Blantyre & The Clydebank Blitz


Blitz1Thank you to Wilma Bolton for sending in this very interesting and moving story.

The night of the 13th March 1941 was clear and frosty with a full moon and the German Luftwaffe took full advantage of the light provided by it. Within minutes of the air raid sirens sounding, the drone of the heavy bombers could be heard approaching.

To the bombers flying at an altitude of 9000 feet, the full moon was a gift for it shone on the waters of the Clyde Estuary, the river, canal and docks and the reflection made it easy for the bomb aimers to pinpoint the targets.

The first bombs were small—50 kg high explosive oil bombs and incendiaries to start fires for the main wave of bombers en route from bases all over occupied Europe.

Before the night was finished the Luftwaffe had dropped 1,600 containers of 1 kg incendiary bombs on Glasgow. Each container weighed 70-250 kg; a total of 105,300 bombs.

The Clydebank emergency control centre received a direct hit, so the emergency services were working without any controlled guidance. Such was the enormity of the damage that emergency services had to be brought in from all over the West of Scotland.

Blantyre sent ambulances, motor cars, and of course Blantyre Men who went willingly to help. Two local ambulance drivers belonging to Blantyre first-aid party were severely injured and were transferred to a Glasgow hospital.  Their names were James Paterson and Vincent McInernay.

A motor car belonging to a local Blantyre joiner, which had been on rescue work was destroyed, but his son who was in charge of it, escaped without injury.

Former Blantyre girl, Mrs Ethel Gillespie, daughter of Mr and Mrs William Park, 2 Forrest Street, Blantyre, was critically injured in the blitz and was brought home to her parent’s home where she died. Her husband was taken to hospital. A former Blantyre family Mr and Mrs Richard Davidson* were reported missing.

In Clydebank, 528 people died and 617 were injured that night. (An incredible number, putting the scale of the dead on home soil into perspective, 4 times as many people who died in the Paris atrocities of November 2015!)

Over 2 nights, 4,000 houses were completely destroyed, 4,500 severely damaged and 3,500 suffered serious to mild damage. Only seven houses out of a total of 12,000 remained intact. 43,000 refugees were sent all over Scotland. Ordinary men from all over the West of Scotland went that night to help the victims and among them were the men of Blantyre. 

On the 29th March 1941 the following death announcement appeared in the Hamilton Advertiser, confirming the German bombs did indeed reach and hit innocent civilians.

“DAVIDSON.—Killed by enemy action, on 13th March, 1941, Mr and Mrs Richard Davidson, newsagents (late of Blantyre).—Interred at Lambhill Cemetery.”

Attached is an actual photo from Clydebank taken the very next day on 14th March 1941. It shows the sheer devastation that occurred in the city the night before.

On social media:

Moyra Lindsay My mum came home on leave from the ATS that night and said she was passing the telephone box on Craig Street where the bowling is now and the sky was lit up and she could hear ‘ Big Bertha’ thudding away. I assume an anti aircraft gun. I think there was a stray bomb on Burbank that night.

Garry Lee Hi Moyra, yes you are correct a bomb landed roughly where William street is situated.

Moyra Lindsay Haha seldom wrong but right again as Don says!,

Trisha Mcginty So close 2 home 

Anne Ellis Did your family not come to Blantyre due to the Blitz or am I getting mixed up Paul

The Blantyre Project my mothers side have been in Blantyre since 1880s. My father came to Blantyre from Prague in 1969. Both my parents were post WW2 babies. wink emoticon

Anne Ellis Know what, am I getting mixed up with the McFarlanes ?

The Blantyre Project Anne Ellis Yes, i think Ronnie (my uncle) may have come from Clydebank way as a result of this. Now i’ll need to check that.

Kathy Grant Lost family in the bombing of Clydebank I never met them as was not born till 53 but sad times for Scotland eh.

Garry Lee Clydebank is one of the areas that I cover and you can see where the tenements used to be, there’s a lot of open space on Dumbarton road, I was also in the former house of Mr Beardmore who owned the Beardmore shipping. There was a bomb dropped and each house at ether side of Mr Beardmors were flattened but his survived.

Matthew McGuigan Here’s one from the inside looking out. I was born here in Singers building. The Singers clock tower survived though.

Matthew McGuigan's photo.
Alan Robert Webb My mother and grandparents lived at 50 Morris Crescent and a flare dropped into the road, a neighbour Mr McArthur put a bucket over it.

Anne Rae I am from Clydebank. Moved to Blantyre 7 years ago. This is fasinating. Thanks for posting this.

Maggie O’Brien My grandfather hughie gibson was in the ARP and was sent to clydebank Peter Obrien

Ann Crossar My grandparents took 2 refugees in from Clydebank and they became great friends – and stayed with them long after the war finished.

The Blantyre Project I’ve never thought about that before. It would be great to tell the stories of evacuees who came to Blantyre.

Debbie Miller Shortly after this my mums sister and brother were evacuated to Blantyre after this as the heightened risk to the steelworks in Hallside…Interestingly my mum and her other brother didn’t get moved, I’ve never quite understood that

Mary Crowe My Dads sister was bombed out, when he went down to Clydebank to find out what happened to the family he found them in a church hall, all ok

The Blantyre Project that must have been a day for counting blessings Mary!

Jean McIntosh There was a documentary on tv it told the story about the blitz in Clydebank. Although I knew about it being bombed I did not realise how bad it was. The story was not mentioned in news etc. It was all hushed up to hide it from the Germans. The familieSee More

Elizabeth Dobson Grieve was Blantyre bombed too?

The Blantyre Project Elizabeth – aside from reports of small fires and the nearby bomb that went off in Burnbank, I couldnt find any reports of Blantyre being bombed out (although there are myths existing about bomb craters at Blantyre Muir, Greenhall and Crossbasket, but these look likely to have been “bell pits” that looked like inverted bells where lime was quarried. Here’s one at Greenhall, which does look like a bomb crater.

The Blantyre Project's photo.
The Blantyre Project i think given our proximity to Glasgow, any aeroplane flying at altitude would have seen Glasgow itself as a far more, brighter and tempting target.

Duncan Slater My dad was in the ARP I remember that night when he came home in the morning he only had a blanket around him, his clothes had been blown off he also had a Mrs. Grey (a school teacher) her house was bombed he lived with us for about a month.
I remember Hughie Gibson he was in the first aid team with my dad

The Blantyre Project do you know where he was stationed Duncan? Those men working as ARPs were as brave as any on the frontlines, especially those who encountered bombing episodes.

Duncan Slater Yes they were stationed at the corner of Calder street and Victoria street, the building was also a medical centre, they had a hall in it that they held dances in also at the end a large air raid shelter. The team that my dad was in was a pit rescue teSee More

The Blantyre Project perhaps this little square part at the end of the medical centre? Great to know these ARP positions. I knew of some in Larkfield, High Blantyre and Glasgow Road, but this is a new one for me! Great wee snippet of history Duncan and appreciated.

Elizabeth Dobson Grieve Thanks Paul smile emoticon

Jim Mcknight Birkenshaw in Larkhall was reportedly built to house some of the people who had lost their homes in Clydebank.

Kay Logan Is there a list of people killed in this raid? My great uncle had mild form of dementia and used to go to Clydebank to ‘find’ relatives who were killed.


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  1. Many years after these terrible events, while on a ship between Australia and the UK, I met an elderly German who had been a former Luftwaffe aircrew member. When I told him I was from Glasgow, he cheerfully admitted he had taken part in the bombing raids on Clydebank/Glasgow in 1941. To my dismay, he seemed quite chuffed about this, almost bragging. Given half a chance, I would have thrown the old bastard overboard. Perhaps fortunately, that chance never came, but I was surprised by the strength of my reaction to his confession. I was only a toddler back in 1941 but I still recall the trauma of those raids with surprising clarity. To this day I can feel no compassion for the many Germans who later perished in the retaliatory airstrikes by the Allies. Just a pity he was not one of them.

  2. Ethel Gillespie was my Grandmother.

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