The Second World War

Sunnyside, Blanefield
The white building in the foreground is Sunnyside which was demolished by a landmine in March 1941 killing four people.

During the Second World War, Strathblane, in common with many other villages, was organised into areas to respond in case of enemy attack. Villagers were encouraged to attend the various Auxiliary Fire Service demonstrations and to man the pumps! With many of the men away fighting, women were quite often involved in this and the village was well covered in this respect.

The Home Guard was a feature of the village. People were reminded not to leave white washing out at night and to observe the blackout. Even Halloween was affected by the war due to the problems regarding the blackout. Air Raid Protection (ARP) lectures were common and the Ministry of Information van would arrive on a monthly basis for propaganda purposes. Red Cross and War Weapon weeks occurred on a regular basis and all in the parish would be encouraged to take part in these events. The Womans Guild were involved in "Comforts for the Services" and would send knitted goods etc abroad. "Dig for Victory" was a popular war slogan as more fields were ploughed in the area to produce food as a result.

Sunnyside and the Land Mines

Recollections of the Land Mines, which fell in Blanefield during the second night of the Clydebank Blitz 16th March 1941, are still fresh in the memory of many living in the village.

The late Tom Rennie described his memories as a 16-year-old:

"I was standing outside in New City Row with my Uncle Hugh Tate when we noticed what we initially thought was a parachute coming down. We soon realised that it was not a parachute but a land mine, which was falling towards the roof.
I ran to fetch the Police. As I did so the mine which had now landed on the roof apparently rolled down and dropped off the roof further down. I was half way across the drying green when I was blown across the green and hid at the corner of the wall at the main road. I protected myself behind the wall and slowly moved up towards the Police station beyond the War Memorial. PC Fraser was with Mr (later 'Sir') Charles Edmonstone who was the Officer in command of the Home Guard. In due course a rescue party was organised.
In the house occupied by Mr and Mrs Stockdale there were no floor boards and only the joists remained. I took old Mrs Stockdale out. She was very distressed and was covered in blood and dirt. Her husband was sitting in his wooden chair dead. It appeared that he had been killed outright.
In the house occupied by Mr & Mrs Woods and their two children, Mrs Woods and her children had been killed. Mr Woods survived. The Woods were a family who had moved to Blanefield from Clydebank to escape the risk of being bombed.
The people bombed out of their houses were evacuated to the Edmonstone Hall as that had been designated as the Central Clearance Point as well as a First Aid Centre.
People were unable to return to their houses and many were billeted out through the village. These arrangements did not always work well and many were glad when they could return to their own homes. I was billeted at Baptiston Farm, near Killearn. My parents were given accommodation at Craigbrock, Duntreath. I enjoyed my stay at Baptiston and was in no hurry to return home.

After the initial confusion caused by the landmine, people were evacuated from Sunnyside. The discovery of a second landmine lying in the whin bushes in the field south of the Edmonstone Hall resulted in the bewildered people again being evacuated.

The Village Club was not deemed safe enough and instead people were taken to the Kirkhouse Inn, which was already packed with people.

The late Mrs Armstrong described what happened next:

"An ARP man walked in front of the group stopping a bus coming along the main road with a gun as all traffic had to be stopped for fear of the mine being detonated by the vibration. Mrs Armstrong then recalled a hair raising journey clutching her infant son in the bus that had been stopped and was now packed with villagers travelling with no lights to Lennoxtown then over the Crow Road to Fintry. The sky, she remembers, was being lit up by fires burning in Clydebank and the search lights looking for enemy planes flying overhead on their way back to Germany. Finally, having crawled over the Crow Road at a snail's pace the bus arrived at the High School in Balfron, which was crowded with refugees from Clydebank and surrounding areas. There people were put up for the night and those who could went to stay with family. Some were able to return to their homes within a week. Others whose houses had been destroyed were billeted out to houses in the area. Many still have very mixed memories of this."

The effect of the land mine was felt throughout other parts of the village. The resultant blast created many strange effects. At 12 Burnside Row, all had gathered in the bottom house for safety. There the skylight was shattered and the staircase damaged. Over in Strathblane, the windows of Dr Macmillan’s house, the village GP, were put in. Helen Peters remembers that night as a small child sitting in an elderly neighbour's house in a bed recess with a friend when the land mine exploded. The result of the blast was that the elderly lady sitting in a chair opposite them flew across the room and ended up in the bed beside them!

In another house opposite the Edmonstone Hall, the effect of the blast was to roll the carpet up and leave it neatly rolled behind the sideboard! All the windows in the school were put in. The school was closed for a week while repairs were carried out!

Conspiracy theories

During the war, the railway was busy with ammunition trains running through the night. The Gartmore/Aberfoyle area was apparently an ammunition store and trains pulling a large number of wagons frequently rolled through the village, usually at night. It has been suggested by some that the enemy planes on the second night of the Blitz dropped the land mines when they saw the sparks of the last train to Glasgow, which had just travelled through Strathblane. It was also suggested that a person of Italian descent who lived in the village, and was known to flaunt the "black out", opened a door to signal to the planes as they flew over.

The more likely story is that the planes were simply jettisoning their bombs to gain height to escape from the anti aircraft guns located near Mugdock and return post haste to Germany.

Celebrations

After the War there were celebrations and the school was closed for "Victory in Japan" day and "Victory in Europe" day. Several homecoming events were organised and the Parish Church held a "Welcome Home Dinner" in the Edmonstone Hall on Wednesday 29th January 1947. That night Victory Trifle was served up and the Rev Frederick Kennedy, Parish Minister, who had been a Padre himself, during the war, addressed the meeting.

Ex Service Men/Women Dinner Dance Invitation

Much of the information in this leaflet came from an Oral History Evening that was held a number of years ago by the Heritage Society. Sadly, some of the people there that night have since died.

6 men from the parish fell in the Second World War -
James Callender Gnr RA
Andrew M Maclean Lt RNMR
Gilbert McKay P/O RNVR
Archibald MacNicol SPR RE
Richard NR Pedder Lieut Col HLI
Alexander Turnbull CH P/O RNVR

Gunner James Henry Callander (or Callender) was killed on 2nd October 1944
The war diary records the following -
Regiment moved towards "The Island" and came into action near Bemmel. (Gelderland). Single anti personnal bomb dropped on A.Trp position Gnr J.H.Callander 357 Battery killed. source: http://www.royalartilleryunitsnetherlands1944-1945.com/90-field-regiment.html He is buried in the Jonkerbos War Cemetery in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. source: http://www.royalartilleryunitsnetherlands1944-1945.com/roll-of-honour-61.html

More information on the War Memorial can be found on the The Scottish War Memorials Project website and more information about those who gave their lives can be found on Wakefield Family History website.

©Alison Dryden, Strathblane Heritage Society 2001 & Alan Campbell