The wartime memories of Kenneth Young. Interview carried out by Jill Pearce for WarGen.
My name is Kenneth Young and I was born in Glasgow in 1935. My parents moved to Bearsden in East Dunbartonshire, north of Glasgow, in 1936.
Earliest recollections of the war were the air raids on Glasgow and the shipyards in the early ‘40s. I hated the sound of the sirens, always seemed to be at night when we were in bed and we could hear the bombs landing and the guns firing. We had to get out of bed, put on our siren suits and go down to the kitchen where camp beds were laid out. Father had installed steel doors to protect the large double window with a platform and steps so we could escape into the garden if the house was hit – he had made this at his works. Bearsden was never bombed but at this time we were evacuated to stay with an aunt for a year, just north of Perth near Scone.
Father worked at Mechans in those years, an iron and steel works company founded by his uncle, Sir Henry which was an occupation that prevented him from being called up. He worked there all day, six days a week and at night he would put on his steel hat and his ARP badge (Air Raid Protection) and patrol the neighbourhood on his bicycle looking for lights to put out.
Food was rationed and scarce but we had a garden of about one acre at the back and so vegetables and fruit were grown and we had a hen house in the corner that housed about a dozen so we had eggs and the occasional chicken. Mother had a Cook and a Maid to help in the house, both from the Outer Hebrides and spoke Gaelic. I missed sweets terribly but mother had a marvellous recipe for toffee made out of condensed milk, also rationed, sugar and vanilla essence.
In the early war years we went to a local day school on our bikes which was perfectly safe as there was so little traffic, petrol also being strictly rationed. I remember playing truant once and got into a lot of trouble over that. In 1942 our Nanny was called up into the WAAFs (the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and I was packed off to boarding school aged 7, in Crieff, Perthshire where my elder brother was already installed. Naturally it was cold and the food was terrible – I remember being introduced to whale meat – but it was a lovely school, very good teaching (I was introduced to Latin, hence the Classics in later years), lots of games, no prep and freedom in the countryside on the summer term and skating in the local lochs in the winter. I stayed there until 1948 when I went on to my public school.
D Day was memorable and of course VE Day in 1945. The war with Japan seemed remote until 1946 when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.