14th March 1941

Clydebank suffers aerial attack

Scotland, particularly around the Clyde, was an important source of shipping and munitions during the Second World War. Thus, on the nights of 13 and 14 March 1941, German forces attempted to stall Allied progress by mounting a blitzkrieg raid on Clydebank.

More than 1000 people were injured, more than 500 were killed (some sources claim a lot more) and thousands were made homeless when the Luftwaffe dropped 272 tonnes of bombs on the town. Although the primary targets were the shipyard and Singer sewing machine factory, the close proximity of housing to the industrial areas would have contributed to the destruction and heavy loss of life.

Temporary accommodation

The homeless were put into temporary rest shelters and, according to a report in The Scotsman of 21 March, the Corporation of Glasgow had “received permission to requisition houses of eight rooms and over” to accommodate them when they left the shelters. By then, a relief fund had been accepting public donations for three days and already exceeded £10,000 – of a £50,000 target – from which £250 had already been granted for the purchase of furniture and bedding.

Understandably, given wartime reporting restrictions, news of the raid wasn’t exactly splashed across the papers. The Derry Journal reported on 19 March that 500 had been killed in the raid, and an equal number killed in Liverpool, following an official announcement the previous day. Two days earlier, news had emerged, in the Lancashire Evening Post and dozens of other papers, that the chief Salvation Army officer for Clydebank had been killed, making him the seventh such officer killed in raids over the previous three months.

Tales of heroism

Over the next several weeks, tales of heroism emerged, including of ambulance attendant Mary Haldane who received an OBE after the ambulance she was in was blown on its side by the force of a blast. Keeping her head, she rescued the still living and took them to a shelter for treatment. Another recipient of the OBE was ambulance driver Hugh Campbell. The Belfast Telegraph reported on 4 April that “when his ambulance was wrecked by a bomb and two patients [were] killed, [he] clambered out, went on foot through a heavy bombardment to the depot three quarters of a mile away and got another ambulance, loaded the remaining cases into it and took them to a hospital”.

James Craig, of the Clydebank Air Raid Precautions rescue party, “was on duty almost continuously for 72 hours,” reported the Dundee Courier of 5 April. “At one demolished tenement a young woman was trapped in the basement. Craig tunnelled through the debris, although fire twice broke out, jacked up joists, and after working continuously for nine hours rescued the woman alive.”



Other events that occured in March

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