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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

World War II

107. The Clydebank Blitz, March 1941 (2)

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1James A. G. Hastings, Depute Town Clerk of Clydebank, was closely involved with ARP (Air Raid Precautions) organisation in Clydebank. At the time of the Blitz, he shared the duties of ARP Controller for the burgh with two other senior officials (also see general introduction to World War II, p. 313, and introduction to text 106).

2James Hastings in Billy Kay (ed.), The Complete Odyssey: Voices from Scotland’s Recent Past, Edinburgh: Polygon, 1996, p. 119-121.

“We had, let’s say, about 300 or 400 [incidents]—and we only had about ten rescue teams, perhaps ten fire appliances, half a dozen or more ambulances—first aid parties, perhaps another ten or so – that we just couldn’t cope, and why I say that the thing was chaotic outside was that they had all been sent out and there was nothing more we could do until reinforcements came in from outside. The telephones went—we were dependent on runners. And these were just young lads, they weren’t supposed to operate while a raid was in progress; in any event, instead of perhaps twenty or thirty of them reporting, there was only a few reported because, quite naturally, when their houses had been bombed and there was a chance of more aircraft coming over–their parents weren’t going to let them out of the shelters to go through a raid to come down and work with us. So communication was just absolutely hopeless. There were fires all over the place, you see, hot ashes from domestic fires got in among the debris from a building, this set it alight. Sometimes the explosion itself had fractured a gas main and set the gas mains alight. My impression was that the whole town was on fire and very little was being done about it. But it transpired that what had happened was the fire engines had run out of petrol—there were only two pumps left in the whole town that weren’t damaged. They couldn’t get petrol, they’d been hauling the hoses, the wet hoses over debris that included a lot of glass and nails and sharp edges, a lot of their hoses were torn to bits. We found another thing and that was that a lot of the equipment that came in from other areas to help us out, their appliances couldn’t be coupled up to our mains because there was no standardisation of mains outlets and fire hydrants in Scotland. So quite a lot of them were standing about doing absolutely nothing. They just could not operate.”

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

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