On Sunday 18th January 2015, I was visited by George Park and his elderly mother and her sister at my home in High Blantyre. We shared a great afternoon where I was intrigued by some of the stories and tales they were able to tell me. George’s mother is in her 90s and originally from Blantyre, so it was my turn to listen and take in some history. Her sister, Sheila also had several great stories. I sat captivated by tales of Barnill, Kirkton and the High Blantyre area where my family lived in. One such short story is as follows which involved a wartime ARP warden.
Sheila told me that during mid WW2 directly across from Danskin’s shop at the corner of Broompark Road and Stonefield Road (at the crossroads) sat a wartime raid shelter. This only existed during the wartime years and was manned at any one evening by the on duty ARP warden.
Air Raid wardens or ARP wardens had the task of patrolling the streets during blackout, to ensure that no light was visible. Darkness throughout cities and towns was necessary to avoid the attention of German bombers. If a light was spotted, the warden would alert the person responsible by shouting something like “Put that light out!” or “Cover that window!”. They could report persistent offenders to the local police.
One dark evening, the Blantyre ARP warden was out on his patrols of High Blantyre and nearing the end of his shift, saw a light coming from one of the windows nearby. He recognised the silhouette of Danskin’s shop, which at the time was a tailors belonging to my family. With no street lights or light elsewhere he proceeded over to the property using only his little torch, which had a cardboard tube over the end of it to minimise the beam. However, when he got up close to the source of the light, he found himself standing at Danskin’s shop window staring at his own reflection and the torch beam reflected in the glass. Feeling foolish, he was allegedly teased for this by the other ARP wardens, for a long time after!
There were around 1.4 million ARP wardens in Britain during the war, almost all unpaid part-time volunteers who also held day-time jobs. The photo accompanying this story has been photoshopped by myself to illustrate the tale using a daytime photo of the actual shop in that time period. I’ve recreated a WW2 night-time scene complete with ARP warden and blackout tape on the windows. Thanks to Sheila for telling this story, which made me smile.
On social media, Thomas Hamilton Hailes told me, “My dad, a Blantyre man, was an ARP man too but spent some time helping out in Glasgow after the bombings there. Some of the stories he had to tell of the aftermath of those bombings were horrific. I had his ARP helmet for years as a child and felt quite proud that it was my dad’s own.”
and Caroline Lee added, “My Papa Boyle was a warden in Blantyre”