Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The 1914 Christmas Truce - 100 years to the day

Amongst the many stories my Grandad used to tell me, there was one that always stood out at this time of year. Two years before Neil was born, in a battlefield far away, a miracle as many believed, was about to happen.

On Christmas Eve in December 1914, Troops on both sides of the trenches decorated their posts with Christmas Trees and candles. Echoes of Christmas carols could be heard from both sides of the battlefield. Something strange was beginning to happen.

On Christmas Day, word was spreading throughout the British trenches of an organised truce and that all should take part. Not knowing if this was truth or perhaps a hoax, one British soldier took the brave step of lifting his head above the parapet and looked towards the other side. To his astonishment he could see soldiers from both sides walking towards the each other. Exchanging gifts such as chocolates and cigarettes.

Another soldier recalled how he climbed up the ladder and walked across no man's land to meet a German Officer. Both looked at one another and exchanged a firm handshake that would have never been expected. The German Officer admired one of the buttons on the British Officer's uniform. Realising this, the British Officer produced a pair of wire cutters from his tunic pocket, removed the button and passed it to the German Officer. The German officer smiled, took the cutters and removed one of his own and passed it to the British Officer, in the same gesture.

Many similar events happened that day, including a notorious game of football between both sides.

Unfortunately the christmas spirit did not last and war soon returned, for the next 4 years.

The events of that day proved that even in the darkest of times, humans can be human. A truly remarkable story and one that will hopefully live on in the memories of others, for the next 100 years.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Second World War - 75 Years to the day

75 Years ago today Britain declared war on Germany, the start of The Second World War. 

On the morning of the 3rd of September 1939, the then Prime Minister, Nevil Chamberlin, announced to the nation at 11am that a state of war now existed between Britain and Germany.

On this same day Bute’s Territorial Forces otherwise known as “The Bute Battery”, along with a Troop from Millport, were order to take position on Rothesay’s local Golf Course near a site known to many as the “Co-Camps”.

At this time Sgt Neil McLellan, was ordered to take charge of his gun crew. Training hard they prepared for an expected invasion and were ready to defend the Island from any attack from the air.

Few could have foreseen the impact the next 6 years would have, or what was to come next!

War had come to Bute!

Friday, 6 June 2014

D-Day 70th Anniversary Remembered

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the D Day landings in Normandy.

On this day 156,000 allied Troops stormed the beaches of France, in what has widely become known as the beginning of the end, of the Second World War.

Amongst those, 61,715 British Troops landed on the Gold, Juno and Sword beaches including Airborne Troops.

20 Years ago, the Isle of Bute marked the 50th Anniversary of this important day. A fresh looking and newly reconstructed Guilford Square, was crowded with locals who turned out to mark the occasion.

One man in particular stood out from the crowd, reflections from the medals on his chest caught the eye of many a passer-by. Turning out to remember those who lost their lives on that day 50 years ago, I accompanied my Grandad on this day.

Pictured below in the local paper (The Buteman), marking the occasion in June 1994, My Grandad Neil McLellan.

"Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them!"

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Two family Birthday's

10th May 1916, a boy was born on the Isle of Bute. Neil McLellan, named after his own father, my Grandad was born 98 years ago today.

On the very same day in 1998, his Great Grandson, Nyall Galloway was born. Two years after Neil passed away on the 31st March 1996, it was a blessing they both now shared the same Birthday! 

Friday, 2 May 2014

How did it all happen; Tuesday Afternoons

Like most days after School, on my way home I would call in to my Grandad's house in Prospect Terrace, Ballochgoy. 
A Tuesday afternoon was always particularly interesting however. His friend, a local Caseworker for SSAFA (Soldiers Sailors Airforcemen Association), would arrive at two o'clock. With the accuracy of a military watch, Neil would have the kettle on and two cups ready five minutes before. As soon as the nearby school bell rang there would be another cup, as he always knew I would not be too far behind.
The Caseworker's mission was to discuss, record and note the events surrounding my Grandad's time during the Second World War. His objective, was to present a legacy for Neil's family to remember him, a lasting record of this brave man's journey through battle and captivity to freedom.
Tuesday afternoons became a regular occassion and something I would always look forward to. Hearing the stories first hand, I was priviledged and proud just to sit and listen.
No PC's, laptops, word processors in sight. Not even the Internet as we rely on it today, had played any part in this task. Simply a notepad, dictaphone and pen would sit on the table beside the important cups of tea and Neil's two budgies.  

So as the weeks and month's passed Neil's Story gathered pace.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Welcome! Where do I begin?


Many a day I would spend in my Grandad's Living Room, listening to stories he would tell me about his life during the Second World War and his time within the Prisoner of War camp Stalag XXA. With a cup of his great tea in hand, I would sit like a transfixed young boy watching a gripping action movie.

At the time I did not realise, how privileged I was, being the only family member to be told his stories of the 5 years in captivity. Like many other Prisoners of War, the trauma, experience and memories of those years would silence him for many years after release. 

In the decade I grew up as a child the 1980's. I always remember a small tin that he kept hidden in his wardrobe. He always protected this tin and would not like anyone going inspecting its contents. Mischievous as you would expect a young boy to be. I remember taking a look to find many photographs of Soldiers, theatre plays and boxing matches. Many of the these photographs were of graves, funeral processions and close ups of wooden crossed markers. 

The mystery only lead to my questions and so their stories began to unfold...