The following is a personal account of the Clydebank Blitz, very kindly provided by Margaret Barton, published with the permission of her son, John Barton.
Blitz, Thursday & Friday 13th & 14th March
It was a
beautiful moonlight night that Thursday evening, so
clear & able to see for miles, what a change from
stumbling about in the blackout, when there was no moon
to light up the sky. We know of course that it was
likely to bring the German planes over, but it happened
so often we got to the stage we took it all in our
stride and carried on.
As usual on a Thursday I went to Elgin St. School to my
First Aif Class, because by now I had joined the A.R.P.
Most of the class were there & while we waited for
our duty doctor to arrive that evening, some of us
played table tennis, others cards or darts, our usual
routine. Eventually Doctor Garret arrived (he was
Medical Officer of Health for Clydebank), we all went
into the classroom. It would be about 8:15 and the
Doctor said he would only lecture us for an hour that
evening as he was out on his feet owing to having been
out at a confinement all night.
Just as our lecture was nearly over, sirens sounds at 9
o'clock. Well we all had to go to our posts, men to
their ambulances, women to their posts, this was our
usual routine when warnings sounded. I decided seeing
it was quiet to risk runing home as we lived on about
five minutes walk from the school. I wanted to make
sure my mum and my twin brother were preparing to go to
the shelters. Our tenement close in North Bank St. had
been shored up and there were baffle walls &
sandbags outside the entrance. When I saw they were
preparing to go downstairs I said cheerio and set off
to the school again.
On the way I met my Dad, who was in the Police War
Reserve and he told me to hurry on and take care. I
started to turn and was just near the entrance to the
post, then the first incendiary bombs came down
lighting up the streets even more in the moonlight.
By this time the sound of the planes was very
frightening. and then the first bomb whistled down.
Shop & house windows all exploded out onto the
streets. I could not believe this was really happening.
ACK ACK guns were going off and searchlights were
flashing over the sky.
When I got into my post it was chaos, as none of us
could believe it actually was happening, the time was
9:15. Our first casualty that night was an elderly
gentleman who had been out walking his dog. He was
walking past the shops as windows shattered and his
neck & back was embedded in glass.
As we watched, I remember thinking we have had Mock Air
Raid practices to teach us how to cope, but now this is
Then all Hell broke loose...
Casualties were being brought in and the reports from
our Ambulance men & dispatch riders was not good.
The noise of the planes coming in, shutting off their
engines then seconds later the whistling of the bombs
was terrifying. There was a land mine fell in Napier
St. just alongside our School, the whole side of our
post blew in. By this time we were all trying our best
to attend to casualties it was now 10:30, we had no
water or electricity as mains had all been damaged. We
worked with storm lamps to try to see their injuries.
I can remember every time we heard the whistle of the
bombs, five of us women were in the drill hall by that
time, attending to stretcher patients and we ran to the
big tennis table & stuck our heads under for
protection, it was ludicrous.
Doctor Garret came over to me and said, "Margaret, as
you are one of our youngest volunteer workers, take
this baby & go sit under that tennis table". The
baby would only be about 10 minutes old, someone gave
me a grey blanket that we used for the stretchers, and
I wrapped that little baby in it, then sat huddled
under that table terrified but still trying to protect
By this time the drill hall was like a battlefield,
packed with people, some screaming in pain, some dead,
it was sheer Hell, but this was early yet we did not
realise the situation was going to get worse and carry
on until 6:15 the next morning.
At about 2:30am I was still sitting under that table,
cramped and sore when one of our women first aid
workers crawled over to me and said the Salvation Army
had arrived & were trying their best to give us
tea. She took the baby from me and sat under the table,
and I crawled along that drill hall looking at the dead
& the wounded.
I managed to get a mug of tea which was like nectar to
me. Back I went in to the school to work the best I
could along with my colleagues, it was absolutely
pitiful, we had so little water that we actually had
only small basins of water to work with. One of our
drivers told us that he had been told 3 of the other
First Aid posts had direct hits, and we were the only
one in our area active. Dead bodies by this time were
being taken into classrooms and we were all trying our
best to attend to the injured as quickly as possible
& then they would be transferred by ambulances to
During a slight lull I remember thinking how is my
friend doing with that little baby in all this turmoil,
so I cralwed back along the drill hall to the table
& to my horror discovered that my friend had been
wounded in the leg by shrapnel (she lost her leg
because of that) but had saved the baby. My thoughts
then were, "that could have been me as I had sat in
that same spot for over 4 hours".
All this time the planes were still coming in & the
whistling of the bombs was never ending. None of us by
this time could think or say we were afraid as I think
we were all too numb with what we were seeing and
epxeriencing. My thoughts kept saying to myself, "how
are my folks, my Mum and Dad, my brother, are they
alive or dead?" We all knew that outside our Post,
Clydebank was going to be in ruins.
Our post was also close to the Rothesat docks & I
can remember the noise of the Ack Ack guns from the
boats there, One ships' cargo was rubber & she was
on fire which caused thick black smoke over us &
many was the time I think that was the reason we did
not get a direct hit, it protected us in a pitiful way.
I could go on & on, with the horrors we witnessed
& endured, but it would make no difference to my
story, it just seemed to never end. When the all clear
went that Friday morning at 6:15am, we could not
believe they were gone & we were still alive, then
that naggning feeling, were my folks and friends the
We came out of that post, tired & dirty to see our
town. I will never forget it. None of us could realise
where we were as buildings & landmarks we had known
all our lives were no longer there, only devastation,
rubble, smoke & fires everywhere.
Before I went back into the post, I made up my mind, I
must try & find out if my family were alright. As
though it were yesterday I can remember running through
that holocaust to where my home had been & meeting
my mum & brother who were on their way to find out
about me. We cried hysterically in each others arms,
then a hundred questions : "were they alright? was Dad
alright? our friends & neighbours?"
Tired & weary we stood there looking at the
devastation & thinking what happens now, where do
we go from here? Mum had been told that Dad was OK se
we were all very lucky, considering that we had all
been in different areas. Knowing that we were all safe,
I went back to my Post which was a wreck by now.
Doctors, Nurses, Ambulance men & women, A.R.P.
workers & the Clergy worked side by side. I can
remember lorries coming in to the side of our post
& we spent two hours at least carrying the dead
bodies. It was pitiful to see the bodies being tipped
onto the lorries, one thing will always stick in my
mind, young & old all looked alike as everyone
seemed to be whitehaired & covered in dust.
By this time soup kitchens had been put up at the Town
Hall & chruches that were left standing. We were so
grateful to these kind people who came to help us in
our plight & yet endangering their own lives as
there was unexploded bombs & fires still burning
The Military had arrived by this time & there were
soldiers standing in the streets with fixed bayonets to
stop the looting. It was hard to believe that some
people could stoop so low. I can remember that morning
a solitary German plane coming over, possibly a
reconnaissance taking pictures of destruction &
leaving a vapour trail shaped like the Swastika over
our town. What did it mean we who saw it asked each
other, was it a sign they were coming back or just
trying to boast of their victory.
Looking around we thought "no, it is impossible, there
is nothing left for them to destroy", but we were
wrong, back they came, same time Friday night & it
went on for another nine hours. If we were in a plight
before, it was a hundred times worse now, no water to
drink, nothing to eat & oh so very, very tired.
There were vans coming to pick up the homeless and
evacuate them to safe areas. All you could see were
folks with tied bundles of clothes or some precious
items they had managed to save.
My Dad, Mum, brother & I walked to the Renfrew
Ferry to get over to Paisley, as we intended going to
my Grandmothers Farm in Lochwinnoch, where my brother
& I had been born. During our journey it was
unbelievable what we saw, there were people coming over
to gawp and stare at us & to see the ruins of once
a fine town, how can anyone be as thoughtless to want
to see all this after what we all in Clydebank had gone
through. Anyhow, eventually we got down to the farm
& oh what a welcome we got - tears, hugs, kisses,
the lot. My grandmother had a huge boilerhouse for the
milking utensils & she filled those boilders up
with water to bild, so we could all have baths. After
that a wonderful feed in her cosy kitchen, it was
bliss, then all of us off to bed. We slept a full round
of the clock until Sunday afternoon.
Recalling these horrendous nights I still think that
the German pilots made a very big error in their
attack. You see, on such a clear moonlight night they
mistook the boulevard for the canal & the canal for
the Clyde where all out shipbuilding yards stood. With
concentrating on that area, Singers timber yard was
ablaze & all the houses up the hill in Kilbowie
Road, that was nicknamed the "Holy City" owing to the
way it was built. They were the ones who suffered most
as I don't think there were many houses left standing
& hundreds perished, although the centre of
Clydebank was still in ruins after the second attack. I
sincerely hope & pray never in my lifetime to
witness & endure such sorrow & grief.
Margaret Barton (nee Gillies) North Bank St. Clydebank
Why not discuss this fantastic recollection in
As I'm not suitably qualified to comment on actual
experiences during the Blitz (I was only born in 1970!)
I would love to hear any stories, anecdotes, or even
vivid memories and experiences that anyone may