Ma Wee Gas Mask

Before I start a post, I usually have a clear idea of what I want to write about. However sometimes I can get pulled off track and this evening was one of those occasions. So this is going to be a long post, but if you hang in, there’s a rather sweet Youtube video at the very end!

With the 70th Anniversary of D-Day rapidly approaching on June 6th, I thought it would be interesting to look at The Glasgow Herald from June 2nd, 1944 and see if I could find any hint of the approaching invasion.

As noted in previous blogs, paper rationing meant each issue was comprised of only 8 pages. The Glasgow blackout began at 11.52pm and ended at 4.28am, a far cry from six months earlier when it lasted from 5.25pm until 9.17am the following morning!

As always, the war news was buried in the middle of the paper, so there were all kinds of fascinating articles to read through first.

Films showing in Glasgow included:
Lifeboat – Tallulah Bankhead.
Jack London – Susan Hayward
Madame Curie – Greer Garson
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Gary Cooper
The Cross of Lorraine – Gene Kelly
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – Deborah Kerr

A list of legacies given to The Western Infirmary – remember this was 4 years before the NHS came in to being.

Mr Herman Anton Andrews, a London banker, bought the Scottish islands of South Uist, Benbecula and Eriskay. Following the purchase, the Scottish National Party sent him a letter detailing their concern that the buying up of large tracts of land by those operating from London and other centres outside the borders was contrary to the interests and people of of Scotland. (Given that Scotland is voting on Independence in September this year, I this particularly apt.)

And then came the war headlines.

Germans ‘getting a licking’ in Italy.

Notification that 47% of US Army troops (3,500,000 men) were stationed overseas.
The US Air Force had 50% of its personnel (2,357,000 men) and more than 50% of their machines stationed overseas.

Allied Gains on the Burma Front.

Three beachhead columns were moving on Rome.

4,000lb bombs were dropped at Roumania’s Iron Gate (where the Danube narrows), reducing German barge traffic and their ability to repair their railways.

Admiral Sir William M James, Chief of Naval Information in London, said the Navy would soon appear again in the public eye. ‘Before long, we shall reach that stage when we begin to launch a great amphibious expedition… We are going to have dramatic moments soon.” So there it was, the hint that something big was in the air.

And then it was back to general news, where one item in particular caught my attention. The Half-Past-Eight Show, starring entertainer Dave Willis was playing at the King’s Theatre.

As a child in the 60s, I remember going with my mother to see The Half-Past-Eight Show starring Dave Willis! I had no idea it had been going for so long. Before the 1930s, it had been the tradition for theatres to close during the summer when the citizens went on holiday. In the early 30s, however, it was decided to produce a high quality summer variety show. It was so successful it became an annual tradition lasting a long – long – time.

I seem to remember one of Dave Willis’s famous songs was about fox-hunting, but I’ve been unable to find any mention it on the internet. If anyone out there has any information, I would love it if you could send it to me.

Another song he sang during the war was Ma Wee Gas Mask.  I was unable to find a video of Dave Willis singing it, but I did find an absolutely charming video.  Enjoy!

In ma wee gas mask
Ah’m working oot a plan
The weans a’ think that Ah’m the bogey man
The girls a’ cry, an’ bring their friends to see
The nicest lookin’ warden in the A.R.P.

When there’s a raid on, ye ought tae hear me cry
‘An aeroplane, an aeroplane awa’ wa up a kye’
They a’ rin helter skelter, bit dinna rin efter me
Ye’ll no get in ma shelter for it’s faur too wee.

Wartime Rations – Day 2

It might only be my second day of rations but I couldn’t quite face porridge for breakfast again. After the recent excesses of the holiday season, my mindset saw it as shades of Oliver Twist in the workhouse begging for more gruel.  Give me a couple more days and I’ll be back in the swing of it. Instead, I enjoyed some toast with a meagre scraping of butter and precious jam with my morning cuppa.

For lunch I finished off the homemade soup and leftovers from last night’s dinner, so I’m not going to bore you with those repeated photos.

We’re probably going to have to eat at least one – maybe two – meatless evening meals per week, so I tried to ease ourselves gradually into it this evening with baked potatoes, with a bacon and cheese topping, and carrots on the side. For pudding, I made individual apple crumbles, using one (large) apple and half the crumble mix.  I was still left with 1/2 apple and plenty of topping, so guess what we’re having for pudding tomorrow!


Because I’m such a modern day TV addict,  I wondered what radio programmes – and the actual radio set itself – were like during wartime.  Also, I’d heard the newsreaders were supposed identify themselves – something to do with ensuring accurate news during an invasion, I think. I asked Anne, and here’s her reply.

anne2013Radio?  No. no – WIRELESS SET.  It sat on top of the coal bunker, was about 16″ across, 10-12″ high and 9-10″ deep.  Yes, it took a while for the valves to warm up, so you switched THE WIRELESS on a little before your programme was due to start.
Don’t know what it was made of – it wasn’t wood, though many wireless sets were.  It looked like a mottled brown plastic case but of course it couldn’t have been.  The speaker was behind a gold piece of cloth, and there were two knobs:  one for volume and one which changed the station, arrayed in a narrow arc at the bottom.  The foreign station names fascinated me and I used to switch from one to another whenever I could, to listen to the strange languages.  It arrived about 1937 as a gift from Alex to Mum, but of course everyone had use of it, and woe betide anyone who wanted to use it – or made any noise – if Dad was glued to it for a cricket match or a special football match.  It was treated by Mother as if it were sentient – no-one could talk if the wireless was on.  It was as rude as interrupting a person talking, Mum said.   Don’t remember a smell. 

Mary had a wireless in Kippen, but there was no power there and it needed two batteries to work, a solid one about 10x5x3″ deep, and a liquid one in a heavy glass container with a handle so you could carry it to a petrol station or other place to get it re-charged. Which reminds me that we lived by the light of oil lamps. 

The wireless was on most of the day – except during the frequent power cuts. Yes the newsreaders gave their names John Snagge, Bruce Belfridge, Alvar Liddell etc . Lots of b-i-g dance bands with half-hour programmes: Henry Hall, Geraldo, Jack Jackson (my favourite) et al. The biggest ones of around 25-30 instruments called themselves dance orchestras – but it still wasn’t as loud as today’s pop. One of Mother’s favourite wireless programmes was Sandy McPherson on a cinema organ.

Anne mentioning my Uncle Alex above made me decided to check out The Glasgow Herald to see what other programmes were on the WIRELESS on January 7th, 1942.  (Uncle Alex was a reporter with the newspaper before he joined the RAF.)  Here’s a selection.

7.30am: Exercises. 8.15: The Kitchen Front. 10.30: Music While You Work. 2.30: Billy Cotton and his Band. 9.20pm: Tamburlaine, a play by Christopher Marlowe.

What else was in the paper that day?

The blackout in Glasgow started at 5.32pm in the afternoon and ended at 9.15pm next morning.

The New Year Sales were coming to an end.  You could buy a pair of ladies’ shoes for 30 shillings, a nightdress for 8/11,  or a ‘Hampster’ fur coat  (Really?? I hope I read that wrong!) for 19 Guineas.  Even though you could afford the purchase, I think the points system was operating by this time, so I’d love to know how many points you needed for a fur coat.

It was still pantomime season in Glasgow, with Aladdin playing at the Pavilion Theatre and Dick Whittington at the Alhambra.The afore-mentioned Geraldo and his Orchestra were performing at the Glasgow Empire.

An enraged letter to the editor discussed a particular Glasgwegian’s fury at the proposal to plough up golf courses for agriculture while so much untilled land was still available in the countryside.

Women born in 1921, whether married or single, were to register for war-work on Saturday morning at their local Labour Exchange.

In the Situations Vacant, there was a call for a butcher – weekly wage of 6 pounds .  Also a hairdresser – wage not mentioned. And there was another advertisement inviting women – not liable for National Service – to apply for clerical positions in engineering works in the Glasgow Area.

A worker in Paisley was charged with failing to participate in his works fire duties and was fined 4 pounds – to be paid within 8 weeks – or face 6 weeks imprisonment.  His excuse was that he’d gone to a dance and ‘forgotten about the matter’.

But there was some tragic news in there, too. On January 6th, 6 miners were killed in a gas explosion in Lancashire. But that wasn’t the only catastrophic accident in the first week of the New Year. On New Year’s Day, there was an explosion at the Sneyd Colliery near Stoke-on-Trent where 57 miners lost their lives.

mine screen shot



I still haven’t managed to make too much progress on finding out more information on the Canadian Native soldier who apparently died in Glasgow in 1916/17.  However, while researching information about him and his unit, I’ve discovered some great tidbits from The Glasgow Herald newspaper’s archive.

These were all taken from the paper’s December 7-10th, 1916 editions.  When it comes to ideas for stories, they’re an absolute gift for historical fiction writers.

Penpals wanted for Irish POWs imprisoned in Germany.

1,000 maids wanted in Canada.  Travel and personal costs all paid for. (Why did Canada need 1,000 maids in the middle of a war??)

An ex-soldier, who married at the beginning of the war in 1914, was discharged a year later for medical reasons.  His wife then ‘refused to take up house’ with him, so he ‘married’ another woman.  He was found guilty of bigamy and jailed for 2 months and the woman he ‘married’ jailed for 30 days!

A psychic, who told a woman her husband would die in France, was jailed for causing emotional distress and lowering morale.

An angry letter from a woman whose husband was a POW. She was required to donate over 2 pounds sterling a month to insure he received care parcels while only receiving 3/4 of that per month to house, feed and clothe her family. Imagine the physical and mental hardships she must have suffered caring for her family while worrying about her husband.