Recollections by Ed Thomson
Edinburgh at War
Evacuation and Return
"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
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
"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
Ed Thomson, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland: March 28,
YMCA Forces' Canteen
"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,
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."
"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."
"The garden shed was built; also a
rabbit hutch and a greenhouse. The shed can be seen in this photo, taken
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
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
wrote, seeking information about the American Red Cross Service Club,
mentioned briefly by Ed Thomson in Recollections 2, above.
"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 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'
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.
Sevenoaks, Kent, England: October 4, 2009