END OF THE WAR

To get back to the war years now, I could have enjoyed the variety of work and relished the experience, but we always had the war in mind and the fear of anything happening to the family.  We were in the front line and we had experienced first-hand what could happen.  It kept us on our toes till V.E. day finally came along on May 8, 1945.  But before we got that far along, we had to wait for the opening of the second front and D-Day on June 6, 1944.  Obviously, no one but the chiefs of staff could know in advance what and when things would happen, and newspapers were left to speculate like the general public.  We read of massive air raids all over Germany, and Berlin, Hamburg, Kiel, Essen and Cologne were whacked in raids night and day.  The British might have been forgiven for thinking it was a bit of their own back.  The main assault from the Germans by that time was the V1, a small jet plane with no pilot.  It carried High Explosive, which went off on impact with the ground when it ran out of fuel.  The other weapon of the time was the V-2, a rocket bomb which came hurtling out of the sky with no warning.  One of these hit the chapel of the Guards Brigade one Sunday morning during services and caused horrendous casualties.   The Germans had made giant strides developing these weapons since the start of the war and we civilians didn't know when they might come up with some super weapon to start bigger and better bangs all over the country.  Rumors were rife about a super-bomb, but no one, at that time, knew what was meant by that, and it was only after the fall of Germany in 1945, that we knew they were just on the verge of making a nuclear bomb.  It is easy to see why we were nervous and why we can be grateful that the Allies had the nuclear bomb first.  It still amazes me how high morale was after more than five years of black-out, bombs, food shortages, etc.  People never seemed to lose their sense of humor and could laugh even in adversity.  I suppose there were people who saw nothing but gloom and doom, but I'm certain the majority were looking forward to war's end with joy.  

One day we woke up to banner headlines in the morning paper: "D-DAY - THE ALLIES LAND IN NORMANDY."  Radio newsmen had a field day, Mr. Churchill made speeches and civilians like myself kept our fingers crossed and hoped it was indeed the beginning of the end.  After a week or two, the initial euphoria died down a bit and we read of casualties and setbacks at Niezmegan, the battle of the Bulge, the Ardennes and other places on the three main sectors, Patton to the south, Montgomery to the North, and Ike coordinating the centre.  Reading between the lines, the three generals did not always see eye to eye and in retrospect, if Ike had listened to Patton and Monty, they could easily have gone on to Berlin before the Russians.  It would have changed the entire course of the war.  Caution won out and the two had to mark time waiting for Ike to straighten out the line in centre.  I'm being wise after the event, of course, so who knows, it might have gone differently.  The last few months of war, when the Allies finally reached German soil, was a horrendous experience for the soldiers who went in to the concentration camps of Belsen-Bergen, Auschwitz, Birkinau, and many, many more.  The pictures of these poor, emaciated, animated corpses, and the piles of rotting bodies everywhere certified the kind of people the world was dealing with.  The Nuremberg trials tried the surviving ring leaders in Hitler's government, but it is hard to believe the whole German nation did not know and acquiesce in the mass murder, humiliation and torture of these millions who suffered and died.  But, like most things, even these horrors leave the public consciousness after a while and people get back to their own puny worries and tribulations. 

   Eventually, V.E. Day arrived on May 8, 1945, and people celebrated into the night, dancing in the streets, singing, toasting the victory in the bottles they had saved for the occasion, and wondering what the future held.  When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, it took away the focus we had built up over the5 1/2 years since September, 1939.  Everything did not get back to normal overnight and it was sometime before the black-out was ended and the lights went on again.  We were all wondering what the future had in store for us and personally, I was thinking that there would not be a big demand for guns now and changes would take place in the work situation.  There was no longer the same urgency, and even though Japan was still in the arena, somehow it seemed too remote to affect us.  So we kind of limped along for the three months or so till the nuclear bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and incinerated thousands of Japanese citizens.  The question of whether or not it was morally right to use the "Bomb" should be satisfied in knowing that the Japanese and the Germans would not have had any scruples about using it.  It was an extreme decision, no doubt, and had extreme consequences, but it ended the war.  In my situation, the end brought a fairly severe cut in earnings, because overtime was no longer required, and we were reduced to a 40-hour week.  Our overtime nights and double-time Sundays being cut off put a crimp in our earnings, and I was not the only one who began thinking about greener pastures.  I had a lot of friends and acquaintances I'd known in the workplace in years past, and I soon heard of a company in the Hillington Industrial Park who were getting into a peacetime project, manufacturing a special kind of oil heater.  After an interview, I was offered a job and my choice of night or day shift.  I severed my connection with Harland & Wolff's and went to work for the "Clyde Fuel Systems," who were paying top rates, plus bonuses, so it was a good move financially.  My opposite number on days was an ex-Harland & Wolff man named "Hawthorn McClelland," which is quite a mouthful, but we made a good team.  The work was not so demanding as before, which made it easier for us and less stressful.  The only thing that was a little difficult was the commute.  There were two ways I could travel: a 50-minute journey on the number 15 bus with a 10- minute walk at each end, or a tram, ferry and bus, which was shorter and quicker, but a real aggravation.  So I usually took the 15 bus and slept all the way home in the morning!  At this time, we were living at 150 Kilbowie Road in the Fraser house.  George had been married to Kathie Baillie before the war and they lived in Hillington.  Eddie was called up to the Army and went to Burma and later Singapore, with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers.  Ada had married Willie Colquhoun and, of course, Isabel was in England.  Hal was in Rhodesia where he had spent a fairly easy war with a heavy bomber training group in the RAF.  So there was enough room for us to stay while we were waiting for a house of our own. 

At this time, Elizabeth was the youngest and not ready for school.  Helen went to Whitecrook School, but Margaret still travelled to Dalmuir School, where she was preparing for the Qualifying Exam to go to High School.  I used to meet Margaret going to school as I made my way home in the morning, and she was a very pretty child and I was very proud to call her my daughter.  Not that I wasn't just as proud of Helen or Elizabeth, but Margaret coming toward me in the morning, so neat and so self-assured, gave me a good feeling.  We coasted along with nothing really exciting happening for a couple of years or so and we went back to Kirkcaldy again in the summers of 1945 (Kirkcaldy was still blacked out in 1945) and 1947 and '48.  It was a nice place for kids and a couple of times, Ena and her first daughter, Irene, came, too.