Stirling Observer

Evacuees arrive after war declared


On Sunday, September 3, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

The immediate countdown to global conflict had come two days earlier on September 1, when German forces invaded Poland in defiance of an Anglo-French military guarantee to that country.

A ultimatum was handed to Germany at 9am on September 3, informing Adolf Hitler and his ministers that unless the British Government received from them assurances that troops from the Reich were withdrawin­g from Poland, a state of war would exist between the two countries.

When no reply was received by 11am, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlai­n, broadcasti­ng to the nation, said: `This country is at war with Germany.’

In its first issue, following the declaratio­n of war, the Observer said people were `not nervous but approached the situation with grim determinat­ion’, adding, `The days of twisting the lion’s tail were over. Britain would fight. The `mad dog’s’ march must be stopped.’

Elsewhere, on a page of war coverage, the paper told how on the Friday before the declaratio­n of war – following the news that Germany had bombed Warsaw and other Polish towns – the first trainload of children and mothers, evacuated from Glasgow, arrived at Platform 10 of Stirling Railway Station.

The Observer said: `The children were only slightly less subdued than a Sunday school outing and many of them were munching the `pieces’ their mothers had given them for the journey.

Out they hopped from the carriages with their little attache cases, bags, parcels and cardboard gas mask containers.

`Many Stirling ladies, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts were there to greet them and the little tots were helped out of the carriages by the receptioni­sts.’

Dr DM Grant, interim medical officer of health for Stirling, who with a team of health visitors examined the children, said the youngsters were “splendid” and “as cool as cucumbers”.

Stirling had been expecting more than 4000 child evacuees and 700 mothers but by late Friday far fewer had come.

Those evacuees who did arrive were taken to schools where they received a hot drink and food before being taken to the homes in which they were to be billeted.

Accommodat­ion arrangemen­ts and other measures to cope with refugees had been drawn up by the town’s Evacuation Committee.

On the weekend war was declared, 28 trains and three buses, packed with evacuees, arrived at transport links across the Stirling area. Among the stations to receive refugees were Balfron, Drymen, Strathblan­e, Buchlyvie, Gargunnock, Kippen, and Bridge of Allan as well as Stirling. A total of 175 evacuees had arrived in nearby towns, outwith Stirling, on the Friday, almost 2000 the following day and more than 800 on the Sunday war was declared.

About shortfall of 6000 blankets and a `disturbing’ amount of bedding, required for the incomers, was identified but this was quickly tackled as county clerk staff combed Stirling shops and other supply centres for items.

Arrangemen­ts were also made to set up 100 extra beds at Stirling Royal Infirmary. Six huts, each capable of accommodat­ing 40 beds, were erected in the hospital grounds and it was anticipate­d that staff would have to cope with about 600 expectant mothers among the evacuees.

A number of buses, belonging to transport firm Messrs W Alexander and Sons, were converted to ambulances and men and women recruited to staff them.

And the arrival of the refugees was not the only obvious sign in Stirling area of the nation on a war footing. On the Friday night, immediatel­y before the Sunday on which was declared, the town experience­d its first blackout as part of precaution­s against air raids.

Most houses were blacked out by curtains or dark blinds and in many streets street lighting was sacrificed for candleligh­t.

`To travel around after dark was a dark adventure but everyone took the inconvenie­nce good humouredly,” said the Observer.

Many Stirling ladies, Girl Guides and Boy Scous were there to greet them

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