Recollections by Ed Thomson

Edinburgh at War





Evacuation and Return

March 1941


"In March 1941  I had been away on evacuation with Wardie School at Gauldry in Fife.  As things were quiet in Edinburgh, my parents decided to bring me home on a permanent basis to Fraser Grove where they had moved to from 4 Summer Place as my Father was working as an LNER inspector at the Albert Dock Office in Leith, but more about him and the Leith Bombing hopefully in a future article."

Return to Wardie School

"On my return to Wardie School I became friends with a boy from Warrington whose father had been appointed Works Manager at the United Wire Works in Granton. He was Mr Bill Thomas and his son was Jack. They stayed at Pilton Park and we were frequent visitors to each other's homes."

The Embassy Cinema

"One night in March '41 Jack and I were at the Embassy cinema in Boswall Parkway to see a film called "The Rains Came". The mid evening screening was interrupted by the Manager coming on stage to announce there was An Air Raid Warning in force but the film would continue. Knowing our parents would be worried about the situation and as we only were a short distance from Pilton Park  we left the cinema and ran to Jack's. I phoned home to say where I was and as it was "all quiet" I decided to cycle home in spite of warnings from the Thomas's."

Air Raid Patrol

"Things were getting a bit noisy by the time I got home the sky was full of aircraft some of them visible in the moonlight and they were obviously Luftwaffe.  There was an A.A. Battery at West Pilton and a Rocket Battery manned by the Home Guard at Crewe Toll.

They seemed to be sending up a few desultory rounds, not the barrage the situation required,  according to our local A.R.P. Warden Mr Williamson (the fruitier from Wardieburn shops) who had nipped into our Anderson Shelter just as I got back.

He was having a cocoa with my parents and neighbours. We were in the shelter from about 8 pm and the "All Clear " went off after Midnight which meant we didn't have school until the afternoon."

Clydebank Blitz

"There seemed little opposition to the massive force.  I believe only about  three attackers were shot down.  Of course history recalls, it was the Clydebank Blitz of 13/14 March 1941. The glow of the fires could be seen from 47 miles away in Edinburgh."


"I was sent away to Aberdeen the next day to stay with relatives until 1943.

When Aberdeen came under attack, again I returned to Edinburgh, this time to Trinity Academy to complete my education."

Ed Thomson, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland:  March 28, 2006.




YMCA Forces' Canteen


Waverley Station

"In 1943, aged 14 , I was a member of Inverleith Church 117th Leith Scout Troop under Scoutmaster Harry Kerr.

Mr Robert Adam from the YMCA came to give us a talk one night and asked if any of us teenagers would be willing to help cooking and serving meals in the Forces' Canteen at the Waverley.

As most of us had done campfire cooking it seemed a good opportunity to help.  I volunteered along with a schoolmate Jim Jeffrey from Boswall Terrace And we reported to the Canteen at 07.30hrs Saturdays and Sundays working until 12 noon.

We assisted Mrs Hutchison, Miss Darling, Mrs Darcy and daughter in preparing cooked breakfasts coffee and filled rolls. We worked there until circa May 1945."

Visit by American Servicewoman

"One September day in '43 Miss Darling asked if I would assist an American Service-woman.  She had a considerable amount of baggage and I was asked to help her along to the American Red Cross Club  in a Princes Street hotel near Hanover Street.

She was exhausted after an overnight rail trip from the South. She was a nurse Lieutenant in the US Army Nurse Corps aged about 44 and as the Club was only walking distance from the Waverley I grabbed a couple of her kitbags and escorted her. During our walk I found out she was Josephine Mitchell from Redwood City California, and she had been appointed Welfare Nurse at the Club.

I was late home that day because of this diversion  but I had been presented with two fresh doughnuts a Hershey bar and carton of cigarettes for my parents!!

When they heard my story my father was sent up town on a 23 tram to bring her home for a meal. Tired after her journey she declined until next day when I went to meet her again.  Jo as we came to call her was a regular visitor and was generous to a fault bearing in mind strict food rationing was in force."


"She used to take me with her when visiting the PX at the USAAF Base at Kirknewton and I would come home with candy, cakes and butter for the family.

Jo visited us regularly until April 1944 when she was Recalled to Active Duty as a Theatre Nurse with a MASH field hospital prior to D- Day."

Ed Thomson, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland:  March 16, 2006.




Crates for US Army Trucks


Albert Dock, Leith

"My father, John Thomson was an LNER railway inspector, in charge of rail freight movements off-loaded for ships docked at Albert Dock, Leith during the entire period of WW2.

He had many adventures, including being bombed, but one of the most interesting and enduring memories was when the Yankee Liberty ships arrived from 1943 onwards.

Stores, Weapons, Vehicles

"Military stores, weapons and vehicles were unloaded almost daily for trans-shipment to various wartime depot sites.  Then in came the US troops, mainly coloured.

They were from a Materiel Division and their job was to assemble jeeps and uncrate Packard and GM engines for tanks which were being assembled at a bus depot near Edinburgh

As time went on, my father got on well with the troops and was kept in cigars, coffee and sugar from the PX."
(PX = Post eXchange, a multi-purpose store)"

Preparing for D-Day

"In the Spring of 1944, the Yanks began to pull out, in preparation for D-Day and, typically, they began progressively to smash and burn the stores they no longer needed.

These included the remainders of the crates the jeeps were shipped in.  My father asked if he could have some of the timber to build a garden shed.  'Certainly', he was told."

Crates Delivered

"A day later my street awakened to the arrival of two crates accompanied by a negro sergeant and two PFCs  (PFC = Private First Class).  All this on the back of a huge US Army truck.

The crates were carried in by the men and deposited in the back.  Then, out they came with candies for myself and the other kids who had arrived for the spectacle.

I wonder if they survived the war."

Garden Shed

"The garden shed was  built; also a rabbit hutch and a greenhouse. The shed can be seen in this photo, taken in 1955.

The backs of the Villas in Boswall Drive  -  1955 ©

Although I'm 74 now and we no longer live in Edinburgh, one of our neighbours told me that the hut is still there, and the 'Ford' stencil is still legible.  [This was written in March 2004.]

There was a further bonus when dismantling the crates.  A complete toolkit was found it one.  It was most useful as I was about to start an engineer's apprenticeship.  I still use the AF spanners for DIY on my car or domestic equipment."


Ed added, in September 2004.

"I have found the identity of the US Army T/Sgt who helped my father with the timber delivery.  He was Grant L Morrow from Tulsa. 

I hope he survived the war."

Ed Thomson, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland:

Notes written in 2004 and passed to me on March 22, 2007



American Red Cross Service Club


John Wastle wrote, seeking information about the American Red Cross Service Club, mentioned briefly by Ed Thomson in Recollections 2, above.

Until 1946

"I wonder if you have or know of anything about the American Red Cross Service Club that was on Princes Street during WWII, up to 1946, it was housed in what I think is now the Marriott Mount Royal Hotel in the Jenner's building. 

I am trying to find out about it's existence and those who stayed there."

John Wastle:  September 24, 2008



James Morton-Robertson

Sevenoaks, Kent, England

James Morton-Robertson wrote:


I was still there when sweets came off ration, but I think that only lasted a few days as the country’s entire retail stock of sweets and chocolate were bought up.  So, back on ration.

At one point in the 1940s, bread went on ration points, but this was dropped very quickly as the population really raised a great fuss.  I remember this well.  We got our bread from a small dairy at the bottom of Carnegie Street nearest the hairdresser in Heriot Mount, even side.


Another time warp – When I was three, in 1941,  I had to have my tonsils taken out and was taken to the Deaconess Hospital on the Pleasance.  On 15 March 1941, Clydeside was bombed.  I was post-operative and was taken down to the basement as the bombers flew low over Edinburgh on their way west.

Of course, all the AA guns started firing.  Later, when I came out, another two raids took place in late April/May and in each case, we went into 2 Heriot Mount which had an air raid shelter in it, although I have no recollection of any basements in these tenements. 

We could hear the AA gun shell fragments falling on to the slate roofs then into the street with  a ringing noise.  The next day we had a great time picking up these fragments to exchange for 'bools' etc.

Mother, Father and Aunt Jeanie

"My mother, father and Auntie Jeannie worked for the North British Rubber Company at Fountainbridge, before the war.  I think that they manufactured wellington boots there.

During the war, My Auntie Jeannie (Jane Ritchie Robertson)  worked for LNER and actually worked on the Forth Bridge although it has been officially denied that any women worked on the bridge,  She was very indignant about that.  She may have operated a mobile canteen or painted the bridge, I don’t know which.

She died on the 29 July 2009, one week short of her 100th birthday.

James Morton-Robertson, Sevenoaks, Kent, England:  October 4, 2009


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