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Poems and Stories from Jack Jackson
Reflections from W.W.II in Glasgow

One of the tragedies of war is its impact on the lives of not only the Combatants, but the Civilian population too. The innocents are drawn into the conflict just as surely as if they were in the Front Line, the weapons of war never acting  discriminately. However the Hand of  Providence is sometimes felt by the civilian as well as the soldier.

I was a lad of 11years when the Nazi warplanes brought the Blitz to my native Scotland.

Suddenly the gray skies over Glasgow reverberated to what soon became a familiar drone, from the Heinkel engines. Our nights were constantly interrupted by the wail of ‘Moaning Minnie’ (our ruefully humorous name for the nearest Air Raid siren). I would stumble out of bed and hastily don the clothes which were always laid out ( under the covers, to keep them warm) at my feet, a procedure accomplished by the dim flicker of a paraffin lamp burning in our hallway and  sending its weak illumination licking across the linoleum of the floor.

I would take a seat on one of the chairs arranged in a semicircle round the ‘ Lobby’ (hall), and wait for the succession of taps on the front door signaling the arrival of our upstairs neighbors. The consensus of opinion was, ‘ the ground floor apartment, ( ours), being farthest from the point of entry for an incendiary bomb, had to be the safest place in the building’. I often pondered the wisdom of this reasoning, but could find little merit in it. However the sharing of our common misery and the Camaraderie that existed was reason enough to continue with the practice.

During this time, my elder brother, being a Boy Scout of  considerable merit and in keeping with his elevated position as a Patrol Leader, volunteered to become an Assistant Air Raid Warden.

This meant that he could be called on at any time to aide the senior members in their duties, which consisted of ensuring that everyone from the Queen down observed ‘Blackout’ rules. The stentorian cry of “ Put out that light”,  soon became another familiar night- sound to the citizens of  Glasgow. Of course there were many other duties for which they received training and prayed that they would never have to perform. In return for his devotion to the cause, my brother received an official steel helmet, painted a gleaming white and a gas mask with molded eye pieces and a corrugated tube which descended  from the front down into a small haversack. When he was thus adorned he looked very officious and ready to face the enemy.

One night, not long after Moaning Minnie had ceased  its wail, a new sound was heard, mingling with the thuds and bangs of the anti-aircraft guns and the heavy drone of the enemy bombers’ engines . It was the rat-tat-tat of metal,  ‘was it shell cases or bullets??’, bouncing off the corrugated iron roofs at the back of our tenements. My brother volunteered to go out to the close-mouth ( entry to the building) and see if he could observe anything. Everyone thought this was a very unwise move, but he was not to be dissuaded and so,  donning his helmet and gas mask, he left the comparative security of the Lobby.

.He returned almost immediately, his face rivaling the white of his helmet which now sported a long black indentation on one side of the dome. “ Something bashed me on the head and flew into the road” he said. “ It was glowing like a bit of coal out the fire”.

Moaning Minnie sounded the ‘All clear’ and put an end to our discussion as to the nature of the object. In the morning the’ Assistant Air Raid Warden’ ventured outside to look for his assailant, and returned with a lump of shrapnel about  6” long with a pointed side as sharp as an axe. It was obvious to all , that if he had been standing a mere few inches to the left or had taken off his helmet to see the sky better, the missile would have sliced him in two. THE HAND OF PROVIDENCE INDEED !

What was rattling off the corrugated roofs I never did find out; by the time I got over to them , the ‘souvenir hunters’ had cleared the area.   

The following night , my father went off with the Fire Service to aide the victims of the Clydebank Blitz, and didn’t return for 3 days. The shrapnel incident had faded into insignificance by then.

                                                                                                                                                                               J.Jackson Nov.’97

This incident took place at  #10 Cavendish St.  Gorbals District   Glasgow  C5

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