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William Howie Jnr.

Schoolboy memories of Word War Two

Excerpts from a letter about the effects of the Second World War on William and his family.

My father William Howie moved from Glasgow to stay in Rattray.

He started work at a sawmill, then moved to employment at Adamson’s of Chapelton Farm. Later he worked with his uncle Will Longmuir for some time, before depositing an indemnity of 70 at the head office in Forfar to join The Pearl Insurance, working with them until his retirement.

The war of course intervened, and he joined the Volunteer Defence Force (later becoming Home Guard) training out with working hours with rifles and unarmed combat on Rosemount golf course.

He was called up in 1940 to Catterick camp to join the Royal Corp of Signals as a radio operator.

He landed in France on D- Day, and his unit then moved with the Allied Army to Brussels and Hamburg, finally being posted to Norway, being there when King Hakkon returned to Oslo from exile. He was finally demobbed in 1946.


William Howie Sen.


My uncle Eddie was aboard the troopship Lancastria when it was bombed and sunk on 17th of June 1940. He was posted missing, but we were all astonished and overwhelmed with relief, when he turned up unannounced some weeks later at my Auntie’s door. (It is thought over four thousand personnel died in that incident).

During the war my mum worked at Parkhill, often for long hours, and if late I would have to stay with my gran.

The children who attended Blairgowrie and Rattray schools were given gas masks which they had to carry all the time in case of a gas attack. They also had to wear an identity bracelet on their wrist with their name and number on it.

If the air raid siren sounded we had form an orderly line outside the school until the ‘all clear’ siren was heard.

It was a hard time for the families and children of Rattray and Blairgowrie, as food rationing was introduced and you did not get very much to last the week. You had to supplement this by growing lots of vegetables in the garden, but not flowers, as you cannot eat them.

There were no street lights; this was called the ‘Blackout’.

My grandmother told my mum’s mother to get a joiner to make wooden frames covered with black paper, one to fit every window during the hours of darkness so that no light would show from outside. That was in case a German plane would see the light and drop their bombs.

Air Raid Wardens were created. Their job was to look out for any house showing a light, alert the occupants, and report them to the authorities. If the same house did it more than once, they would receive a heavy fine, or imprisonment. Other duties were to escort people to air raid shelters if there was an air raid warning.

As the Germans began to bomb cities the children were moved out (evacuated) to towns and villages in the country. If you had space you had to take boys or girls.

My grandmother (my mum’s mother) got two boys from Glasgow; Frankie and George. They stayed with my granny for about six months before their mother took them back to Glasgow; they missed city life.

German prisoners of war were held at Balhary Camp near Alyth. They had to work on the farms.

Polish soldiers were in Blargowrie and Rattray with lodgings in private houses.

The 2nd. Battalion Coldstream guards were billeted in Blairgowrie and Rattray in 1942. When they left for action in North Africa, I watched them along with a big crowd to see them away when they marched to the Blairgowrie station.

The war lasted until final victory (Europe) in May 1945 and the Americans defeated the Japanese in August..

There were street parties to celebrate, and welcome soldiers coming back from the war. Sadly many soldiers never returned.

Rationing remained in place until about 1953 when coal was the last item to come off restriction.

It was a long time before fruit like bananas, peaches, and oranges appeared in the shops; and no ice-cream or chocolate for a very long time.

I hope this will give you some idea of what life was like for me during the war.

Willie Howie