch every day on his Sunbeam bicycle.

In 1921 at five years old I became a pupil at Hermitage Park Primary School which was situated at the back of our tenement block so I too came home for lunch each day. It was a happy little school and I was there until was nine years old. One of the school governors was Captain Wedgewood Benn MP DSO DFC a returned hero of WW1. Father of the Rt Hon Anthony Wedgewood Benn of today, he was then a Liberal but switched to Labour and in 1927 became Secretary of State for India. His signature appears in the School Diary on more than one occasion.

In 1925 we moved to Mayfield Road,Newington, a suburb on the south side of Edinburgh. In the following year I became a pupil at George Heriot's School, Edinburgh and daily joined the mile long river of boys and girls who walked to George Watson's boys College, then on the Meadows, and to their girls College in George Square. At the top of the Meadows, facing Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in Lauriston Place, was George Heriot's School for boys.

I was a Wolf Cub and later a Boy Scout in the 75th Newington Troop but in 1930, as soon as I was old enough I became a cadet in George Heriot's School contingent of the Officers Training Corps. We wore the uniform, with kilt, sporran and glengarry bonnet, of the Royal Scots, to whom we were affiliated. I much enjoyed the OTC, particularly the Pipe Band, in which I became a Sergeant and Leading Drummer. I passed the Certificate "A"Infantry examinations.

Shortly after leaving School in the summer of 1934
I commenced my training as a professional engineer at the Heriot Watt College (now University) and joined the Royal Engineers Contingent of Edinburgh University Officers Training Corps. There I passed Certificate "B" (Royal Engineers) which entitled one to consideration for a commission in the event of war.

I led a full and enjoyable school and college life, meeting my future wife Marjory when we were both members of an intercollegiate committee.She was a wonderful dancer and we made good use of the two remaining golden years of peacetime.

My first contribution to the People's War archives has already been submitted in the form of my wife's article "Marjory's War". Further items under the general title "Marching on to Laffan's Plain" will outline my own prosaic experiences as an officer of the Corps of Royal Engineers -`"The Sappers", first in the UK, then for nearly four years with the imperial Indian Army in Central India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Burma campaign.

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