Memories of Dundee - Part Ten

In some ways, the war had an immediate impact on our lives. The Blackout, which I mentioned previously, was imposed by law on every house, street and premises nationwide. All vehicle lights were curtailed, with black paper stuck on them, allowing only a half-crown sized circle of light to show. Torches became almost a necessity, but even they were restricted to a small circle of light showing. As a result, torch batteries, owing to demand, became somewhat scarce and if work got round that a certain shop had some there was a rush of customers at these premises, eager to buy.

Blackout curtains were an immediate essential. Mum, who was a wonderful seamstress, made our first blackout curtains from a piece of canvas sacking, which my Dad managed to get from the mill, where he was working at the time. I also remember he got some for the corner shop where we bought our groceries, the proprietor of which Will Thomson, we were quite friendly with. These were for the doors of the shop, there had to be two sets of curtains on the door, in order that when you went through the first set, the second set still blocked out the light from the interior. Windows had to be fitted with heavy roller blinds on the outward aspect and shutter of other kinds of light restrictors on the interior aspect. I assume that were government inspectors who visited, making sure that shop blackouts were adequate.

I remember Willie Thomson asking me what kind of cigarette my Dad smoked, and when I replied that he made his own - which he did at the time - Mr Thomson gave me a packet of 20 Gold Flake in 'payment' for the canvas Dad had got for him. I didn't realise that's what Mr Thomson was referring to when he posed the question, or I'd have said 'Capstan', because that's what Dad preferred, but they were too expensive and he either smoked the cheaper 'Woodbine', or made his own.

After some tine the temporary, hastily-improvised blackout curtains were changed for something more efficient and permanent. In our case a wooden frame, supporting black oil cloth, measured to the exact size of the window, was made and erected and fitted into the space when needed. A pair of heavy curtains were also drawn behind this, as an added precaution.

It was also advised that dark clothing should be worn outdoors along with other daft regulations which were completely irrelevant and meaningless, except as a kind of 'community spirit' ruse that you would be being patriotic by taking all these precautions. At the same time we were informed that the signal for an air raid would be a siren of varying pitch and the all-clear a long single note on the siren. Out local mill Grimond's, didn't have a varying pitch siren, so substituted short blasts of the siren instead, for the alarm. An invasion was to be signalled by the sound of church bells rung in the street.


Submitted by Walter Blacklaw