Projects

Back to What's The War Got To Do With Us?

Project Title: What's The War Got To Do With Us?

Exhibition: Declaration

The mood in Banff kirk was dark and sombre on September 3, 1939. This exhibition looks at the day war was declared through the eyes of three people who were growing up at the time. Each of them was living in neighbouring fishing and farming communities on northern Scotland's Banffshire coast. Their oral testimonies are supported by archival pictures. The declaration was made by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. It was listened to by the people in the exhibition on the wireless, which is an old word for radio. This content of this exhibition was created by Allan Burnett, www.allanburnett.com.

Assets in this exhibition:

Lena Brown remembers 3 September 1939

Exhibition Image One

Play oral history

To view this resource you will need to download the latest version of flash player.
get flash player

Description

Lena Brown looks back at the declaration of war on 3 September 1939. She comments on the part played in the war by the Prime Minister of the time, Neville Chamberlain. She compares Chamberlain with his successor, Winston Churchill.

Biography

Lena Brown was born in 1924. She was 15 years old when war was declared. During the war she lived in the small fishing village of Whitehills, near Banff, where she still lives.

Transcript

“I remember when war was announced. We had an old wireless and no TV at that time. And we waited anxiously for the man to come back from Germany with good news, but it wasn't good news. He tried hard, Chamberlain at that time. But Mr Chamberlain was nae a forceful man, like Mr Churchill, ye ken. But maybe it was better that we got him [Churchill] for the height of the war; because I suppose there were a lot of his sayings [that were] really bluff. They were both lucky to get away with it.”

Source

Date: 3 September, 1939
Contributor: Burnett, Allan
Location: Whitehills, Banffshire, Scotland
Original Source: Unarchived. Held by Allan Burnett, TPYFAC co-ordinator.


David Clark remembers 3 September 1939

Exhibition Image One

Play oral history

To view this resource you will need to download the latest version of flash player.
get flash player

Description

David Clark was a son of the manse. This means his father was the Church of Scotland minister in Banff. David remembers the atmosphere on 3 September, 1939, and the effort by his father to ensure that the declaration of war could be broadcast by 'wireless' to a packed congregation in St Mary's Church.

Biography

Dr David Findlay Clark was born in 1930. His father was the Kirk Minister in Banff during the war. His mother was a Red Cross reserve nurse. After growing up during the war, David became an RAF flying officer. He was awarded an OBE for his work as a psychologist. He also became an author, and wrote about his experiences of growing up during the war in a book called One Boy's War. He is now retired and lives in Banff.

Transcript

“It was a very blustery day. There had been some thunder and the leaves were blowing about the streets. It was wet and miserable. In a sense, it was just what a film producer would have wanted: sombre clouds, sombre mood, sombre news, sombre future, uncertainty, everything was encapsulated in the weather that particular day.

“My old man was running up and down the streets of Banff trying to find someone who had quite a large loud-sounding wireless set, as it was called - they were never called radios then. He wanted to have a wireless set up at the front of the chancel loud enough to convey Chamberlain's words as he declared war, as it was expected he would do at 11am on September 3.

“Of course the congregation was all in church and my brother and I, and my mother, were sitting in what we call the manse pew, right up at the front. An unpleasantly prominent place from my point of view. On the Sunday morning we heard Chamberlain say that, in view of the fact that Mr Hitler has [dis]obeyed the ultimatum not to invade Poland [...], we are now at war with Germany. Of course what happened then was that Tommy my wee brother, and I, immediately looked to the skies. Not for Heavenly persuasions of any sort, but simply because we thought that German Stukas would immediately appear.”

Source

Date: 3 September 1939
Contributor: Burnett, Allan
Location: Banff
Original Source: Allan Burnett


Isobel Watt remembers 3 September 1939

Exhibition Image One

Play oral history

To view this resource you will need to download the latest version of flash player.
get flash player

Description

Isobel Watt was a ten-year-old schoolgirl living in the small fishing port of Macduff when war was declared. She remembers her thoughts and feelings upon hearing the news of war on 3 September 1939. She also recollects that an eerie sense of peace quickly returned. This led to some strange encounters in the following months, when the community was visited by 'the enemy'.

Biography

Born in 1929, Isobel Watt was a fisherman's daughter. When she grew up she married and had a family. She still lives in her childhood home of Macduff.

Transcript

“I can remember vividly the day the war started, because when you're ten years old you think: 'War? Well, I'm going to die’. We listened to the war being declared. Well, they hadnae answered the ultimatum and then just shortly after that there was a special [newspaper] edition came out and you could hear the news lads on the street shouting about the war. Of course, it then died a natural death. There was nothing happening here for a long time after that. So much so that there were German reconaissance planes coming down and the folk were out waving to them. They didnae realise it was enemy planes.”

Source

Date: 3 September, 1939
Contributor: Burnett, Allan
Location: Macduff, Banffshire, Scotland
Original Source: Allan Burnett


St Mary's Church

Exhibition Image One

Description

St Mary's Church was an important wartime building in Banff. Its parishioners heard the declaration of war played on a wireless radio during the morning service on Sunday, 3 September, 1939. Later in the war the church hall was used as a barracks for troops, including members of the Norwegian Brigade. The church was built in 1790 and is still active today.


Banff Bay before the war

Exhibition Image One

Description

This photograph shows Banff Bay on Scotland's northeast coast. A couple of fishing boats lie on the land in the foreground. The image was captured before the second world war. Banff Bay is at the mouth of the River Deveron. On either side of the bay are the towns of Banff and Macduff. The photographer is standing on the Macduff side, looking towards Banff. In the middle of the bay is a shingle bar, or bank. It was excavated during the war. The shingle was used to build the runway of Boyndie Aerodrome for RAF Banff Strike Wing.

Source

Date: c.1910
Location: Banff Preservation & Heritage Society Archive
Original Source: Banff Preservation & Heritage Society, Banff


High Street, Banff

Exhibition Image One

Description

This is a view from the steeple of St Mary's Church, Banff. The photograph was taken some time before the war. The photographer is looking north and the shadows of the buildings tell us the picture was taken in the afternoon. It gives us a sense of what Banff was like before the outbreak of war.

Source

Date: c.1910
Contributor: Banff Preservation & Heritage Society
Location: Banff Preservation & Heritage Society
Original Source: Banff Preservation & Heritage Society Archive


Macduff Observer Corps

Exhibition Image One

Description

Even before war was declared, preparations were made to keep Banff and Macduff safe from attack. This photograph shows men of the Macduff Royal Observer Corps. Their job was to scan the skies for enemy aircraft. The members included local policemen and people of various other occupations. These men were considered too old to fight on the Front, so they guarded the Home Front instead. Several would have been veterans of the first world war. Voluntary organisations such as the Observer Corps and the Home Guard were to become an essential part of the 'people's war'.

Source

Date: 1939
Contributor: Hossack, Dr W
Location: Macduff
Original Source: Hossack, Dr W


Winston Churchill

Exhibition Image One

Description

Winston Churchill was Britain's war leader. He became Prime Minister in May 1940, after his predecessor Neville Chamberlain resigned. Chamberlain had been the man to declare war in 1939, but Churchill quickly became more important in the minds of the public. For the first few months of the war, Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, which meant he was in charge of the navy. All the early fighting between Britain and Germany was at sea. When Churchill became Prime Minister, he soon became famous for his inspirational speeches, which were broadcast on wireless radio.

Source

Date: 23 May 1941
Contributor: Cpt Horton, War Office Photographer
Location: United Kingdom
Original Source: Imperial War Museum


Adolf Hitler

Exhibition Image One

Description

Adolf Hitler was the leader of Nazi Germany. In this photograph he is seen inspecting an SS guard of honour. The SS were the Schutzstaffel, an elite force of Hitler's most loyal police and soldiers. Hitler is accompanied by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS. The SS played an important role in Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939.When Hitler refusal to withdraw from Poland, Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September.

Source

Date: c,1939
Contributor: Unknown
Location: Germany
Original Source: MH 11472, Imperial War Museum Archive


Neville Chamberlain

Exhibition Image One

Description

Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany on 3 September, 1939. Chamberlain was Britain's Prime Minister. His declaration was heard in Banff, Macduff, Whitehills and other places on the wireless radio. He declared war because Germany had invaded Poland and refused an ultimatum to withdraw. Before he declared war, Chamberlain had tried to reach a peaceful deal with Nazi Germany. This unsuccessful policy was called 'appeasement'. Germany invaded Norway in April 1940 and Chamberlain resigned the following month. His successor was Winston Churchill.

Source

Date: 3 September, 1939
Contributor: Unknown
Location: 10 Downing Street, London
Original Source: HU 5538, Imperial War Museum Archive