Edinburgh at War





Margaret Cooper

Fallbrook, California, USA

Thank you to Margaret Cooper who wrote:

All Saints School

Gas Mask

"I thought it would be nice to write a little bit about what it was like going to school in the early-1940s.

On my first day at All Saints School, Glen Street, I arrived there with my Mickey Mouse gas mask over my shoulder, only to find all the other kids had graduated to black ones.  How i hated that pink mask with the wobbly nose and all the stick I got from the other kids.  I did eventually get a black one but I feel the pink one left me scarred for life.  ha ha."


"School was good sometimes.  Boxes of apples would arrive.  It was said they were a gift from Australia.  We would line up and we would all receive three apples each."


"Periodically, someone would come to school and measure our feet if our toes went over a certain mark we got extra clothing coupons."

Margaret Cooper, Tollcross, Edinburgh:  Message posted in EdinPhoto guestbook, June 23, 2011



Norman Sutherland

Fallbrook, California, USA

Thank you to Norman Sutherland who wrote:

Roseburn School

Gas Mask

"It was the beginning of the Autumn Term in 1942 when I started school at Roseburn.  I was five years old and had to get a gas mask, because the War was on.

I got a child's version with a rubber floppy nose designed to offset the fear that small children might have."


"With my new school bag on my back and my gas mask on my shoulder, my mother took my brother and me on our first day where we met the headmaster, Mr. Poleson.

I had my head down during the conversation he had with my mother, and he remarked, 'Your little boy seems to be very shy.'   Actually, I wasn't. I was simply staring at his spats, that I had never seen before. These were leather coverings above the shoes and over the ankles that fashionable gentlemen wore in those days!"


"We had some wonderful teachers, many called out of retirement to replace the younger teachers who were called up for military service. However, there were a few who didn't belong teaching small children."

First Day at School

On my first day I sat in the front row and not knowing the rules, I turned to talk to the kid behind me.  Our new, grumpy and very large teacher screamed and threw her thick leather belt at me!  I ducked and it hit the innocent little kid behind me, right on the nose!  Blood started flowing from his nose as he ran out the door.

Minutes later, the door opened again and there stood the bloody-nosed kid, his mother and the headmaster.  The mother screamed and swore as she lunged at the teacher.  The headmaster struggled to restrain the mother, as the teacher hid behind her desk.

Meanwhile, I was slowly and silently slipping lower and lower in my seat, hoping that they would all forget that I was the party responsible for this ruckus. They did!  Thus ended my first day at Roseburn school."

Norman Sutherland, Fallbrook, California, USA:  July 15, 2011



Gus Coutts

Duddingston, Edinburgh

Thank you to Gus Coutts who wrote:

Food Collections Scheme

"I wonder if anybody else out there can remember school food collections  following World War 2  The scheme was for pupils to bring in food weekly for the starving Germans and Displaced Persons in the chaos following WW2.

I was in Primary 2 in 1946/47 and we were required to bring in each week - in paper bags (every house at that time had a drawer full of paper bags and bits of string)  - a couple of spoonfuls of tea and sugar together with a tin of something.  The teacher would consolidate the tea and sugar  prior to collection and dispatch.

Having been brainwashed  even as an infant during the war and questioning why we were sending food to the Germans I remember being told that not all, Germans were bad."

Did this Happen?

"Since that time, I have never seen or heard any mention of  the Food Collection scheme.  I  sometimes wonder if it existed only in my imagination.

Gus Coutts, Duddingston, Edinburgh:  July 22, 2011




Lilian Young


Thank you to Lilian Young who wrote

Roseburn Primary School

Gas Masks

"I had a good chuckle when I read about the first day at Roseburn School by Norman Sutherland above.  It was almost a duplicate of my first day in January 1942, gas mask and all.

We had to carry those awful masks, and we had drills in school where we had to wear them.  I was scared to death of mine.  It was bright red and blue.  My Mom made a carrying case for our gas masks which were often used to hit some other kid."


"My brother, who was 4 years older than me, told me to go into the class and get to the back row in the corner, then the teacher would never see me.  She outfoxed us by re-seating us alphabetically by name."

Mr Poulson

"I, too, recall Mr. Poulson and his spats.  He had been a teacher in my Mom's day She made the same comment about my being shy, and I too was fascinated by his spats.  It's funny what our little minds took in.

The Strap

"I can recall two fierce female teachers - Miss Spellman and Miss Theron.  They were famous for strapping or belting the pupils and we were all terrified of them. 

They always made the kids hold their hands one on top of the other so that they would feel the pain in both hands.   They also had long wooden pointers which they whacked knuckles with.

I also recall the lunches where these two teachers patrolled the tables in order to make sure that each child ate everything on the plates whether they liked it or not."

Marching into School

"I remember being in the playground and the bell ringing.  We we all got into our classes and marched, two by two, into the school and to the class, to the tune of 'A Fine Old English Gentleman'.

Lots and lots of wonderful memories of happy times."

Lilian Young, USA:  August 3, 2011


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