"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".

George remembers:

Air Raids

"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' in private 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 (Craiglockhart Primary)."
"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"

Planes and Barrage Balloons

"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."

Pill Box

"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:

Pill Box

"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 imminent.

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 Saughton park.

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 asked:

"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 after all!"

Ken Smith, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: January 2005"



Further comments from George Smith

Other Buildings

"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."

River Forth

Sunset over Silverknowes Beach, Edinburgh ©

"Concrete ‘dragons teeth’ on the beaches; barrier between Cramond and Cramond Island."

Union Canal

"Emergency sluices on the Union Canal at Slateford (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 bombing.
The emergency 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."


Recollections  -  Edinburgh at War


Recollections  -  More Pages

Recollections  -   Contributors