Last weekend, we were honoured to attend the commemoration services for those unfortunate people, mainly civilians, who were casualties of the Clydebank Blitz, which took place during the nights of 13/14 March and 14/15 March 1941.
The Luftwaffe bombers raided Clydeside and inflicted casualties in several industrial centres. Glasgow suffered the highest number of fatalities (about 650), but in proportion to its population of about 50,000, the burgh of Clydebank suffered the worst.
According to an official count in 1942, the Clydebank raids killed 528 people and seriously injured 617, compared to totals of 1,200 people, and 1,100 in the whole of Clydeside.
The main targets in Clydebank were the armaments factory in the Singer Sering Maching works, John Brown & Company’s shipyard, and Beadmore’s engine works. The bombs inflicted limited damage on the industrial area, although, the engine works of Aitchison Blair were completely destroyed.
A report claimed that following “first aid” repairs, production returned to near normal levels by the beginning of April. Production was, however, affected by the severe casualties and the evacuation of the town after the raids, causing difficulties in getting the workforce to the workplace. On 17 March 1941, the number of homeless stood at 11,350.
Almost every street in Clydebank had a fatal casualty; however, Second Avenue (known as Holy City) with flat roofs and light colouring had the most: more than 80 fatalities, including 10 members of one family. At 78 Jellicoe Street in Dalmuir, 3 generations of the Rock family, aged from 1 to 54 years – 15 members in all – were killed.
The Polish destroyer, ORP Piorun, was in John Brown’s Yard for repair and they fired their anti-aircraft at the bombers. So, forging a lasting friendship between Clydebank ant the Polish people and to this day the Polish Consul attends the service of remembrance. The second service of the commemoration takes place in the square opposite Clydebank Town Hall, renamed Solidarity Plaza, where plaques tell the story of the ORP Piorun.
The first commemoration service is held at the Dunnotar Cemetery in Clydebank.
There were many acts of bravery during these two horrific raids in 1941, in particular, among the member of the Clydebank Police Force and Fire Brigade, despite 48 hours of continuous duty. However, the actions of Sergeant John Macleod must be singled out. On his way to work, when the bombs started falling, he went into a demolished building and rescued two children; followed by another, where he saved a mother and four children, one of which sadly died. The second night, while the bombs were falling once more, he went into a house and dug out a trapped man, knowing that there was an unexploded bomb nearby. For these actions, Sergeant John Macleod was awarded the George Medal for his bravery.