MAY 5, 1941 proved to be a traumatic night for the residents of a Cardross farm as Nazi bombs rained down.

The first bombing raid on the village came on July 13, 1940, when stick after stick of incendiary bombs fell mainly on the shore and around the railway station.

Later, high explosives fell and made large craters in a field at Walton Farm.

These raids were not accidental, as a German propaganda broadcast afterwards said that among targets bombed was “the ancient harbour of Cardross”.

The story of the May 1941 bombing at Kirkton Farm, as told by the farm’s owner at the time, James Weir, has been edited and printed by Stewart and Gillian Macdonald, who have lived in what is now Kirkton House since 1984.

This is the first part of Mr Weir’s account of that night...

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The air-raid sirens were heard on many occasion without incident, but on the night of 5th May the wailing notes were immediately followed by the crash of gun fire from the anti-aircraft battery on the Clyde shore, a sure indication that the ominous drone of engines overhead was from enemy machines.

It seemed at first as if there was only a single plane, and it was after a terrific burst of gunfire my second son, Alex, whose acute hearing detected a different note in the beat of the engines, exclaimed “that machine has been hit!”

The words were hardly uttered when there was a whishing noise and immediately fire after fire was seen on the Barrs Farm, which faces Kirkton. To watch the illuminations — as if from many candles – was a fascinating spectacle.

Part of the Plantation at Kilmahew West Lodge was next seen to be alight. By this time my eldest son, Willie, had come up from his own dwelling [now Kirkton Farm Cottage] at the foot of the farm road, to inquire if his assistance was required.

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As the incendiary bombs fired the undergrowth my immediate thought was “What a target for other planes”.

I sent Alex and Jim over to assist my brother Bob and his son David in beating out the fires in the wood, for by now the Nazi aeroplanes were passing overhead as if running to a timetable.

Just when the first high explosive bomb fell escapes my memory, but I well remember seeing earth and rock being hurled into the air as the bomb did fall, in a line with Kirkton and Geilston Farms.

More incendiaries were dropped in other directions and, though the crop of hay and undergrowth at Slewan Wood were green, it had now the appearance of a raging furnace.

Nothing so far happened at Kirkton, but the suspense was nerve racking, hearing, as we did, explosions all around the area. I remember remarking to my sons, Willie, Jim and Alex, “How remarkable it is that none of those incendiaries has fallen on Kirkton?”

I had always impressed upon my wife that in the event of an air-raid the safest place to shelter would be the small lobby between the living room and kitchenette.

It was here that she and our grand-child, Eric, went, and now and again one or other of us took a run in to encourage them and to see that they were all right, and, incidentally, to let them know that we were still safe.

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With droning planes, bursting bombs and gunfire, the noise became terrific and it was no surprise when the ‘thud, thud’ of incendiaries was heard around us.

As they burst into flame, Alex and Jim jumped the wall and got busy with spades, extinguishing the bombs which endangered the front of the house and others amongst the raspberry bushes and newly-braided oats.

I chanced to see one burning near the byre, snatched a spade and ran to the spot. I made a swipe at it, only causing the flame to leap upward.

Then the A.R.P. instruction, that incendiaries should be smothered with dirt or sand, came to my mind, and a few shovelfuls of earth soon made that bomb harmless.

The attention of Alex was next attracted by the flare from another at the rear of the house, so he rushed to find it and deal with it. I heard him shout “Come quick, Jim, the hayshed is on fire.”

I rushed to the scene and found his words were too true, two incendiary bombs having penetrated the roof. Not only was the hayshed alight but a huge stack of bone-dry wheat straw, which was reserved for thatch, was blazing.

I cannot speak about the sequence and nature of what was happening round about, but, undoubtedly, things were happening in the village of Cardross, and there was a glare from burning buildings on Barrs Farm, Mollandhu Farm and Badyen Farm.

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To deal with our problem was a difficulty, knowing that the blazing stack was an ideal target for the bombers.

In the hope of getting assistance, I sent Jim off to the village, only to discover that they had more than enough there to merit the attention of the fire-fighting squads. There was no alternative to letting the stack burn itself out and take our chance.

Alex got a hose rigged up, and Willie, after releasing the horses and putting them into a field, began to haul out the implements, allowing me to operate the hose on the fire in the shed.

Our fears were that the flames would spread to the house where the women folks and children were huddled together, as by this time Willie’s wife and children had been bombed out of their own home and had come to the farm for shelter.

Their house had been badly damaged by concussion and the debris from the bomb or land mine which fell about fifty yards away. A crater was made in the rock 40 feet in diameter by 12 feet deep.

To add to our difficulties, we also had to deal with two more incendiaries which had fallen on the roof of the barn, one of them settling in the rhone and threatening to set the barn and hay loft ablaze.

Jim seized a ladder and mounted it, carrying with him a bucket of water. The cold water when poured on the hot rhone broke the metal and the incendiary fell at my feet, to be quickly extinguished.

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We had tried to hide from those inside that the buildings were on fire, but Willie’s wife had seen the situation when she arrived and had informed my wife.

Fearful for what might have befallen us outside she rushed to the telephone to seek assistance, but she failed to get connection with the Exchange — the old telephone exchange at 2 Muirend Road — the wires being severed.

To add to the terror of the women and children, the electric light failed and left them in darkness. As Mrs Weir was returning from the telephone, a bomb fell in close proximity to the house.

The door in the room she had just left was blown from its hinges and it struck her on the back. Other bombs followed, tremendous concussion bringing down walls and ceilings, and causing the doors to cave in.

We outside were very conscious of the nerve-shattering strain those inside were experiencing, shut in and helpless, while debris was falling all around.

My ‘hunch’ that the small place they occupied was the safest was justified, for it was the only part of the house undamaged, being double thickness of tunnel wall between the farmhouse and byre.

Outside, the efforts of my sons and myself were meeting with reward. Getting the blaze under control, we managed to prevent it from spreading to the other premises.

While Alex went for a spare piece of hose to attach to that already in use, I took the opportunity to run around the house to let Mrs Weir know we were all right outside and to ask her how it was with them.

It was a big relief to me to get the reply “We are all right — are you?”

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Just when stepping from the doorway another whining was heard and I knew a bomb was coming close to the house. Instinctively, I threw myself to the ground against a wall.

There was a terrific explosion and debris of all kinds thudded against the wall opposite, the one I cowered against, as well as on the roof. It fell close to the tomato houses, where Alex now was.

Fortunately, he too had heard the bomb coming and had time to jump into one of the furnace pits.

Rock hurled into the air descended on and smashed the roof of that furnace pit, one piece breaking the water tap clean off the boiler front. Alex was unharmed, save for a cut on the wrist from flying glass.

Making my way to the fire in the hayshed, I had almost reached it when I heard another bomb coming. This time I threw myself face down on the ground and put my hands behind my head for its protection.

Again, there was a loud bang as the missile exploded. The earth shook, and I wondered just how near I was to the crater it must have made. None of the large pieces of rock, which hurled into the air, fell on me.

All sorts of thoughts flashed through my mind as I lay for the short period listening to the rattling of the debris falling on the roofs.

I attribute my escape from serious injury to the fact that I had lain down just inside the shed entrance, the overlapping roof serving as protection.

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“What about Willie?” I wondered, for I knew he was engaged hauling out implements.

In the darkness, the fire having died down, I could not see him, but I had heard a shout from Alex when on his way round with the extension hose.

He also had dropped to the ground as the bomb exploded. “You should see the size of the crater in the orchard,” he said, and a reply came from Willie: “Look at the hole that’s here.”

The miraculous thing is that Willie was, at the time the bomb exploded, only ten yards from the point of its contact with earth, but he was unharmed.

There he was, standing on the edge of the crater – incredible, but true. For my-self, I was only twenty yards away, lying flat on the ground.

While playing water on the fire, I had time to look round occasionally. I hap-pened to see a pillar of smoke ascend from the roof of Glenlee and drew the attention of my sons to it. They thought it came from a house in the village.

My fears were confirmed when the flames burst from the roof of the house and the building soon became a roaring furnace. I wondered how the occupants had fared, but next day I learned all had escaped injury.

We could see houses in the village burning furiously – Hope Terrace, Tregarthen, and one of the County Council houses, combining with other houses in the east of the village to light up the scene.

* To be continued next week.


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