This week's Eye on Millig column is the second part of our mini-series looking back at the night when German bombs fell on Cardross 79 years ago this month.

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NAZI bombs rained down on the Cardross area over the night of May 5, 1941, and it has come to be known as the Cardross Blitz.

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

Ten bombs, one of which was one ton, made craters within a stone’s throw of the steading and hundreds of incendiary bombs were distributed in all directions.

This is an edited version of the second part of Mr Weir’s account...


Our own fire had now been got well under control, but we looked and listened while planes continued to pass overhead.

I can remember a shout “Quick, get down!” which accompanied the falling of another bomb, and a reply, “That one’s passing us” or “It’s not coming our way!”. Then from the darkness would come the inquiry “Is everyone alright?”

Then came another deafening roar and we knew another bomb had fallen nearby, midway between Kirkton and Sunnybrae.

Debris from this bomb did not reach us, but the next one, which fell in front of the steading, threw up debris and shrapnel which made holes in the corrugated iron at the place where we had again thrown ourselves to the ground.

Stones were displaced from the front of the house and one fragment of the bomb passed clean through the trunk of a fir tree on the lawn.

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Anyway, the ‘stack yard’ fire having died down and danger to the house averted, our anxiety for those inside was reduced, and, as the blitz was now tapering off and bombs had ceased to fall, we had a look round at the fires which were casting their glare on the sky in all directions.

Our surmises were correct in some cases and wrong in others. There was really nothing now to do but wait for daylight, and the opportunity was taken to break open the door and get into the house.

It was a great relief to find that, despite their terrible ordeal, all had escaped serious injury.

Injuries to myself and sons were slight. Jim had hurt his hand when he fell into a bomb crater, Alex had his cut on the wrist, and Willie escaped without a scratch, although a bomb had burst at his feet. His nerves were badly shaken. I myself had a slight wound on the back of my head.

We could only ascribe our miraculous escape to the guidance of a Divine Hand.

We waited anxiously for day to break, that we might discover the full extent of the damage done to the property. When this was possible, nothing but chaos and destruction met our gaze.

The thickness of the stone walls had saved the dwelling house from complete demolition. Walking from room to room was done under the crunch of glass and plaster.

In some of the rooms the ceilings were down and others partially down; doors were blown from their hinges; glass was shattered. In one room the ceiling fell in a piece and settled on the bedstead.

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Every roof at the farm was shattered and walls were so damaged that they had to be demolished. It was a depressing and disheartening experience and the one thought in my mind was “will we ever be able to stay in our house again?”

As the morning advanced, we had a visit from the local A.R.P. warden, who expressed her astonishment not only at the destruction which the bombs had caused, but also at the fact such could have happened with no serious casualties.

It was the opinion of many, who had been eye-witnesses from a distance during the blitz, that life could not survive at the farm with the pounding it was getting.

From the farmyard, the tomato houses, or what was left of them, looked a pathetic sight, and it was with some trepidation I went to make an inspection.

My worst fears were confirmed – hardly a pane of glass left in the whole range of structures, heating pipes cracked and broken, and the boiler smashed.

Huge blocks of rock had been hurled from the middle of the orchard to crash through the stoke-hole roof, with shattering effect on the furnace. Though cracked, the chimney stacks were standing, one in a particularly precarious condition.

And what about the promising crop of tomatoes? The plants were a grievous sight, many cut clean with flying glass and many others crushed with the weight of glass and wood. Trusses of tomatoes coming to maturity littered the whole ground.

I discovered that the heating pipes and boiler in one of the blocks was intact and it came to my mind that with ‘first-aid’ where the glass had been shattered, and with the heating still on, I might be able to save that part of the crop still hanging.

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Accordingly, as a protection from the north wind, brattice-cloth was fixed round to the height of the gutters. It is remarkable that, despite the fact, on a night later on, there was a fall of snow with a hard frost which seriously damaged the tops of the plants, we were able to gather one ton of tomatoes.

Returning to make a more minute inspection of the bomb craters around the farmhouse, I was appalled at the terrific power latent in a bomb.

One had only to see to realise the extent of penetration, even in rock, and the radius over which fragments of the missiles and debris were scattered.

One bomb which fell 150 yards away hurled stones and pieces of iron through the corrugated iron of the hayshed and pierced holes in the stonework of the front of the house. One piece of shrapnel was driven right through a fir tree on the lawn.

My next trek was to the house of my son Willie, at the entrance to the farm road. Here again I was speechless at the sight which met my gaze.

The roof of the house was lifted as a whole and moved a short distance — great gaping holes appeared in several places, and this as result of a bomb which exploded 50 yards to the rear, sending huge pieces through the roof, windows and doors.

It made us thankful that Willie’s wife and family had ‘braved the storm’ to take shelter at Kirkton.

The condition of the furniture, covered with dust and exposed to the elements, compelled me to act.

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I immediately set off for Helensburgh, and there secured a supply of glass substitute, known as Windowlite. With this and what material could be salvaged at the farmhouse, we managed to block up the windows and doors, and, using slates which had been dislodged, and sacking, tried as best we could to make the roof rain proof.

This work took us most of the day, and when night came we had so far succeeded in making it possible for the male members of the family to remain at Kirkton.

The women and children had been badly shaken by their experience, and, with the prospect of ‘Jerry’ making a return visit, they felt they could not remain at the farm, and made preparation to go to the hills and sleep in the open. Blankets, coats and other warm garments were collected and put into a pram, ready for the road when darkness would fall.

When the time came for them to go, it was to me, and also the others, a most painful experience, as we had no conception of what the results would be of another air-raid, and we wondered if we would see each other again.

There we were, faced with a situation none of us could ever have pictured in our minds. Yet, my faith had never wavered; faith that God Himself would deliver us. My faith was well founded.

The trek that evening from the farm and village reminded me of pictures I had seen of refugees from the invading Germans in Belgium, France and Holland, and it touched me deeply.

But we had no time to brood, knowing that preparations had to be made to back up our determination to make a stand and save what was possible should another raid materialise.

Sure enough, when the black mantle of darkness descended, and was later partly dispelled by a ‘bomber's moon’, the sirens wailed, giving warning of the approach of the enemy.

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It was somewhat different this time. The previous night we had been taken unawares, and much was done in a mechanical manner. This night we were keyed up and wondering what would happen.

The drone of the aircraft engines broke on our ears and grew more distinct as they approached. When and where would the bombs fall, we wondered, as we waited with a tenseness that hardly permitted breathing.

The planes seemed to be circling overhead, but someone shouted, “Look! Greenock is the target tonight.”

Fires were seen to have broken out over that town, and it was not long till a ruddy glow in the centre of it indicated that matters were serious.

Gradually the glow increased. From our vantage point in front of the house, a front seat view, we could see the outline of buildings, vessels and cranes in the shipyards.

As bomb after bomb exploded, we could see the conflagration quickly spread over an extended area.

As more incendiaries were dropped, more fires broke out on the hills. So concentrated did the bombing appear to be that we knew danger to life and damage to property must be serious.

There was a fascinating picture when a high explosive bomb fell into the Clyde. It entered the water in line with where we stood and the raging fires on the opposite bank.

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The bomb exploded underneath the water and threw out a huge circular wave, a column of water being thrown up from the centre which seemed to hang in the air at a great height in the form of a gigantic umbrella, until it gradually dropped.

During all this time, we were waiting in suspense, not knowing when one of the planes passing overhead might disgorge its cargo in our vicinity, but the droning of the engines faded in the distance and the countryside seemed peculiarly quiet.

With the coming of daylight, our thought was “How have the women and children fared?” We knew that no bombs had disturbed them, but we felt that their experience on the hillside must have been awesome.

Judge our relief when we beheld familiar forms approaching.

They said that when they reached the hillside, they laid out their blankets behind a wall, hoping to get some protection from the cold, and possibly some sleep before the planes arrived.

But one of the children became so frightened that my wife suggested trying to make their way to the farm of Blackthird, and there seek cover.

Willie’s wife and her family had by this time got separated from my wife. They had managed to make their way to a hut where, with others from the village, they spent part of the night. A friend, who resided nearby, kindly took them to her home.

Meanwhile, my wife and my daughter with her husband, family, and a girlfriend, after traversing the moor with the pram bumping over tufts of heather and with crying children walking alongside, located Blackthird Farm.

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Here they were kindly received by Mrs Paterson and invited to pass the remainder of the night at the farm, an invitation most thankfully accepted.

The condition of the house at Kirkton was so bad that, in their nervous condition, my wife and daughter, with the children, could not remain, and, for a second time, turned their backs upon home and went to Carluke.

They remained there for some days until, with help of tradesmen, I managed to effect temporary repairs,to make the house habitable.

Now that Kirkton has been permanently repaired, the memories of our bitter experiences of the Kirkton Blitz remain – memories that will never be erased from our minds.

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