Patterton Prisoner of War Camp

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THE ONSET OF WORLD WAR 2

Scotland

Britain declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939 and Scots were the first to feel the effects.

Only hours into the war, the first German attack was on the passenger liner Athenia* which had just set sail from the Clyde; the first German plane was shot down over the River Forth by a Renfrewshire farmer turned Spitfire pilot and the first civilian killed in the war was going to the aid of a neighbour in a village in Orkney. It was thought that Glasgow would be one of the prime targets for German bombers and plans were already in place for the evacuation of children from the city before war was declared.

*The Athenia, a 13,580 ton British passenger liner of the Donaldson line was en route for Canada with over 1,100 passengers, including women and children of whom 311 were Americans. The ship was torpedoed by U-30, a German submarine commanded by Oberleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp. Only one of the three torpedoes fired made contact with the ship. Fortunately weather conditions were favourable and the Athenia remained afloat until next morning allowing for an orderly evacuation of the passengers and crew, amongst whom was the ship’s captain, James Cook, the father of John Cook who worked in the reception at Andersons Garage in Mearns.

 

Mearns

In the years leading up to the Second World War, Newton Mearns was still quite a rural village – near enough to Glasgow to benefit from all that was available there, but far enough away to maintain a separate identity.

Most people who lived in the area worked close to home. For those who did not, the excellent transport links from Newton Mearns into Glasgow meant that people could take up employment in the city and come home for lunch!

There were still many working farms in and around Mearns and farming was of great economic importance to the area. The cotton printing mill at Netherplace gave employment to many local people, as did Andersons Garage, Mearnskirk Children’s Hospital, opened in 1930, and the Western SMT bus depot, opened in 1932.

The main road south from Glasgow to Ayr and beyond ran through Mearns Cross. To the west of the Kilmarnock Road, now called the Ayr Road, the Main Street and Barrhead Road comprised the heart of the old village. Many people lived in these streets and most of the village shops were there and around the Cross.

The everyday needs of the people in Newton Mearns were well catered for, with two butchers, three bakers, three newsagents, four grocers, two hairdressers, three banks, a sweet shop, a pharmacist, a fishmonger, a fruit shop, a shoe shop, a dairy, a dry cleaner, a haberdashery, a tea room, a cobblers, a jenny a’ things, a post office, a veterinary practice, a doctor’s surgery and even a petrol station. Most of these shops were in the Main Street and Barrhead Road, but three new blocks of shops had been built around the Cross as the population grew.

Following the First World War, the local authority built a small housing development at Townhead Road for soldiers returning from the war. This was followed by more local authority housing south of the Cross from Moorhill Road to Netherplace Road. In the 1930’s, a large development of private housing was completed north east of the Cross, when the area from Larchfield Avenue to Hazelwood Avenue came into being. This was known locally as “down the avenues.” Bungalows were also built south east of the Cross at Arthurlie Drive and Gilmourton Crescent.

Another small area of private housing was built at St. Vigeans Avenue and on the adjoining area along Ayr Road.  Building ceased when war broke out in 1939 and did not begin again in any volume until the 1950’s.

The people made their own entertainment. Much of the social life of the village was centred on the Churches and all the church organisations such as badminton clubs and dances were well supported. In addition, the Horticultural Society, Mearns Amateur Football Club, the Bowling Club, the Mearns Players Dramatic Club and the British Legion all had enthusiastic members. For children there were Brownies, Guides and the Boy’s Brigade.

Beyond the village, for entertainment there was the Tudor cinema and ballroom at Giffnock and a further three cinemas at Shawlands. In Glasgow, there was a whole host of facilities to be enjoyed and with a bus service back to Mearns until after midnight, travel was not a problem.

The village of Mearns could correctly be described as a community and this sense of community was to be of great benefit when war broke out.

 

WAR SERVICE

The declaration of war was broadcast on the radio on Sunday 3rd September 1939 and read to the congregations in churches that morning. All of the people interviewed could remember exactly where they were when they heard the news and most people interviewed said that people knew that war was coming and there was a view that Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” had in fact given Britain a year to prepare for war.

Some young men in Mearns were called up immediately and some in later drafts. Some of those not called up served in the Local Defence Volunteer Force, more usually called the Home Guard.

The Headquarters of the Home Guard was the Fairweather Hall, where an armed sentry was posted. There were also outposts at Driffenbeg Farm and Bannerbank Farm in the south of Mearns Parish and one man clearly remembers being posted there. He was one of the youngest recruits and was given the furthest out duty!

The Home Guard had three platoons under the leadership of Major Barrie.  The men met at the Fairweather Hall where they were given their duties. Sometimes this involved being on call at the Fairweather Hall, but some men were out on patrol all night and the youngest and fittest were assigned to the mobile battle patrol. They all had to go to work the next day. Initially wooden rifles were used for training purposes and these were succeeded by the issue of American Winchester rifles and later, Remingtons.

Others who were not called up served as Air Raid Protection Officers (ARPs) or Fire Watchers. One of the first signs of war in Mearns was the building of the ARP Shelter in Langrigg Road. The air raid siren was on the roof of the building which later became the British Legion building. One of the ARP’s duties was to patrol at night to ensure that no lights were showing from houses. A house holder would be alerted if there was even a chink of light peeping out from a window blind.

Many of the jobs which the men had done were taken over by women and when Andersons Garage changed to munitions manufacture, the majority of the work force was women. A few men who were given exemption from military service continued in employment and were known as “setters” as their job was to set up the machines for the women to work.

At the outset of war, James Anderson’s inventive mind had turned to munitions production and Andersons played a major part in the provision of munitions. Under James’ leadership the garage workshop with its largely female, inexperienced work force developed an unrivalled productivity which culminated in his being awarded the MBE.

Largely as a result of the experience gained from the need to improvise when working in munitions production during the war, James Anderson invented the Vertimax lathe, the manufacturing rights of which he sold to Churchill and Co. Ltd. of Birmingham. This machine came to be used worldwide.

Two of the people whom we interviewed had served in the armed forces.

“I left school at seventeen and went to Glasgow University for one year and during that time I joined the local Home Guard. I joined the RAF in 1942.
My first memory of life in the RAF was being measured. The doctor announced that I was 5ft 5½ in and regulations required that to be a pilot I had to be 5ft 6in. He sent me back to the orderly who asked me what my problem was. When I explained he told me to “stand over there and stretch”.  I did as I was told and was re-measured as 5ft 6in! I trained as a fighter pilot in Canada and the journeys to and from Canada were hair raising because of the action of the U boats. I was stationed at various airfields in England and demobbed in September 1946”

“I worked on munitions manufacture in Andersons for the first part of the war, but towards the end of the hostilities, I was called up. I served in the Royal Artillery and put the mechanical skills I had learned at Andersons to good use working on guns and transport.”

 

TROOP DEPLOYMENT IN MEARNS

Troops were deployed at various points around Mearns. Pollok Castle was requisitioned by the Army and was used as an ammunition store. Rouken Glen became the site of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) workshops, where vehicles were repaired and some civilian workers from the Mearns area carried out their war service there. At the beginning of the war the camp at Patterton was used for serving soldiers, but later in the war it was a prisoner of war camp, initially for Italian prisoners and later for German prisoners. On Bonnyton Moor there was a decoy aerodrome. There were several of these throughout the country and their purpose was to confuse enemy aircraft. The moors were also used for practice manoeuvres.

“As a young lad I remember the troops at Pollok Castle which was used as an ammunition dump. Military police patrolled the area on bicycles and there were Nissan huts used as ammunition dumps in the grounds of Pollok Castle. I also remember the camp being built for the Pioneer Corps on Stewarton Road. This camp was later used for Italian prisoners and once Italy had joined the Allies it was used for German prisoners. After their release, many of the Italian prisoners worked on farms in the area and some settled here and carried on the trades they had followed in Italy before the war.”

“I was going to work one morning and saw strange troops asleep in the streets. I knew that they were not British troops as they had strange helmets and I assumed that the Germans had invaded. I ran to my work and discovered that they were American troops who had been on exercise on the moors and in the dark could not find their way to Glasgow so had decided to have a rest until morning!”

“The main troop movement by road from the south to the docks in Glasgow was past our farm and on through Mearns Cross. A lorry with troops was stationed beside the farm and their job was to guide the lorries coming north into Glasgow to the docks. The soldiers on duty there came into the farm for a cup of tea and usually baking. One day they arrived with a very large roast which they had “acquired” from the quartermaster. The family enjoyed it for several meals.

On another occasion, a convoy of lorries with ATS girls from Nottingham stopped at the farm for a “comfort” break, just as I was coming home from school. My Mother was out feeding the hens and when she came back she found my Father feeding the girls, who had not eaten since morning, with the scones and pancakes she had just baked for the family, the butter she had made and a two pound jar of strawberry jam. She put the kettle on for tea and the girls enjoyed a rare treat before continuing into Glasgow.”

 

MEARNS AT WORK IN WARTIME

Some of the people whom we interviewed were still at school during the war and those who were working were still in their teens or early twenties. Their memories of work in the various workplaces in and around Mearns are recorded below. Unfortunately we were not able to interview anyone who worked at Netherplace Works during the war but we were told that the works continued production throughout the war with a mainly female workforce as previously.

One of the main employers in Mearns was Andersons Garage which during the war changed to munitions manufacture. Most of the men had been called up and the work was carried out by women. The bus garage on Barrhead Road operated throughout the war with a regular if less frequent service into Glasgow and south to Kilmarnock and Ayr. Local men and women who were not serving in the forces took jobs as drivers and conductresses.

“I worked as assistant to Miss Betty Anderson in the office in Andersons Garage. Petrol was rationed and only those involved in essential work, such as doctors, were given a petrol allowance. I had the responsibility for the allocation of petrol coupons – quite a responsible job. The annual Motor Show in Glasgow was cancelled. Many of the young men in the workshop were called up for military service and local girls and women were employed in the manufacture of munitions.”

“In 1939 I was employed in the office of a firm which manufactured Range Finder Golf Clubs. The office I worked in was in Carlton Place and the firm manufactured tartan covers for the golf club heads. On the Sunday morning of Sunday 3rd September, I was at work there dealing with orders for curtain material to be used as blackout. The firm supplied the City Chambers with blackout material:  the Lord Provost, Patrick Dollan, insisted on green material being used for the City Chambers - not black. I had the job of measuring all the windows.

I did not ‘join up’ for Military service. My father had been a soldier in the First World War and dissuaded me, saying that ‘two was enough’. My brother and sister had volunteered.  My brother received a commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and later became a Lieutenant Colonel. My sister, who trained as a nurse at the Crichton Royal Hospital in Dumfries and in the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow joined the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (commonly known as the QAs). Before joining the QAs she had nursed at Mearnskirk Hospital. My sister, brother and I all did war work by working for Western SMT. I worked as a conductress based at the Western SMT Garage in Mearns. My ‘run’ which started at 6am was from the Waterloo Street Depot, Glasgow to the Ayr Depot, stopping at Mearns, Kilmarnock and Prestwick. There were four drivers on this run. My driver was Harry Erskine: the others were Willie Kirkwood, Joe McDonald and Bill Merry.

I took pride in my appearance and wore a tie and white shirt (borrowed from my father and brother), took care to polish my ticket punch and was never late for work. The registration of my bus was CS8044 and I think it is still used for special occasions such as weddings.

The Canadian Air Force officers flew in to Prestwick Airport they used my bus to travel to Glasgow where they were based in the Grand Hotel at Charing Cross.

Later on I was involved in Work of National Importance as a civilian worker at the REME workshops at Rouken Glen where vehicles came in or were brought in for repair.”

“I lived on a farm but I wanted to train as an engineer. When I left school aged fourteen, I had to work on the farm as war had broken out and there was increased work. The government inspectors came to the farm to assess how much of our land could be used to produce food crops and as a result there was a significant increase in the amount of ploughing to be done. I remember my Father telling me to go out and buy a good pair of leggings and a jacket as there would be ‘no wet days’ on the farm from now on. This meant that we would have to work every day in all weather. There were no tractors and I had to guide the wooden shafted plough behind the horses. My Father described our land as ‘being near the rock’. This meant that in some areas the soil was shallow and the plough would hit rock, causing it to be thrown up in the air. Eventually my Father allowed me to use the Begg plough which was all metal and although it still was thrown off course it was not as bad as the wooden plough.

Farmers had a problem with crows eating the seed they had planted. This was recognised by the government and the farmers were given an allocation of cartridges to shoot the crows. The farmers got together just as the young crows were beginning to fly and I remember the noise of the guns was deafening.”

“Assessors from the government came and inspected the farm and decided how much of the farmland should be used for growing food crops. If the farmer did not have sufficient machinery or help to plough the land, the government lent machinery and help at a reasonable charge. Land girls worked on our farm.”

“I remember that Barbara Fairweather, the daughter of Sir Wallace Fairweather of Fa’side House, joined the land army and worked at Netherplace House, the home of Mirlees Chassels. When we were going to school we would meet her going off to work in her land army garb but always politely said, ’Good Morning, Miss Fairweather’. My sister and Miss Fairweather became friendly and on a Sunday evening, Miss Fairweather came to the farm to learn to hand milk.”

“I was serving an apprenticeship with a joinery firm in Eaglesham at the outbreak of war in September 1939. I cycled from Mearns to Eaglesham to work and remember being stopped by Sergeant Donaldson early one morning because I was using my bicycle without lights. The police station was in Barrhead Road and there were three police officers. In charge was Sergeant ‘Book your Granny’ Donaldson. He earned his nickname as he was very conscientious about his job. He was supported by Constables Brandy and Wylie.
The business I worked for had a contract for the military in Glasgow at the onset of war. After Eaglesham I worked first at 5 Park Gardens, then West Princes Street and finally Maryhill Barracks. This involved me leaving home for work at 7.15am and returning at 10pm. I went by bus and the fare for an adult was 10d return. I remember that there was a frequent bus service to Glasgow from Mearns and the buses were blacked out. The conductress had to call out the destinations as it was impossible to see out of the windows of the buses.”

“I was away at boarding school but I remember that all the fields around our house were ploughed up and planted with food crops. The Italian prisoners of war from the nearby prisoner of war camp at  Patterton worked in the fields and the wife of the officer in charge of the camp was billeted with my parents”.

 

EVACUEES

Nationally, preparations had been going on for some time before war was declared on 3rd September 1939. It was thought that the first attacks would be directed at the major cities of which Glasgow was one. Certain areas had been designated “evacuation areas” and immediately war was declared children were evacuated from the cities. This was the first and in the view of some, the major impact of the war on Newton Mearns. The re-opening of Mearns Public School for the session 1939 – 1940 was delayed for a week until 11th September. When it did open 100 children who had previously attended Glasgow Schools enrolled. Fortunately after the first few weeks, the children began to return home but succeeding waves of evacuees came to Mearns throughout the war and at a later date, school inspectors reported that the roll had risen from 471 to 776.
Miss E A Calder, who taught in Mearns School for thirty three years, was interviewed for the Centenary Booklet of the school and asked for her outstanding memories. She immediately replied “The Evacuation”.

The following is an extract from the Mearns School Centenary Booklet 1976.

The Arrival of the Glasgow Evacuees
Day 1 — Saturday

A glorious day in September 1939. That was just as well as there were small groups of evacuees from St. Alphonsus' in London Road dotted all over the school playground. We had double the number that we had been told to expect, as those intended for Busby School (also in Mearns Parish) arrived here too. The famous "Panic Bus" had last minute evacuees, expectant mothers - the lot. There was Mrs. Viola with nine children and they all wanted into the same billet! - "Mr. Dollan said we'd be O.K. here!"

Gradually the numbers dwindled as children were taken to various houses - except the hard core - including the expectant mothers. One "very expectant" was lodged in Mr. Thom's (the Headmaster) room but thought she could "haud on tae the morn". Later in the day, frantic Mearns fathers were searching Shawlands etc., for Dettol. Their wives were hysterical and their children lousy. The hard core were billeted in the Infant rooms on straw palliasses for the night and a field kitchen was set up, manned by Miss Buchanan and Miss Mackenzie. Come morning the rooms and palliasses were crawling; teachers' desks were broken open and rifled; everything had to be burned.

Day 2 — Sunday

There were many complaints from the billets about destruction, etc. Having been  fitted out with new clothes, some children disappeared back to Glasgow to show themselves off. They returned next day — lousy again. The "Hard Core" were taken to Fingleton Mill. Charlie Thom (the Headmaster's son) and a friend volunteered to stay with them - a ghastly experience. The Glasgow staff took over the Staff room. Our staff were in the School-house.

Day 3 — Monday — the first teaching day.

There were over 80 in the Infant Room - at desks, on the floor and on window-sills. Miss Ritchie and staff were trying to cope when three Lady H.M.I's arrived complete with khaki knitting to interview Miss Ritchie about what she was doing. They were told to GET OUT. There followed a gradual drift back to Glasgow until in a week or two only a few were left. There were, however, private evacuees from High School, Hutchie, and similar schools. The school was packed and both Church Halls were in use with canvas partitions to divide the classes.

“I was a boy of sixteen, an only child, attending boarding school when war broke out. Almost immediately my family had to take evacuees. The house was inspected by someone from the ‘Welfare’ accompanied by a representative of the WVS and on the Saturday before war was declared, four children from the Glasgow Cross area came to live with us. They were a twin brother and sister aged 13 from one family and two girls, aged eight and nine, from another family.

When they arrived they and their clothes were verminous and the oldest girl when put into a bath screamed that she was being drowned. Once their hair had been washed, the little girl was amazed that “My hair shines”. My mother had to ask friends for clothes to dress the children, who attended school at Mearns, a different experience from the deprived East End of Glasgow.

The influx of evacuees put a strain on the school and at one point when an inspector visited he was requested to “go away” as there was enough difficulty in coping with the evacuee children who  were not used to the environment which they found in Mearns Public School.  

The government, presumably realising that these children had to be fed and cared for, levied a charge of 2/6d on families which could pay something towards their children’s keep. The twins went back home and I remember the girl lamenting that ‘I’ll miss my big dinners’. The twins would also be reaching an age when they would have to get a job. The two little girls stayed for quite some time and their Mother came regularly to visit them. Even when they returned home, they came for their holidays. The lessons they had learned from my Mother about personal care were maintained when they returned home.

In 1941, two brothers aged eight and ten were evacuated from Guernsey. They also attended Mearns Public School and at one point the Head Teacher contacted my Father to ask if he could restrain the boys. The station master had complained that the boys were going down to Giffnock and coming back to Patterton on the train, riding outside the carriages on the running board! They were quite a handful! As the war progressed, evacuees were not sent to the Patterton area as it was deemed to be too near Glasgow.”

“I was a girl of fourteen when the war broke out and lived in the Moorhill Crescent. Following the Clydebank Blitz Mrs Gray and her three children were evacuated to Mearns and were billeted with my family. The Grays were given the big bedroom in our house, my parents slept in the small bedroom and my sister and I slept on the bed settee in the living room. When the sirens sounded we all took refuge on Mrs Gray’s bed.  We didn’t go to the public shelter in the park.”

“I was a young girl when war broke out and I recall a lady coming to the house and walking round with a clipboard assessing how many children could be evacuated to the house. In the event, two children came to live for about a year. My nanny stripped them when they arrived and re-clothed them in my clothes and my sister’s. When we started scratching, very regular hair washing and use of a bone comb was introduced!”

“I was about 10 when war broke out and I lived on a dairy farm. I delivered the milk to Sir Wallace and Lady Fairweather at Fa’side. I remember that the evacuee children were very wild and carved their names on the grand piano!”


ONE BOY’S STORY OF EVACUATION FROM MEARNS

The following story appeared in The Bulletin of Thursday 15th May 1941:

Scots Boy Left Behind in Sinking Ship

"I prayed to God for Help"

Eleven year old Robert Wilson, the little Scots boy who, it can now be revealed, was left behind on the sinking evacuee ship Volendam in the Atlantic last August, while his older brother and scores of other boys and girls were safe in lifeboats many miles away, believes that he was saved ultimately because God answered his prayer for help. Robert was asleep in his cabin when a torpedo struck the ship. In the confusion he slept on, but awoke some time later to find his cabin empty and his little friends gone. He ran on deck and peered out to sea in the slowly darkening night. Not a lifeboat was to be seen. They had left the ship some hours before.


Fell on Knees

"I went down on my knees and prayed to God," said little Robert last night in his house at Larchfield Avenue, Newton Mearns, near Glasgow, when recalling his adventure. "I asked God to protect all the other boys and girls who had got away in the lifeboats, and then I asked Him to help me. A choking feeling came up into my throat, so I went straight back to bed to sleep and forget what had happened. I was alone and terribly lonely. "In the morning, to my surprise, the boat was still afloat. I ran upstairs again on to the deck. There was a destroyer lying alongside and I shouted until those on the destroyer could hear me."


Not Alone

But someone else heard the boy - one of the members of the skeleton crew who had been left on board the torpedoed Volendam in an effort to try to save the vessel and bring her to port if possible. He came up on deck and found the boy shouting to the crew of the destroyer. "I thought all night I was alone on the ship," continued Robert. "I was terribly surprised when I discovered there were several members of the crew on board. They were very kind to me. They played all kinds of games, and gave me anything I asked for. They even secured a lump of the torpedo which plunged into the ship's engine-room and gave it to me as a souvenir."

The Volendam was towed to a West of Scotland port and the night after his nightmare adventure, Robert joined his mother and father and brother in Glasgow. "I wouldn't like to go on the voyage again, unless Mummy was going with me," he said last night. Mr and Mrs Wilson, needless to say, made no further plans for their sons to leave Mearns for the duration of the War.


RATIONING

As elsewhere, rationing was introduced into Mearns early in the war. All of those whom we interviewed considered that in respect of food, Mearns was cushioned from the worst effects of rationing as the local farms were able to supply milk, eggs and butter.

“My Father was a farmer. There was plenty of fresh food on the farm including lots and lots of eggs. Everyone who came to visit went away with eggs. Assessors from the government came and inspected the farm and decided how much of the farmland should be used for growing food crops. If the farmer did not have sufficient machinery or help to plough the land, the government lent machinery and help at a reasonable charge. Land girls worked on the farm.”

“I lived on a dairy farm. The milk was bottled on the farm and my father sold it locally. During the war he continued his rounds and the people of Mearns did not go short of milk, butter or eggs. Feeding for the beasts and the hens on the farm was regulated and depended on how much milk and how many eggs were produced. To receive their allocation of feeding, my parents had to fill in forms and return them to the office in Paisley. A permit was issued to provide rations for seasonal workers, e.g. at harvest time, and another form had to be sent to get these coupons. My Mother used some of these to get what she needed at Muirhead and Booth the grocers, who agreed to allocate the rest to folks in the village whom they thought ‘needed a bit extra’.”

“Milk was still supplied by Raeside from Maidenhill and Connells Dairy in the Main Street was always open for business. If you wanted milk out of hours all you had to do was ring the bell. Most people grew their own vegetables and some kept hens. There was rationing of eggs, tea, sugar and bread and some items such as bananas were not available at all during the war, but I remember once getting dates. The black market flourished in Mearns as it did elsewhere.”

“I worked in Andersons Garage which changed to producing munitions. Many garages closed at the onset of war. Petrol was greatly restricted and only those involved in essential work such as doctors were given a petrol allowance. I remember the gas containers attached to the rear of some buses. One was on the Glasgow Clarkston run. War rations were adequate and people were resourceful. ‘Dig for Victory’ was a slogan – and they did in Mearns.  I believe a Black Market existed, but I had no experience of it.”

“Rationing was introduced as it was everywhere, but food shortages were not evident for some time. I remember the women of the village queuing for food. The fish shop was notorious as the brothers who ran it were choosy about who received the fish available! Mearns being predominantly a farming community, milk and eggs were more available than elsewhere, but the black market still flourished. I think that Mearns was cushioned from the war, but most of what I know about the war, I learned after the end of hostilities. We just got on with life as it was at that time.”

“Life in the village was easier than in the town. There were food shortages, but Mearns being a farming parish, eggs and milk were more readily available than elsewhere. My family received food parcels from relatives in the USA and I remember particularly receiving a parcel which contained sugar lumps. As far as clothes were concerned, an aunt in Edinburgh was a dressmaker and would make up items of clothing if and when material was obtainable.  On one occasion a heavily pleated skirt was made from an Army blanket.  ‘Make do and mend’ was the order of the day.”

“Food and clothes were strictly rationed. My sister was a dressmaker and would make clothes for local people, which was particularly helpful e.g. for weddings when material was so restricted. When there was to be a wedding in the village, people would club together to provide ration points for clothing and the ingredients for the meal.” 


MEARNSKIRK HOSPITAL

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, the children who were patients in Mearnskirk Hospital were evacuated to The Garrison Hospital in Millport. Between 1939 and 1946 Mearnskirk Hospital was used as an Emergency Medical Service Hospital and later as a Naval Auxiliary Hospital. A hutted annexe was constructed between September 1939 and April 1940 adding 600 beds to the existing 500 bed complement.  30,799 service personnel and 1,810 civilian casualties were treated between 1940 and 1946 in the hospital.
The story below came to us from Australia from a sailor whose ship was torpedoed in the North Atlantic.

“I was taken to Mearnskirk Hospital. I remember feeling a great relief to be in a pleasant, bright and cheerful ward on land. All the nurses were so pleasant and cheerful, even the Matron was bright and pleasant although she kept the nurses fully occupied.  I remember she even had them cleaning the windows. I was told that they had been warned to expect a severely injured patient, but I must admit I did not feel anything other than relief at being so tenderly cared for. I owe a great debt of gratitude to an Orthopaedic Surgeon who manipulated my right hip. He explained that I could never raise my leg sufficiently to ride a bicycle so my hip was duly manipulated and I finished up with plaster boots held apart by a metal bar. The nurses I remember were invited to gather round and inspect this handiwork.

Another member of staff I remember with gratitude was a very pleasant young physiotherapist.  She was a lovely fair haired girl with freckles and she had the job of getting me to walk again.  After about a month lying on my back the muscles in my right leg had wasted very considerably.  She was so patient and had me walking, I am sure, in record time.  She was very anxious that I should do some constructive work and taught me to make a belt of macramé using twine. I made two in fact and my wife still has them both. Then she had the idea that some of the men, my shipmates, could learn from my ‘expertise’ and also make belts.  I am not sure whether they did or not, but they did come into the ward to watch me at work.

Some of my ward mates took me into Glasgow in a wheel chair for a drink at one of the pubs or maybe it wasn't Glasgow but somewhere close by.  (Ed. note: We think this would be the Malletsheugh Inn, the ‘local’ for the soldiers and sailors at Mearnskirk) .They offered to move me to a hospital nearer my home in North London but, perhaps rather selfishly, I declined. I was far too happy where I was. I left Mearnskirk in July or August of 1945 to resume what was left of my naval career.”

 

THE CLYDEBANK BLITZ

One event which all those we spoke to remembered vividly was the Clydebank Blitz on 13th and 14th March 1942. The noise and the flames of the fires could be heard and seen from Mearns and shrapnel and incendiaries fell in the area.

Mearns was one of the areas to which “Bankies” were evacuated. Homeless people were housed initially in the church halls. Whole families slept on the floors until they could be billeted with families. Some returned to Clydebank or moved to live with relatives as soon as possible.  Some of these folks however remained to work in the area and married local people.

“Residents in our street took turns a week at a time to be on fire watch if there was an air raid. My parents were on duty during the week when Clydebank was bombed (13th and 14th March 1941) and I recall that they were exhausted after being on duty for four consecutive nights. I remember the noise of shrapnel hitting the roof of our house during these raids.”
“I clearly remember the Clydebank blitz on the nights of 13th and 14th March of 1941. The first night of the raids, I was at a Girls Association concert in the U.F. Church Hall.  (The present Newton Mearns Parish was known locally at this time as the U.F. Church.) The Minister, the Rev. Mr W. Murray MacKay came onto the stage to tell the audience what was happening and said the concert would carry on but the audience could leave if they wanted to.  My brother, sister and I stayed until the end and then we walked home to the farm. The whole sky was red and the ground was shaking. On the way we met a man in a wheelchair who had come out into the countryside to be safe and when we reached the farm our father was out looking for us.  I remember him calling out ‘Is that you weans’?  Some of the cattle were bellowing with fright. The next day the road outside the house was choked with troops and guns being moved north. During the second night of the blitz, the all clear went about midnight, but the planes came back and a great deal of damage was done. I still have the nose cone of a shell which was found the next day in the farmyard.”

“I remember well the first night of the Clydebank Blitz for I was at Night School that evening in Eastwood High School which was in Clarkston at that time. Incendiary bombs were dropped in the Broom Estate. The master in charge kept us in the school until 9pm and then, realising that our parents would be worried, advised us to walk home, avoiding Eastwoodmains Road. It must be remembered that at this time very few households had telephones.

We were instructed to walk in convoy to the Kilmarnock (Ayr) Road via the Loaning and to break the glass alarm on the shelter which was positioned there to attract the attention to passing vehicles in order to get a lift to the village if possible.”

“I remember sitting on the ‘summer seats’ at the north end of Main Street and watching the Blitz on Clydebank well into the following morning. I was young and can recall being very excited at the grand fire work display, not really realising the extent of the atrocity. The Tudor cinema at  Giffnock was used as a temporary mortuary after the Clydebank Blitz.”

“I lived on a farm and was a young girl when war broke out. My family had no evacuees placed with us but my grandmother, two aunts, an uncle and six cousins came to stay after their house in Jordanhill was damaged during the Clydebank blitz. I remember that it was good fun having so many people in the house. They moved out after about two months to a house in Mearns and remained in the area as their house in Jordanhill had to be demolished.”

“I was at school when Clydebank was bombed and remember that when the evacuees came from Clydebank, the Mearns children attended school for a half day in the morning.  The evacuee children, who were accommodated in the ladies and gents cloakrooms in the Mearns Parish Church Hall across the road from the school, attended the school in the afternoon. They were accompanied by a teacher called Miss Oates”

 

THE ARRIVAL OF RUDOLF HESS

All those whom we interviewed remembered the crash landing at Floors Farm of the Messerschmitt piloted by Rudolf Hess, the Deputy Fuehrer of the German Reich. Several people heard the plane passing over very low and many went out to see the wreckage. Here are some of the memories.

“I remember when I was out for the evening at a friend’s house and we heard a plane flying low overhead. The plane crashed and the next day many folk walked up to see the plane and to take souvenirs from it. Locals knew that the Deputy Fuehrer Rudolf Hess had landed between Mearns and Eaglesham although the authorities in London appeared to discount it initially. Many locals had ‘souvenir’ pieces from the plane.”

“I remember hearing Hess’s plane when he landed on 10th May 1941. Next day so many people went to see it that, in order to keep souvenir hunters at bay, a load of manure was dumped around it. I remember seeing the swastika on the fuselage and have a visual memory of seeing the tailpiece on end, looking like a cross.”

“Two months after the Blitz, Hess landed between Mearns and Eaglesham late on a Saturday evening. Once word got around, lots of people walked over to see the plane next day.  I was one of their number but travelled back home as a passenger on a local lad’s bicycle.”

“We heard the plane, but only my sister saw it. The Headmaster of the school who was our neighbour and in the Home Guard came to tell us that a German plane had crashed at Floors and a senior German Officer had been picked up by the duty Home Guard. On being asked why such a senior officer would have come so far from his homeland, the Headmaster replied, “The rats always leave the sinking ship.”

 

SCHOOLING

The following is an extract about the war years taken from the Mearns School Anniversary Magazine 1976

“The majority of children in Mearns attended Mearns Public School. The years from 1931 - 1939 could be described as the final years of the country school as the residents of Mearns then knew it. On the surface not much changed. School still opened at 9am for the secondary department, 9.30 for the primary department, and ‘scaled’ at 3.30 for all.
The school gardening plots provided vegetables for the soup which Mrs. Raeburn, the janitor’s wife made in an outsize boiler in the cookery-cum laundry-cum science room and it was eaten at the science room tables. 6d worth of bones were bought from a local butcher and in the early days these bones did have some meat on them but war time later caused them to lose this. Bread was supplied locally and keen was the competition to hand out these hunks for the lucky distributor was entitled to the ‘heel’ of the loaf. In these days Horlick’s malted milk was sold to all who wanted it.

But though the placid exterior of life was maintained, change was in the air. Horizons began to widen and the school began to look outward.

The district around was changing too. The highway between Kilmarnock and Mearns had reached the Malletsheugh Inn. Houses began to appear where none had been before and by the outbreak of war the area bounded by the Kilmarnock Road, Firwood Road, Hazelwood Avenue and the Eaglesham Road was covered with new houses which seemed to have shot up overnight. With these new houses came children and Mearns School began to wish for elastic sides, so tight was accommodation becoming. However, even this made no great impression on the school. Perhaps a slightly sophisticated air was perceptible as children brought up in the town mixed with the village and country children and each absorbed something from the other.

Then came the war and the EVACUATION. This really did alter the whole nature of the school, and the change was cataclysmic. Mearns was never the same again. From Glasgow came youngsters who had scarcely if ever, seen green fields or heard the songs of birds and smelt the fragrance of flowers. Families were evacuated from Clydebank after the blitz and children from the Channel Islands were evacuated before the German invasions. All these children had to be housed and educated in a small quiet village with its church, school, post office, row of shops and surrounding farms.

The school was overwhelmed. Every available hall in the district was put to use. Even the ground floor of the school house was utilised to teach about six hundred children of different backgrounds and faiths. The plots were more ardently cultivated than before and competition for pen knives presented by Mr. Russell of Newton House for the best vegetables was keener than ever. So great was the interest shown there that one father complained in tones of amused disgust that his son was teaching him what to do.

Wood for the technical classes became scarce, but nevertheless more than one local tradesman can look back to the days he spent in the woodwork room and realise how they laid the foundations of his later career. The girls’ classes too had to fight against shortages but they had their successes none the less. Interest in cookery competitions grew after one of the Channel Islanders won the nationwide competition for a simple meal cooked and presented by her under the critical eyes of external judges!

The headmaster and his staff, all responded nobly to the difficulties and problems of this period. The school was bursting at the seams — no inter-com system helped the headmaster and staff to keep in touch and his daily constitutional was his walk from hall to hall for information about classes or individuals. Text books and methods differed in the different sections. All manner of frictions had to be smoothed out, but generally speaking evacuees and locals managed to lead fairly equable lives. Still a certain amount of relief was felt all round when the day came for the parting of the ways and the school could return to its own life — a life very different from its pre-war experience.

Huts had been erected to help with accommodation and these had swamped the plots. That put an end to the gardening. School meals had been instituted. These were sent from centres throughout the county and were served by Mrs. Raeburn and others in the hall across the road from the school, now used as a Synagogue by members of the Reformed Jewish Faith, and so goodbye to the soup making. Children had to carry their gas masks to school and there was weekly gas mask drill.

With the departure of the evacuees during the latter stages of the war the numbers on the school roll had diminished but did not fall to their pre-war level, though as more children tended to go to the Glasgow schools now operating once again in their own buildings there was the threat of numbers still being reduced.

By 1945 the school more nearly approached in size and content to pre-war but was a different school in outlook. The war years had been as difficult as they had been exciting and they gave as well as took away so that Mearns had been prepared and was ready for the many other changes which were to take place in the succeeding years while still upholding the traditions of the past which resulted from the solid foundations based on the three R’s as taught by headmasters and staffs dedicated to their task”.

Some children who lived in Mearns attended private schools outwith Mearns.

“I was 10 when war was declared and attending Hutcheson’s Girls School. The school closed until shelters could be built in the playground. My parents did not want me to be evacuated and I was educated at home for a few months by my mother. Hutcheson’s pupils were initially evacuated to Sanquhar. They came back to Glasgow and later in the war, when invasion was feared, were evacuated to Milton Park.

They lived with mining families, in very different circumstances from those to which they were accustomed - almost the reverse of the children from Glasgow Cross coming to Mearns. In January 1940, the pupils who had not been evacuated were educated half days in Whitecraigs Golf Club House until we could return to the school in June 1940. We had to carry our gas masks with us everywhere”

“I attended school in Crieff during some of the war years. I remember being frightened when I saw parachutes dropping out the sky when at school there.  It was only an exercise but even in the more remote areas everyone was afraid of invasion.”

“At the beginning of the war I attended school in the north of the city but lack of petrol meant that I could not continue to attend and for some time, I was educated by a governess along with my cousin. Miss Wylie, our Governess came daily from Pollokshields by train and I recall that we were not very kind to her! Later I was sent to a boarding school in Cumberland. At the time of Dunkirk when invasion was feared, I was sent home and clearly recall the dreadful train journey to Glasgow when the train was crammed with very tired and weary looking soldiers.”

“I attended Belmont House School until I was fourteen and then Gresham House School in Pollokshields. We were evacuated to Kilmarnock and I attended school in Dean Castle. I remember that the Headmaster insisted that we listen to the 9 o’clock news every night and report the grammatical errors made during the broadcast in our English lesson next day!”

 

CHURCHES

At the outbreak of war there were two main churches in Mearns, Mearns Parish Church and Newton Mearns Church. There was also a small Catholic Chapel on Barrhead Road.

In 1938, Newton Mearns Church had been demolished to make way for the building of a new church and services were held in the hall. This new church was in the process of being built when war broke out and despite the shortage of skilled labour caused by men being called up, the new church was dedicated on 16th December 1939.

The outbreak of war was announced at the morning service on 3rd September 1939 and immediately all the church organisations’ activities shut down. However in a very short time, adjustments such as blackouts etc were in place and the activities of organisations resumed.

The church hall was designated as a rest centre for the district in the event of people being made homeless as a result of enemy action. Paliasses and blankets were supplied by the government and the ladies of the church volunteered to staff the centre if required. In the aftermath of the Clydebank blitz, the centre was used until the evacuees could be given more permanent accommodation.

In 1941 the Church set up a canteen for the forces who were stationed around Mearns. Cigarettes and chocolate were made available by the authorities, Hay the village baker provided some food and local people offered whatever they could spare. The canteen was run by the social club who worked in teams of four and the commitment and enthusiasm of its members contributed greatly to the success of the venture.

During the war years, the church kept in touch with its members by sending them parcels and messages of goodwill and support. The Woman’s Guild work party knitted over 3,000 items for the forces and other deserving causes; the items being mainly gloves, scarves, socks and balaclavas.

The Rev. Murray McKay played a prominent role in both the spiritual and pastoral life of the church which was vigorous with good attendances at worship throughout the war years.

The minister in Mearns Parish Church was Rev A. Drummond Duff. He had fought in the First World War and volunteered as a Chaplain to the 51st Highland Division at the beginning of the Second World War. He lost an arm and was captured at St Valery and spent 3½ years in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. During his absence Rev. J Hutchison was minister at Mearnskirk.

While a prisoner of war, Rev. Duff met Captain Holm of Hazelden. During one of their conversations they talked about the weathercock on top of the steeple of Mearns Parish Church which had lost its tail during ‘target practice’ by some merry customers of the nearby Red Lion Inn. Captain Holmes promised that if they both returned safely to Mearns he would present the church with a new weathercock. The happy ending is that in the late 1940s the new weathercock of phosphor bronze, weighing 2½ cwts. was installed on the top of the steeple of Mearnskirk.

Rev. Duff was the first soldier repatriated to Mearns and there was a great reception for him at Mearns Cross with the pipe band playing. Anderson’s taxi had been sent to meet him from the train in Glasgow and so many people turned out to welcome him home that the taxi had difficulty getting through Mearns Cross. It stopped in Eaglesham Road and Rev. Duff spoke to the assembled crowd through the sun roof! On the following Sunday he preached in Mearns Parish Church and the church was packed, extra seats having to be brought in.

During the war years the hall on Ayr Road (now the reformed Jewish Synagogue) had to be used for services as the church building was damaged by water ingress. Once Rev. Duff returned the damage was repaired and electricity installed in the church for the first time, replacing the paraffin lamps and the manual pump for the organ.

 

SOCIAL LIFE

Despite the drawbacks of rationing and the blackout, people in Mearns continued with their social activities. As mentioned earlier, there was a wide variety of entertainment. Unlike today, people made their own entertainment. The churches ran clubs and dances which were well supported. For children there were Brownies, Guides and the Boy’s Brigade.
“We were told that the floor of the Church Hall was not considered to be suitable for dancing so social dances were not allowed. Some of us decided that if we held a ‘social evening’ with perhaps two games, we could fill the rest of the time with dancing! Some boys from the Church had formed a band and they provided the music.  The soldiers at Pollok Castle decided to organise a dance and invited the girls from the village. They sent an army lorry to collect us, but the band which was to play did not appear and I persuaded the ‘Church band’ to fill the gap.”

“Peter Kay, the joiner, and Wilson, the factor whose office was in Main Street and other local people organised ‘Welcome Home’ nights for the village and these were well attended. These were held to raise money to be able to support troops returning to Mearns after the war. They held ‘go as you please’ concerts and dances. One in particular which one man remembers was an open air dance held where the bus garage stood on Barrhead Road. One of the organisers told us that she was disappointed that they could give only £20 each to those being demobbed at the end of the war.”

“The Band of Hope held meetings in the U.F. Church and social evenings were held in the Gospel Hall in Main Street. Guides and Brownies continued in war years but by that time I was old enough to be in the Girls’ Training Corps.  Some of the young people travelled by bus to attend dances which were held at the Tudor Cinema/ Ballroom in Giffnock. Some of the girls who wore cotton frocks to the dances insisted on standing on the bus journey in order to prevent their dresses being crushed.”

Victory in Europe (VE Day) was 8th May 1945 and the end of the war in Europe was celebrated with a huge party in Newton Mearns. Local people and troops stationed around Mearns celebrated victory together. However, it was not a time of celebration for all families. The Mearns War Memorial records the names of thirty five Mearns men who lost their lives serving their country.


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During the Second World War, a prisoner of war camp was located at Patterton, in the area known historically as Jenny Lind. The site  was approximately quarter of a mile north of Patterton Station, bounded by the present M77, Patterton Farm and the Stewarton Road (B769).

The site is listed in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), National Monuments Record of Scotland (NS55NW 113) and is referred to as a military accommodation camp.

Until a few years ago the bases of some of the camp huts could be traced amongst the undergrowth but Whitecraigs Nursing Home and houses have now been built over most of the area and no trace of the camp remains. The south end of the site has been landscaped as part of the Dams to Darnley Country Park. Fortunately, in September 2004, before the last houses were built, Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) carried out an archaeological evaluation of the remaining part of the site. This included historical research regarding the use of the camp along with a photographic survey of the surviving structural remains.

The GUARD report states that there is no evidence to indicate when the camp was built but does identify that the layout of the camp was spacious and did not follow the standard Ministry of War design for prisoner of war camps. This suggests that it may have been a British military camp, possibly linked to the nearby military firing range, prior to being extended to be used as a prisoner of war camp.

GUARD have identified that the camp consisted of four separate sections: an open complex of structures to the north-east (possibly comprising the guards’ accommodation and administrative facilities), an enclosure to the west, another enclosure to the south of this, set around a residential bungalow and an area further to the south where additional huts stood. These areas can be identified from the aerial photograph, taken in November 1946.

Aerial Photograph of Patterton taken November 1946
Aerial Photograph of Patterton taken November 1946 - "National Collection of Aerial Photography", 106G/Scot/UK140/Part III/5276 - Flown 03 July 1946

Also from this aerial photograph, it is possible to see what GUARD identify as a possible parade square, ornamental planting and paving and dressed stone retaining walls. There is also evidence of possible allotments and a football pitch. This photograph is the best evidence which we have of the layout of the camp.

Although the 2004 survey was able to locate the site of many of the buildings from remaining foundations, it was not possible to identify the original function of the buildings, except where some had been used as ablution blocks with attached drainage.  However, an International Red Cross report written in November 1945 identifies how some of the huts were used. Click here to access the report.

Below are two views taken from the same location inside the area of the camp, looking across the Stewarton Road. One was taken in 1946 and the other in 2005 during the archaeological survey. The surveyor in the 2005 picture is standing on the same spot as the Germans in the 1946 picture.

Camp in 1946
Camp in 1946
Site of the camp in 2005
Site of the camp in 2005

 

The Accommodation

The accommodation in all prisoner of war camps was of a standard design. At Patterton, the majority of the buildings were Nissen huts. These were prefabricated buildings of corrugated steel in the shape of a half cylinder with a concrete or brick base. The heating was a free standing stove in the centre of the hut.

Nissen Huts
Nissen Huts

 There were also Jane huts which had pitched roofs and metal cladding but were built of timber.

Jane Huts
Jane Huts

Toilets and showers were provided in separate blocks. The facilities were basic but adequate for the time. A kitchen was provided and the prisoners were supplied with food which they then prepared and served. Meals were taken in a mess hut but it was not large enough for all the prisoners at one sitting. The Geneva Convention was specific about the type of accommodation in which prisoners could be housed. It was to be of no less a standard than the accommodation in which the guards were housed.


Camp Occupancy

It is thought that initially the camp may have been a British Military camp, although no records survive documenting this.

 

Italians

The earliest official record which has been found of the camp being used to accommodate prisoners dates from May 1944 when 602 Italian Pioneer Company was already in residence. The Italian prisoners did not appear to have many activities in the camp, with the exception of football matches against the local team, Nitshill Victoria, and occasional concerts and films.  

After the surrender of Italy to the Allies, these Italians ceased to be POWs and their status was unclear. Italian prisoners were asked if they wished to work as “co-operators”.and if they agreed, were classed as “co-belligerents”. Those who refused were held in “non co-operator” camps, still designated as prisoners of war. Those who agreed were referred to as members of Italian Working Companies or labour battalions. 602 Company was re-designated as 566 Italian Working Company.The number of men in this company varied  but was between 300 and 350 .

The men worked on activities which supported the Allied war effort.  For the Italians in Patterton Camp, this included work in the fields around Mearns and also in army stores and supply depots in Ayr, Kilmarnock, Bellahouston, Paisley, Newmilns, Dechmont Ranges, Thornliebank, Shawfield and Rouken Glen. They had more freedom and eventually were able to work unsupervised and leave the camp to mix in the community. They worked seven days a week with very occasional rest days.

The prisoners were allowed to develop the campsite and by June 1944, the Italian Prisoners had built a Chapel in the camp and held their first service on 4th June 1944.

On 1st August 1944, a second  group, 613 Italian Pioneer Company, consisting of 30 Officers and 284 other ranks embarked at Algeirs on HMS Orion. They arrived at Greenock  on 11th August 1944 and were transferred to Patterton Camp shortly thereafter. This Company was re-designated as 625 Italian Working Company.  

The greater freedom allowed  to co-operators brought its own dangers. On 9th October 1944 Soldate A Catrupi was killed in a motor accident at the junction of Thornliebank Road and Rouken Glen Road and on .3rd January 1945. Sargente Bruno Zanchi was returning to the camp during blackout conditions when he was struck by a pedal cycle. He died  the next day  in the Victoria Infirmary. In both cases, the unfortunate soldiers were buried in Dalbeth Cemetery .

Other fatalities which are recorded in the records are the deaths of Captain Major Nalin and Corporal A Greshi who were killed, along with a civilian on 28th December 1944 when a boiler exploded in the Grand Halls Kilmarnock where the men were on deployment . A public inquiry was held in the Sheriff Court and the soldiers were buried together in Kilmarnock Public Cemetery.

As the war progressed, there were increased numbers of German prisoners. On 23 May 1945, the Italians were moved out  to make way for incoming German prisoners.625 Company was moved to Scone Park Camp, near Perth and 566 Company to Tignabruich Camp.

 

196 Pioneer Corps

The Pioneer Corps was a British Army combatant corps used for light engineering tasks.On 26th April 1945, 196 Company Pioneer Corps arrived at Patterton. Their task was to prepare the camp for the arrival of German Prisoners. The status of the German prisoners was different to that of the Italians which meant that the camp perimeter had to be made more secure. The records report the Pioneer Corps worked on strengthening the perimeter and excavating a further area of the compound. Available records show that the Corps was still based in Patterton in December 1945 but was deployed at sites outwith the camp. There are no available records beyond that date.

 

Germans

The first available report relating to the German Prisoner of War Working Company 660 is dated June 1945. At this time there were approximately 600 men in the camp and the reports record the prisoners being put to work to make improvements  to the accommodation and the grounds of the camp. An excerpt from an inspection report in August 1945- states:

“....this camp which is truly ‘contented with little’. No orchestra, meagre library, no newspapers, but they are self respecting and compelled my admiration. I was told  the camp site was originally dreadful, but the POWs  drain and terrace it in their spare time and it should soon be a beauty spot.”

It is thought that the area which this refers is the extension of the camp to the south developed to accommodate the German prisoners. This area lies at the base of a slope, the sub soil is clay and the whole area is very damp. The original area of the camp built on the flat ground to the north was more suitable for the original camp

By the end of June, the Commanding Officer Major W M Spreckley was reporting his efforts to purchase musical instruments for use by the prisoners. He eventually was successful and an orchestra and a choir were formed. The camp also developed a library with one of the German prisoners acting as librarian.

Shortly after the Germans took occupation, they built a bakery on the site. The camp commandant supported the prisoners in achieving this by contacting salvage depots and collecting suitable items and materials. Mr Crawford, who lived in the cottage around which the camp had developed gave permission for stone from the quarry on Stewarton Road to be used for building the bakery and also the decorative stone walls.The records state that:: “The oven was completed on 19th September 1945, the prisoners working all night to get the job completed.”. The prisoners did bulk baking of bread to supply not only their own needs, but also provided for various other military establishments in the area. On average, 300 loaves of bread were distributed each day,.but on occasion up to 600 were distributed. An additional hut had to be built to store the flour!

During the period of the German occupation of the camp, the inmates and the staff made significant improvements to life in the camp. In addition to the bakery, they improved the chapel and adapted a building as a theatre where film shows and concerts were held. They also developed decorative gardens, grew produce in allotments and landscaped the grounds.

Reporting on an inspection visit  in August 1945, one inspector wrote:

“Major Spreckley speaks some German and knows more about the practical side of re-education than any other Commandant I have yet met. Prisoners of war told me that although the camps they had come from were better supplied for diversion, relaxation and free time amenities, they would rather be where they were so long as the Commandant was there too. One of them said they lived in dread that he would be promoted to a larger camp”.

Indeed several reports from visitors to the camp refer the the positive relationships between the prisoners and their guards.

Both the Italian and German prisoners were reported to be religious.  A visiting officer wrote in his report  of May 1947:

“The camp has a resident Protestant Padre (Cremer) who is reasonably satisfied with the religious side of the camp – having an average attendance of 20%. An RC Padre has paid occasional visits from 64 P/W Camp (Castle Rankin Camp in Denny) and there is a local priest who visits regularly and has attendance of 15%.  The camp is equipped with an excellent chapel, furnished very artistically from salvaged material.”

It is also reported that the prisoners made toys in the camp which were sent to the children’s ward of Glasgow Infirmary in December 1945.

Initially the German prisoners were confined to the camp but gradually they were allowed to work in the community. It appears that many of the German prisoners were skilled and did not normally work in agriculture. The precise nature of the work they undertook is not clear, but it appears that they worked at the Royal Army Supply Corps stores at Thornliebank, Cowglen Military Hospital and depots in Paisley, Kirklee and Darnley.

By August 1945, the process of “re-education” of the German prisoners had begun. This was a process designed to allow prisoners to see beyond the Nazi regime, which was all many had known from a very young age, with a view to a life in post war Germany. This was achieved by exposing the prisoners to the realities of life in Britain, showing them that hardship was also being experienced by the civilian population. Gradually restrictions on fraternisation were eased, allowing the prisoners to mix more freely in the local community.  They were encouraged to learn English and prisoners from Patterton went to Johnstone Castle Camp to sit the English examination. Success in this enhanced their chances of repatriation. They were also encouraged to read, debate and discuss political issues. The Red Cross report referred to above gives a detailed description of the camp in November 1945. Prisoners were continually assessed for suitability for repatriation and by May 1947 only 189 prisoners remained. The last prisoners left Patterton on 29th June 1947.

When the camp closed, all the equipment was sent to Camp 19 at Douglas in Lanarkshire. This was the last camp to close in Scotland and was the main repatriation camp, sending the prisoners home via deportation points in England.

 

Polish

After the departure of the German prisoners and until 1949, the camp was used by the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC). The purpose of the PRC was to facilitate the transition from military life to civilian life in a foreign country for those Polish soldiers who wished to remain in Britain. Soldiers would learn English and undertake vocational training. During this training they would try to find a job. After a period of two years the individual was deemed to be a civilian.

 

Post war civilian inhabitants

After 1949 people from Glasgow, often referred to as “squatters” moved into the camp buildings. Each hut was divided and accommodated two families. There are no official records of life in the camp at this time but an insight is available from a letter written by Frank Reilly, Ontario, Canada.

“My family were homeless from 1948-51 in Glasgow. As a child, myself and my two brothers and my parents were boarded in the camp during this period. The dates I am unsure of. The POWs had left by 1947-48 and I believe it was turned over to the Corporation of Glasgow. I don't remember much about our stay there, or the precise time we were boarded. My father, a veteran of the Second World War, was particularly critical of the cleanliness or lack thereof of the Camp. I caught a disease that necessitated my being shaved bald and being dabbed with purple medicine. We were sent to Port Seton from the Camp for a break upon recovery, which was very nice. There was a railway line that led to the Camp. The line was there until the 1950s then it was dug up and removed.”

The families were gradually re-housed and the majority of the buildings were removed in the late 1950s.

Today there is no evidence that a Prisoner of War camp ever existed in the area.

 

Acknowledgements

Permission to use information from the GUARD report is gratefully acknowledged.

Patterton Aerial Image - "National Collection of Aerial Photography", 106G/Scot/UK140/Part III/5276 - Flown 03 July 1946

 

 

 


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2014 marked 100 years since the outbreak of World War 1. To recognise the debt we owe to the men of Mearns who lost their lives in that conflict, members of Mearns History Group researched the background of the men commemorated on the Civic War Memorial. Names commemorated on War Memorials in churches and other locations within Mearns were also been researched. Names of Mearns men who died but who were not recorded on any memorial locally were traced and these names are also listed. If you have knowledge of any of the men or their families which you could share with us, or if you know of any other men who should be included, we would be pleased if you would contact us.

Newton Mearns War Memorial

To find details for each of the following men, please click on the name:


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Men Not On The War Memorial

To find details for each of the following men, please click on the name:



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