THE SECOND WORLD WAR

The Home Front (continued)

 

 
Netherdale House Troops

Charlie Anderson's memories:

The British troops who were based at Netherdale House were Seaforth Highlanders. They were there for two or three years before going to the Middle East. There were also some Norwegians after Dunkirk (and some Poles, who are not often mentioned). Officers lived in the house, other ranks were in a camp.

The Seaforths were well known in Foggie, as their band often entertained and the soldiers attended the dances which were held two or three nights a week in the Memorial Hall by the Red Cross and other groups as fundraisers. The dances were always packed out.

The Commercial Hotel, run at that time by Colin McRae, was virtually taken over by the Army for petrol supplies (a pipe still shows where the pump was).

One soldier, WOII R W Charters, was killed in a road accident on the Netherdale road and was buried at Marnoch, on the right soon after gate.
 


Commercial Hotel - old fuel pipe.


Warrant Officer Class 2 (CSM) R W Charters - Marnoch Kirkyard


The photograph below shows a football match involving soldiers from Netherdale. It was played in a field at Arkland because the usual pitch at the Market Park had been ploughed up to provide food for the war effort.


 

The head teacher’s log for Netherdale contains two entries relating to military matters:

5 Jun 1942 - On Tuesday afternoon the playground wall was damaged by an army lorry.
30 Sep 1943 [ie 15 months later!] - Masons began repairing the playground wall.

6 Oct 1943 – Two army officers visited the school today to enquire about a quantity of bullets taken from an ammunition dump by one of the pupils.

 

Evacuees

During 1938 the Government Evacuation Scheme divided Britain into zones, classified as either "evacuation", "neutral", or "reception", with priority evacuees to be moved from the major urban centres and billeted on the available private housing in more rural areas. In early 1939, the reception areas compiled lists of available housing.

In the summer of 1939, the government began publicizing its plan through the local authorities. Official evacuation was declared on 31 August, but began on 1 September, two days before the declaration of war.
 


Edinburgh evacuees 1939

As with air raid precautions, Aberchirder Town Council had little direct involvement in dealing with evacuees. The Council minute book does however contain these entries:

The minutes for June 1939 refer to the imminent arrival of about 100 evacuees from Edinburgh, including about 30 from Broughton Primary School – one of whom was Archie Bell, whose memoir is included below – who would be arriving at Glenbarry, having travelled by train from Aberdeen. There was concern the survey of households had revealed “that many householders were not suitable, on grounds of old age and infirmity”, to take evacuees.

In the event, as the Banffshire Journal for 5 September reported:

The burgh’s proportion of evacuated mothers and children detrained at Cornhill railway station. The numbers were considerably fewer than had been anticipated. Tea was provided at the higher grade school [what is now the Old School].

In September 1939, the Town Council set up an Evacuation Appeal Tribunal consisting of Provost Auchinachie, Cllr D R Gerrard (the banker) and Mrs A R Smith (wife of baker Auckland Smith, who was to be Provost from 1949 to 1962). Its job was to hear appeals from householders who had been selected to have evacuees billeted on them. In 1941 Cllr Gerrard and Mrs Smith resigned, being replaced by Mrs Grant (Southview), and Ex-Provost James Morison (Provost 1926-29) and Bailie John Jamieson also joined the group.

One of the major impacts of the evacuees was to be on local schools, but again the head teachers’ log books contain relatively little information:

All schools were closed in the first week of September to make arrangements to receive evacuees from Edinburgh. When they reopened the available records show numbers of evacuees as

School

Existing roll

Evacuees enrolled

Culvie

56

9

Marnoch

78

14

Netherdale

26

12

St Marnan’s Episcopal

18

1

(Unfortunately the log book for Aberchirder J S School has not survived.)

Almost immediately all schools in the area had to close again for a week because of an outbreak of diphtheria among the evacuees in Banff. Thereafter the new pupils seem not to have caused too much disruption to school life once they were equipped with books. However within six weeks of arrival many began to return home - by the end of the year 9 from Marnoch, 8 from Netherdale and the single one from the Episcopal School. (The number for Culvie was not recorded.)

A second wave of evacuees appears to have arrived in April 1941, when 4 “voluntary refugees” from Renfrew were enrolled at Marnoch, and the Episcopal School recorded the following year that one evacuee had left “having been removed from the district by the Glasgow Public Assistance Committee”.

Charlie Anderson remembers the evacuees coming to Aberchirder:

About twenty or more evacuees arrived on 7 September 1939, just after the war began. They were mostly from Edinburgh. I think the ARP may have drawn up lists of possible accommodation.

Some were very poorly clad, and ladies in the village provided them with better clothing.

Most went to the Junior Secondary School, a few younger ones to the Episcopal School. By and large the local children (and adults) and evacuees got on fine, and each were interested to compare the differences between city and country life.

Most of the evacuees went home quite soon, although a few stayed longer, perhaps because their mothers didn’t want them back or felt they’d be better off in Foggie?

 

Evacuee Memories

One evacuee to Aberchirder, Archie Bell, tells of his experiences here in a reminiscence published by the BBC on 'WW2 People's War’. He lived in Edinburgh and was aged 6 when war broke out. In the early days was evacuated to various places in East Lothian, then he and his fellow children were sent to what was thought to be a safer place further away from Edinburgh.

This is an extract from Archie Bell’s article in the BBC archive ‘WW2 People’s War’. For the whole article visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/00/a2073700.shtml

I don’t remember the exact dates but it was in 1940 we were assembled along with what seemed like hundreds of other school children in the Waverley Station ready to embark on another journey into the unknown, we had our gas masks and some haversack rations (sandwiches, apples, etc.), when the train finally pulled out of the station there were quite a few tears I can tell you. This time we were headed for the granite city of Aberdeen, on arrival there we were taken to various restaurants for a hot meal, I remember it being my first sight of an electric trolley-bus in this strange city. Once fed and watered we were loaded onto buses to take us on our final journey to a place called Aberchirder, pronounced (Aberhirder) or as the locals called it, (Foggy-Loan), where we were assembled once more in the local school to await distribution to the various houses in which we were destined to live for the “duration of the war”, aarrgh !
[Note that Archie’s recollection of travelling by bus does not match the newspaper account of the evacuees arriving by train.]

At first my brother [Ronnie] and I were split up which was a bit worrying, but fortunately some official put it right and we were soon re-united at the home of an elderly couple, Mr.and Mrs. Gibb.

[Alex Gibb, an army pensioner from World War One, lived at 54 South Street – now 61 Southview Terrace - which was one of the council houses built in the late 1930s. Charlie Anderson recalls they had sons who served in the armed forces, including Alex who was lost at Singapore.]

The villagers were so excited that they took their respective evacuees in hand round the village showing off their new “Loonies and Quinies”,…(boys and girls) in local Aberchirdian lingo.


Alex Gibb’s house, with the former Aberchirder J S School in the background

Life was a totally new experience for us up there in Foggy-Loan, we had only been there a few nights when at supper time it was so quiet with only the big clock on the wall going tick — tock — tick — tock,…I took a fit of the giggles at the supper table and when eventually I couldn’t control it - - - -whack !! old Mr. Gibb gave me a clout on my head and sent me upstairs to bed without supper,…he must have thought that I was laughing at him. After a while Ronnie came up to the bedroom with some buns in his pocket for me, so I didn’t starve that night! (brotherly-love).

During the next week or so we explored the surrounding country-side to discover such delights as hazelnuts and blaeberries which we picked in their hundreds on Blaeberry Hill as it was called,…we always came down from Blaeberry Hill with our faces and hands purple/blue from eating so many berries. During the summer days we would see and hear such a variety of birds but the ones I always remember most were the yellow-hammer and sky-lark. Sometimes in the early evening we might see an owl and later still we would see the bats,…dozens of them.

It was late one night just as I was about to go to bed when I saw another kind of bird,…one I never expected to see,…a big black German aeroplane which I thought was a bomber but it could also have been a night reconnaissance plane, anyhow it was so low I could plainly see the iron cross on the underside of the wing and on the fuselage,…my second encounter with the enemy!

Some of the evacuees got so homesick (I remember the feeling) they tried to run away, some got as far as Aberdeen railway station but were picked up and brought back, I remember my Dad coming to visit us, I thought he was coming to take us home but he was just visiting and brought us both a pair of football boots each, which kept us busy in a nearby field for a day or two, another new experience was rabbit hunting, we bought some copper wire and made wooden staves with which to make snares for catching rabbits,…I wasn’t very successful I’m glad to say.

There was a lot of military troop activity in and around Aberchirder (Highland Division) and Norwegian soldiers, we used to help with the war effort up there too by helping to fill one gallon petrol cans which were loaded on the back of 15cwt. Trucks,… looking back now I can see it was a dangerous and irresponsible job to give young school children like us but we were all too keen to help. I was unfortunate enough to be helping to stack the full cans on the back of the truck when one of my classmates, (Leonard Wells I think, where are you now?) happened to be holding the nozzle of the pump too close to the neck of the can and the other boy who was keenly pumping the hand petrol pump didn’t stop pumping in time,…the result being a spray of petrol coming from the neck of the can right into my eyes,…well I was howling, I thought I was blinded, as it happens I couldn’t open my eyes for an hour or two,…I was taken back to Mrs.Gibb who was a kind and gentle lady and she nursed me back to near normality by gently rubbing my eyes with believe it or not, petroleum jelly (vaseline) however it seemed to relieve the pain and anguish and after an hour or so of sleep I was able to go and see some of the Festival Parade which was taking place that very afternoon.

Eventually I think we all got a bit fed-up and homesick, so we managed somehow to persuade our parents to bring us home.


A VOLUNTARY EVACUATION TO ABERCHIRDER

In 2012, John Joseph Macfarlane of Weston-super-Mare, remembered his experiences in Aberchirder in World War Two:

My mother Margaret Clark Johnstone was born and raised in South Street, Foggie with several siblings who mostly moved away to seek their fortunes elsewhere. During World War II while my father was abroad fighting for King and Country my mother, sister, brother and I decided to dodge bombing raids on Portsmouth Docks and move up to Foggieloan to live with my grandmother, Mrs Elizabeth Johnstone who lived in a flat at 5 Main Street.


Mrs Elizabeth Johnstone outside the flats at 5 Main Street, 1946
 


John aged 11 with sister Kathleen,
brother Alex and mother Meg, in Foggie.

I went to the village school where Mr John Gregor was then headmaster, and I remember Miss Waddell who taught me for a while. I attended Sunday school at the Marnoch parish hall in Main Street and also the Boy Scouts, which were run by the Minister at the Free Church, and at a hall in North Street. To add to the fun I also sang in the choir at the Anglican Church at the top end of Main Street, opposite where I lived with Granny.

Sandy Michie, who lived with his family in a wee cottage in School Lane, was my uncle. He was a lovely man, Burgh Scaffie among other things, and I used to spend many happy hours in his company during school holidays. He taught me to tie knots and lashings, and how to splice ropes, which all came in handy with the Scouts. He also taught me to make a whistle from a rowan tree branch.
I remember the extra two weeks holiday we had from school for tattie picking. Great fun, though back breaking work and the shilling an hour wages were well earned.
I recall in the winter time the kids made a slide down the middle of Main Street from the Square down to the school, and sledging from South Street then into the fields and trudging back up, tired out but happy. I imagine to-day’s children still do the exact same thing.
My memories also include snaring rabbits for a bit of pocket money, guddling for trout in the burn, and skinny dipping in the same burn in the summertime. But the most fun must have been riding the Shetland ponies someone (I believe it was McIintosh of Forgue) very kindly kept on the peat moss out on the Cornhill Road. Wild as the hills they were, but ridden bareback hanging on like grim death to their manes, or a rope halter we had fashioned ourselves. Wonderful!!

Regarding the Hampden Bomber which crashed on the edge of the village, I can add to the information. The injured aircrew were taken to Granny's flat where they were tended to and made comfortable while waiting for the ambulance to take them to Aberdeen. We had two District Nurses who lived in the flat upstairs from Granny, and they may have helped to look after the injured. I believe that one of the airmen had broken his back.
I only ever saw one other incident with an aircraft, which took place during a Scout trek to Knock Hill.
We had trekked up the hill towing a a handcart with food and drink for the day and were standing on the summit when an American Flying Fortress flew by, very badly damaged and with only two engines running. It was about on a level with us, so not very high up, and what was left of the crew waved to us on the way by. I would think they were heading to Lossiemouth as they were going in that direction.

We lived in Aberchirder for the duration of the war until we joined my father in Germany where he was stationed with the Royal Engineers as part of B.A.O.R. (British Army of the Rhine) in 1946.
 


The McFarlane family in Army H.Q. Hameln, 1946.  L to R: Alex, John, J A McFarlane, Meg (nee Johnstone), Kathleen.
 
I had a wonderful few childhood years in Foggieloan which I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.


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