the time the Allies allowed Adolf Hitler to occupy the
Rhineland unopposed in 1936, it became increasingly
likely that he would embark on a policy of taking back
the land lost by Germany at the Treaty of Versailles. By
1938 it also looked likely that Neville Chamberlain’s
policy of appeasement would not stop Hitler and indeed,
after his invasion of Poland in September 1939, Britain
declared war on Germany. The Second World War, which
would last until 1945, had begun and was to involve the
whole civilian population as well as the military.
article is not in any way an attempt at a complete
account of how Aberchirder was affected by World War
Two. It is simply a collection of some aspects, based on
reminiscences given by Charlie Anderson, Jack Stewart
and others, together with information taken from school
logs and the minutes of the Town Council, the Press &
Journal, Banffshire Journal and various websites.
sure there are plenty more stories to be told – so
please pass them on!
section on the military experiences of local people is
also needed, but we have not so far obtained any
reminiscences and few of those involved survive. However
we include at the end of this account, pictures and
details of the war memorials at New Marnoch Church, Old
Marnoch Church and Culvie School.
Air Raid Precautions
In 1937 the Government had arranged for Air Raid Patrols
in the event of war and a year later as war looked
increasingly likely Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
ordered that ARP volunteers should be mobilised. In
large towns and cities shelters were provided – Anderson
shelters for people’s private gardens, and larger
concrete shelters in gardens of tenement, flatted
properties and parks. In country areas there was less
danger of mass bombing.
Charlie Anderson remembers the air raid precautions
In Aberchirder there was a concrete lookout post on
Cleanhill which still exists.
It was used by the RAF Observer Corps, the Home Guard
Part 2 of this article]
and mainly the ARP whose members, Jack Stewart recalls,
included Neil Wilson (minister of New Marnoch Church,
Bob Wilson the Registrar and Leslie Macrae, the school
janitor. The ARP was also responsible for filling
sandbags, enforcing the blackout and fire-fighting.
Over the years local people have told of Indian soldiers
being seen on Cleanhill. They were probably the group
who were based at a camp near Knock Distillery - where
they performed horse displays as entertainment –
carrying out night exercises in the Cleanhill woods.
The siren to warn of air raids was initially on the
chimney of the police station
operated by the local police constable. Later it was
moved to the old fire station - now the Council shed in
School Lane - but it seldom went off because planes
didn’t appear within range.
Former Police Station
Former Fire Station
Example of Bicycle
There were two air raid shelters (not underground)
at the JS School – one in the boys’ playground, one
in the girls’.
To conform with the blackout, bicycles had special
lamps, and posties had lamps that clipped onto their
jackets. Houses had blackout curtains and most had
blackout frames made by local joiners, which had to
be put up and taken down. It is important to
remember most houses didn’t have electric light,
just paraffin lamps, so there was no bright light to
Gas masks were issued before war broke out, and all
children had to carry them to school – if not, they
were sent home to get them. They were fitted at the
house and checked at school. They were carried every
day 'till the middle of the war, around 1943, when
the threat of air raids was obviously much reduced.
August 1939 the Banffshire Journal report for Marnoch
“busy scenes were witnessed at all the
parochial schools on Sunday [27th] when
during the afternoon and evening, distribution of
respirators took place. Reports show that the public
attended in goodly numbers.”
Typical Gas Mask
books kept by school head teachers give a few glimpses
of air raid precautions in action:
In 1940, school opening was delayed from 30 August to 1
October to allow school windows to be fitted with wire
netting as protection against glass splinters, and at
Culvie School, Room 1 and the cloakroom were selected as
refuge rooms in the event of air raids.
Sirens sounded air raid warnings on three occasions in
February and once in March 1941, when the Marnoch pupils
went into the shelter. Further air raid warnings were
recorded in December 1942, March and May 1943.
Gas mask drill was being carried out daily at the
Episcopal School in September 1939. Checking and
repairing of the masks seems to have been undertaken by
PC Stephen once a year until 1943.
Town Council does not seem to have played much part in
air raid precautions, which were organised by central
government. The only references in the Council minutes
August 1940 – Council to provide each household with one
pail of sand for fire fighting in an air raid.
June 1941 – Council agreed to arrange ten parties for
fire fighting, consisting of five or six persons, for
all districts of the burgh. An inventory of equipment
was drawn up and a meeting held with the [air raid]
December 1942 – Burgh workman Mr Michie was instructed
to paint white lines on kerbs and “cable poles” to help
pedestrians during the blackout.
The Night A Bomber Came
the Second World War in Aberchirder is a topic of
conversation, one story that often crops up is of the
day a bomb fell near the village.
facts are rather different, as an article by David
Morgan in the Press & Journal of 13 August 1974
Early one September morning in 1941, the noise of a
plane crashing in the corner of the field beside the
Bronchal Well had local people rushing to the scene, but
they were soon moved away to a distance by members of
the Home Guard and ARP. The plane was a British one from
No.5 Bomber Group, stationed at Scampton in
Lincolnshire. It had flown to Kinloss from where a raid
was mounted on the battleship Tirpitz in the Baltic.
Having dropped its load of mines on the target the
aircraft was returning home, flat out at 125 mph, but
while crossing the coast near Peterhead its fuel ran
out. As a result, the port engine stopped and the pilot
trimmed the Hampden to fly on its remaining engine, but
this soon stopped as well, putting the plane into a spin
from 2000 feet.
Hampden (Medium) Bomber
Hugh Leslie Sanderson, the navigator, returned from
Australia in 1974 to visit the scene of the crash and
recalled how lucky the crew of four – pilot, navigator,
gunner and bomb aimer – were as the plane descended
quite slowly before creating a scene of devastation just
100 feet from the village.
Mr Sanderson, the only casualty, suffered multiple arm
fractures, a fractured spine and a foot injury. When he
came to he was treated initially by Jimmy Milne from
Marnoch, who was bearing whisky, and then by other local
people, before being taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
for expert medical treatment which allowed him
eventually to return to his squadron.
During his visit to Aberchirder, Mr Sanderson met Mary
Harris, then of 33 Main Street, and together they
revisited the site of the crash. Mrs Harris presented
him with a ring made from part of the shattered Perspex
canopy of the aircraft, by Italian prisoners of war at
would take a small piece of perspex, bore a hole in it
with a red-hot poker, laboriously rub down all round the
hole, then polish it with something like Brasso to give
it a shine.)
Site of the plane crash
souvenir of the event which survives in Aberchirder
today is a blouse belonging to Jessie Barron, who made
it from parachute material rescued from the wreck.
Liz Ironside modelling
the 'parachute' blouse
Mr Sanderson (navigator) and Mary Harris
(Photo courtesy Bodie’s of Banff)
When The Earth Shook In
Hay contributed a copy of an article from the Northern
Scot Christmas Number for 1981 which tells the strange
story of how the effects of the Clydebank Blitz were
felt – literally – in Aberchirder.
father Alex Hay (‘Bussie’) was involved in driving a
survivor of the first of three nights of the Clydebank
Blitz, with a few remaining belongings, to her sister’s
at Pluscarden. On the following night - 15 March - he
was visiting Aberchirder with his fiancée
when the air raid sirens went off. They felt tremors
under their feet and his fiancée explained that exactly
the same tremors had occurred two nights before on the
first night of the Clydebank Blitz.
aircraft observer confirmed at the time that tremors had
been felt at the observation post on Cleanhill.
seems that some geological feature caused the vibrations
made by exploding bombs and land mines to be conducted
from the Clyde to Aberchirder.
Part 1 - Continue to 2/3
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