Remembering the first lives lost in WW2 attacks on Clydeside

Bankhead Primary School
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Pupils have remembered 39 people who died when a wartime bomb fell on their school.

An oak tree was planted at Bankhead Primary School in Knightswood as a small number of socially-distanced guests watched on and a plaque was unveiled.

One of those present was a man whose father survived the attack as a boy.

The school was one of the first sites hit during what is often recalled as the Clydebank Blitz.

The 80th anniversary of the massive air attack falls this weekend.

Clydebank was utterly devastated over two nights as more than 400 Luftwaffe bombers swept in, killing 528 people and making thousands of people homeless. Nearly every building in the industrial town was destroyed or damaged.

But Glasgow was also heavily bombed and more than 600 people were killed across the city on the same days – March 13 & 14, 1941.

Bankhead Primary School was being used as a civil defence station at the time.

Pupils had been decanted and lessons were taking place elsewhere.

Those who died included air raid precautions personnel (ARP), first aiders, auxiliary firefighters and two boy Scouts who had been helping carry messages.

An account of what happened was told by another boy messenger, David McLintock, in the book ‘Bankhead. The Story of a Primary School at War’ by Bryan Cromwell.

Aftermath of the bomb on Bankhead School. Photo (copy): Alamy

David, who was 14, described how he and another boy witnessed the parachute mine land on the school roof and roll down in to the playground where it exploded.

David said: “I heard a flapping noise and looking up I saw a huge container with a parachute attached coming down. (I distinctly remember the canopy having a tear in it.). 

“It hit the school roof and we could hear it sliding down the slates. 

“Donald (Miller) and I decided to run back and tell Mr. Forbes (the station commander) about this container. 

“We thought that it could possibly be a prelude to a paratroop invasion. 

“However, before we could get far the device exploded as soon as it struck the ground on the CaIdwell Avenue side of the building. 

“My friend was blown inside the shelter while I was thrown against the shelter wall. 

‘I heard a flapping noise and looking up I saw a huge container with a parachute attached coming down. (I distinctly remember the canopy having a tear in it.)’

David McLintock

“For a few seconds all was quiet and then debris began to fall all around me. 

“Luckily neither of us was badly injured but had we not been given orders to hurry along to the shelters for the paraffin lamps we would surely not have survived.” 

David said many of the firemen were not so fortunate. 

The majority of those who lost their lives had been walking along the open veranda bordering the playground. 

“The veranda support pillars were blown out so that the re-enforced roof collapsed on top of them,” he recalled.

Mr McLintock’s son Neil was among the guests at the school this week.

The anniversary of the event is marked every year and a plaque in the main corridor bears the names of those who died.

Deputy head teacher Lorraine Napier said this week’s commemoration had been limited because of Covid.

Neil McLintock plants an oak tree at the school.
The inscription alongside the oak tree.

The school, however, had wanted to link the heroes of 1941 with today’s frontline workers fighting the pandemic.

She said: “Ordinarily there would be an assembly with the children and the chaplain would be there.

“We would have flowers and we would have spoken to the children of the events in 1941.

“But clearly that can’t happen very easily this year.

“Being the 80th anniversary we wanted to mark it in some way.

“I think young people need to know the history of their local area – and of the people who were involved in the school.

“This year we have tried to link it with what is happening now.

“The plaque makes reference to the heroes of our current situation and the way people have come together and supported each other.

Terrible loss

“We have tried to make a connection with that this year.”

The strike on the school is likely to have been unintended although driving fear in to the civilian population was a ploy during the raids on British cities. The RAF did the same when it attacked German cities later on in the war.

Researcher Marc Conaghan at the University of Glasgow has pieced together a chronology of the March 1941 attacks on Glasgow and Clydebank.  

He said: “Bankhead Primary school was the first recorded heavy ordnance (not counting flares or incendiary bombs) that hit Clydeside in March 13, 1941. 

“The usual accepted time is 9.15pm. Witnesses put it between 9.10-9.20pm, and most on the early side. 

“The next recorded bomb was at 11 Queen Victoria Drive at 9.20pm. 

“The first bomb in Clydebank was at Beardmore Diesel at 9.23pm.”

Marc says one possibility is that the bomber crew may have been targeting nearby Yoker railway depot.

Tbe roll of names of those who died.

“It was a lot bigger then and serviced all the mail line and shipyard lines to Clydebank. 

“It would stick out like a sore thumb at night time and lay a third of a mile from the school as the crow flies.”

But Marc said it was likely the hit on Bankhead was just a “bad error of judgement”.

“Of course, they were one of the first ones flying over and it may have just been a case of dump and run.” 

Attacks happened across Glasgow, with terrible loss of life. 

More than 100 people were killed by a bomb falling in Nelson Street in Tradeston and 50 people killed in Peel Street, Partick.

Previously unpublished accounts of people who survived a mine hit in Dudley Drive, Hyndland, revealed the horror of an explosion that claimed 36 lives.

  • Marc Conaghan is interested to hear your stories of the March 1941 air raids on Glasgow and Clydebank. He would like to hear from people who either witnessed events or from their relatives. You can contact him here:
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