Memories of the Cardross Blitz

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Glenlee-frontNOTHING had indicated that the night of May 5 1941 would be different to any other in the village of Cardross . . . until the drone of the German bombers was heard.

The sky turned from dark grey to crimson in a split second that night when German bombs fell on the village, beginning what would be known thereafter, and remembered, as the Cardross Blitz.

In 2011 on the 70th anniversary of the blitz, villagers, young and old, gathered to remember and imagine the devastating impact the World War Two bombing had on the village.

It destroyed many buildings and killed several people.

Villager Archie McIntyre, who was a boy of 16 at the time, remembers the night vividly.

His father told him and his five-year-old sister Alison to get up and dressed around midnight, after hearing the sound of gunfire, and they gathered in the dining room and put a table up against the window.

Archie, his father and three neighbours went out to ‘fire watch’, which they did every time there was a red alert.

Archie recalls: “The first signs we were to receive serious attention were incendiaries.

“Thousands were dropped, and from where we were in Peel Street, the golf course was, as my father put it, like fairy land.”

Villagers were running around in their nightclothes, while protecting themselves and their families as best they could by sheltering under stairs and tables, and taping up windows.

Cardross-old-church-1-14.05.11-wOthers had duties to perform as air raid wardens. Their role was to do everything they could to protect and guide people. Those on fire-watch duty were ready to deal with the fire bombs with the sand bags and stirrup pumps that were available.

This was hampered because the water supply had been cut off by one of the falling bombs, the telephone lines were down, and the electricity supply eventually non-existent.

Archie said: “Next came the high explosives — we could hear them whistling down before exploding.

“Our upstairs window crashed on to the concrete outside the back door and I went into the house to see if everyone was all right, which they were. My sister asked if I could stay with her.

“We could hear the bombs coming down, and when a stick of high explosives whistled down towards us I always wondered when they would stop getting closer.

“Next, the table against the window came in, the ceiling came down and the door was blown off, as were all the other doors in the house.”

Archie’s grandparents’ house, where he lives now on Kirkton Road, was engulfed in flames, but they survived because an aunt of his took them out to a garage at the back of the house.

Archie believes there were around 200 German planes flying over Cardross during the night.

The old Cardross Parish Church (pictured above and below) was destroyed after it was first set on fire by an incendiary device before finally being destroyed by a high explosive bomb which crashed down on the graveyard, reducing gravestones to rubble.

The Cardross Golf Club clubhouse was also hit by an incendiary device, as were many houses in the village.

Cardross-old-church-2-14.05.11-wThe incendiaries were followed by high explosive bombs. One report said that 63 were dropped, and one created a crater 60 feet wide and 30 feet deep.

Archie said: “It was then a case of clearing up. We just had to get on with it and it was accepted because it was wartime.

“Three people were killed or died in the days after, Mr Wylie, Mr McIntosh and Mr Lockhart.

“The bomb disposal men were busy for several days afterwards as there were several unexploded bombs still to be dealt with.”

Archie’s father was left deaf in his right ear as a result of his injuries, and Archie worked with him in the family business, the John McIntyre & Son Sawmill in the village.

He added: “I’ll always wonder why the Germans targeted Cardross. People used to say that the Germans might have mistaken the greens on the golf course for oil tankers, while 20,000 feet in the midnight sky.”

After the war, the congregations of the old Parish Church and the Burns Church — which is now Cardross Parish Church — were united.

Following several years of debate, it was decided not to rebuild the damaged church, but to use the money available from the War Damage Commission to build a suite of halls.

The decision was made to keep the old church, now a ruin, as a memorial to the Cardross Blitz, as well as to the courage, heroism and neighbourliness of the community.


  • This article is reprinted from the Helensburgh Advertiser by kind permission of the Editor. Church photos copyright Donald Fullarton.