A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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No. 42. 8th April, 1943

The Air Raid Alert in Scotland - 24th-25th March

After a long period of immunity from air raids, Scotland was visited by a small number of German planes on the night of March 24th-25th. Air raid sirens were sounded in most districts and some bombs were dropped; most of these were incendiaries. Fortunately there was no loss of life and little damage was done to persons or property. The following report summarises accounts which have come in from correspondents in various parts of the Region since the raid, and gives some idea of the public's reaction to the alert and their opinions of Civil Defence and other defence measures.

How the public reacted

Most people seemed quite unprepared for a raid. During the spring and summer of 1941, when alarms were frequent, preparations such as keeping in readiness stirrup pumps, water, sand and suitcases with clothes, were common but such arrangements have tended to lapse. Consequently there was much scrambling to collect clothing and important papers and money.

Most people who heard the siren (some sound sleepers only learned of the disturbance next day) got out of bed and dressed, and many went into shelters of one kind or another.

Public shelters . In some parts of Glasgow these were much used by tenement dwellers, and in certain districts there was a tendency towards overcrowding. Underground shelters were specially liked in Clydebank, where, we are told, people have little faith in surface shelters. Morale in the public ones seems to have been exceptionally good and was improved by community singing. There were reports of locked shelters in Glasgow and Clydebank and of great public indignation at the filthy and damaged condition of many shelters in Glasgow and Dumbarton. In some towns, e.g. Inverness and Larbert, public shelters were said to be barely used.

Private shelters . Householders in Glasgow and elsewhere report that when the sirens sounded “they packed their families into the Morrison”; Anderson shelters were also very well used in most areas. Many of these had apparently been allowed to get damp and as a result there are complaints of colds and coughs.

In some areas of Clydebank people who had no Anderson shelters invaded those belonging to others. It would seem that in several parts of the blitzed areas private shelter accommodation is inadequate.

In search of safety . In Dalmuir, and especially in the Mountblow housing area, where there are few shelters and some of the houses are near oil tanks, many went to the public park or towards the moors, pushing prams loaded with clothes, etc. There was a little excitement but it cannot be said that morale among these people was poor.

Sirens . Many people in the east of Scotland believed that the sirens were “pretty feeble”, but a few complained about the “terrific racket” in Glasgow. In Larbert it is thought that the monthly practice has helped to accustom people to the siren and they were therefore less startled there than elsewhere.

Blackout . Reports from many districts stress the carelessness shown in switching off lights in bedrooms where the blackout had been taken down.

Civil Defence Precautions

Firewatchers . In some towns, e.g. Greenock and Edinburgh, it is said that very few street fire-fighting parties were organised. Firewatchers say that they would welcome a better system of training and more adequate leadership. But where properly organised schemes were in force the firewatchers have won golden opinions. For example, in one large institution in Glasgow over eighty firewatchers were on the job and ready for action within five minutes.

A.R.P. Both full-time and part-time wardens seem to have come on the scene in most cases promptly and efficiently. The public were heartened by “the sound of the wardens patrolling outside”. No criticisms of Civil Defence personnel or schemes have come our way.

N.F.S. In the south side of Glasgow, where there was one big fire, praise for the work of the National Fire Service was heard on all sides.


Reports differ as to whether people were more “jittery” than during previous alerts. It seems to be generally thought in Clydebank (whence some “trekking” was reported) that morale there was less good than during the blitz of 1941. This is thought to be partly accounted for by the recollection of that ordeal. But elsewhere, as it soon became apparent that the raid would not be a concentrated attack, fears tended to die down. The time was mostly spent in conversation, community singing or tea drinking.

For days afterwards the raid was the chief topic of conversation in the south-east and central districts of Scotland especially. In the north-eastern areas sirens are not uncommon and complete calm was reported there.

The day after the raid . The usual rumours were heard. The “historic church” which was hit was “placed” in practically every town in central Scotland. There were stories “that Glasgow or Edinburgh or Stirling had been badly blitzed” and some impatience was shown at “the meagre B.B.C. bulletins”. Some people were saying “that they would have to listen to the German bulletins to find out where the raiders were”.

The number of raiders brought down caused great delight and as the figure mounted for two days afterwards interest and pleasure increased. As a result, confidence in our defences has never been so high. There was, however, a considerable amount of discussion about the number of old people who are thought to have died from shock.

The future

Practical measures . Almost everyone agrees that the raid was to some extent “a blessing in disguise”. Anderson shelters are being aired and refurnished; household A.R.P. are being furbished up; and details of Civil Defence are being improved.

Public indignation has at last been roused at the state of damaged shelters, about which the M.O.I. and newspaper offices in the west of Scotland have been receiving many enquiries. Doors were said to be missing, seats broken, lights and lavatories smashed, and in many shelters even the bricks had been stolen. One report says “this is still going on since the raid”.

Future raids . The public seems to believe that “the season has now opened” and that there will probably be nuisance raids from time to time, but few seriously think that concentrated raids will occur. Reasons for this belief are that “our Ack Ack and night fighter defences are so good” and that “the Germans simply have not got the planes”.

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