March 13th 1941 had been a pleasant, sunny spring day. Dusk fell on a quiet evening with a clear sky. The Tivoli Cinema in Crow Road was showing Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator".
There had been very few air raids on Glasgow, most of the German bombs having landed on cities such as Liverpool, Coventry and London, so there was little indication of the terror to come. Yet that evening saw the start of a series of devastating bombing raids on the west of Scotland, forever printed on people's memories as "The Clydebank Blitz".
Many residents of Hyndland were to suffer that night. Mrs. Tait and her neighbour had enjoyed the film at the Tivoli - a first outing for the young mother since the war began. The two women came out of the cinema, and hearing the distant explosions and seeing the glow in the sky over Bearsden, realised that an air raid was imminent.
At 9, Airlie Street Hyndland, Alan Sherry, a schoolboy at the time, saw the barrage balloon rising from the nearby swing park. He too knew that an air raid warning would soon follow.
Mrs Tait and her neighbour returned to her flat at 3, Airlie Street, prepared for a long night ahead. Unlike most of the residents of Airlie Street and Dudley Drive, they refused to use the shelter in the back close, believing it to be a 'death trap'. Just before 11.30, the distinct sound of Heinkel 111s was heard as they approached overhead. Two Heinkels released several bombs on Partick with devastating results, especially in Peel Street. Another aircraft dropped its deadly cargo on Queen's Gardens, Dowanhill. More was to follow.
Members of the Home Guard, meeting at Hyndland School, rushed out at the news that a parachute had been sighted, prepared to arrest a German airman. However, that parachute carried something even more sinister - a parachute mine - more destructive than any bomb. Alan Sherry recalls hearing "a loud, sharp crack" which seemed to come from the sky. He later realised that this was the sound of the parachute opening, bearing the deadly landmine earthwards.
There were three explosions nearby in all. One demolished a row of houses in Peel Street, opposite the West of Scotland Cricket Club, killing fifty people. Another blast destroyed a house at the corner of Lauderdale Gardens and Turnberry Road where two people were wiped out without trace. This blast blew in the windows of Mrs Tait's flat, along with the front door. The ceilings at the front of the flat collapsed.
However, the third and most devastating blast hit Dudley Drive, killing thirty six people and injuring twenty one, most of whom had been sheltering in the back closes. A mine had exploded on tenements between 8, 10, and 12 Dudley Drive, totally destroying them. Numbers 6 and 9 Dudley Drive were later demolished. Three people were trapped in 5, Airlie Street, immediately behind Dudley Drive. Mrs Tait recalls that in this third blast the back windows shattered and only the tight net curtaining which collected the glass as it shot across the room, saved her from serious injury. The remaining ceilings collapsed, leaving her covered in plaster and soot, dazed but not seriously injured.
Shortly after, the A.R.P. rescue teams and the Home Guard arrived, stretchering the injured to the shelter in the grounds of Hyndland School. As Alan Sherry and his parents made their way to the shelter, he looked up to see the Heinkel 111 silhouetted against the night sky several thousand feet above him. The flickering flames of a few incendiaries still littered the street.
The shelter had only basic facilities. The school janitor, Mr. Langlands, and his wife raided their own meagre supplies, but there was little they could do. Casualties were brought in from Dudley Drive, some quite seriously injured, but there was a long wait for an ambulance, as most had been deployed to Clydebank. A.R.P. rescue men, led by warden Ian Buchanan, began to dig for survivors in the rubble.
The long night wore on and eventually an uneasy quiet fell. At 6.30 a.m. the Salvation Army arrived with hot water and tea. Alan Sherry recalls his father going off to work straight from the shelter, with only a shilling in his pocket. (He says that of course there was no stress counselling then. It was simply a matter of 'getting on with it!') Mrs. Tait remembers wheeling her baby's salvaged cot down Peel Street to her mother's later that day.
The grim task of digging through the rubble continued for many days, many residents being critical of the authorities for their 'incompetence and lack of urgency'. Alan Sherry, along with many others, recalls the story of a schoolboy called Stanley Ewing who was reportedly dug out of the debris after two and a half days. He claimed to have survived due to the fact that, shortly before the blast, his mother had sent him to the front room cupboard for some cube sugar. Entombed by the falling masonry, he stayed alive by eating the sugar and drinking the water from the fire hoses which dripped down through the wreckage!
Five hundred people had been made homeless. St. Peter's Primary School in Partick became a temporary shelter and later Hillhead High School housed survivors until they were able to find something more permanent.
Alan Sherry moved back into 11, Airlie Street and it remained his family home until 1960. Mrs. Tait found accommodation in Kelvindale and was one of the first to return to her home, three months later, after repairs had been completed. She remembers the end of the war as "a time of thankfulness rather than joy" although her husband did hang a large flag out on V.E.Day!
The Clydebank Blitz took a terrible toll. Between 13th and 15th March 1941, approximately twelve hundred people were killed in the raids and over a thousand seriously injured. Many thousands were made homeless.
The Great Dictator had left his mark.