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