"Edinburgh at War"
1939 - 1945
Thank you to George Smith, British Columbia, Canada, formerly Edinburgh,
for the following fascinating collection of memories of Edinburgh at War.
George describes these as "Random recollections from Edinburgh".
"September 1939: intense aerial activity on a
sunny day. Everything that could fly seemed to be in the air against
threat of the first air raid of the war. Most activity around Forth
bridge and Rosyth."
"Police boxes with sirens atop; the scary sound of
the warning signal."
"Schools closed but ‘group teaching'
homes by a visiting teacher; this did not last long and schools
re-opened early in 1940 Brick built air raid shelters in the playground
"Having lunch in a ‘British Restaurant’ in a
converted church opposite Fountainbridge Brewery.
This was also a
central kitchen for school dinners.
"Hearing news of the D-Day landings at school and
commemorating this by all the class signing the Black out screens
around the windows of a classroom"
"Slateford school utilised as an AFS (Auxiliary
Fire Service) station"
"Hearing ammunition exploding in a crashed RAF
bomber which fell at the canal side near the footbridge at the south end
of Alan Park Road."
"Cycling to Turnhouse to watch planes land and
take off. The road from Maybury to Kirkliston was blocked by a military
barrier at Turnhouse. Aircraft seen Hurricanes, Spitfires and bright
yellow training aircraft and the odd Anson."
"Huddling in an Anderson shelter and seeing an
aircraft on fire in the night sky somewhere over Kirknewton; believed to
be German aircraft on its way to or from Clydebank."
"Barrage balloons around the Forth bridge and the
spectacle of some of them falling in flames having been struck by
lightning one evening."
"A pill box - a brick built strong point -
camouflaged by painting it to look like a small shop. This was situated
opposite the main entrance to Saughton Park and commanded Gorgie Road
and Balgreen Road junction."
Comment from Ken Smith
I'm pleased that
George included his pill box recollections above. The comment
was read by Ken Smith, formerly of Whitson, Edinburgh who emigrated
to Calgary, Alberta, aged 17 in 1948. Before finding the
comment above, Ken wrote:
"I seem to recall a "pill box" which was
located at the corner of Balgreen Road and Gorgie Road. It was
only there for a short time(1939 or 1940) when invasion was
It sticks in my mind because when you
walked west on Gorgie Road at the bend by the Roxy Cinema and looked
up Gorgie Road, you would see what appeared to be a group of shops
at the corner of Balgreen Road at the entrance to the gates of
When you were close to it you realised
it was an artist's impression in third dimension. To my memory
it pictured shops, windows, people and even a door which appeared to
be open as someone entered."
Ken was concerned that none of his classmates from Balgreen
School (1935-42) that he had spoken to remembered the pill box, and
"Is this the figment of an old man's
imagination or do you have anything in your files which could put
this matter to rest?"
Ken emailed me a couple of hours later after finding George's
note on the pillbox (above), saying:
"You must see how elated I was when I
received vindication that this was not some old man's hallucination
Ken Smith, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: January 2005"
Further comments from
"The big Red Cross on the roof of SW barrack
block/ Hospital of the Castle."
"Timber poles in open areas like Meggetland to
prevent glider landings."
"Concrete ‘dragons teeth’ on the beaches; barrier
between Cramond and Cramond Island."
"Emergency sluices on the Union Canal at
(Prince Charlie’s ) bridge and on the aqueduct over the Water of Leith
in order to retain the water in the event of the bridge being damaged by
sluices were earthworks which narrowed the canal at the bridges and had
sliding wooden doors which would no doubt have been slid into place by
the Home Guard in the event of the bridges being breached.
"The Polish Army gave us kids a concert in the
Palladium Theatre and we were all presented with a Polish Eagle lapel
pin which we wore with pride 'till we lost them. The eagles were
made of lead."