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Our Holidays of Bygone Days spotlight prompted a number of submissions from readers which we will be featuring in the coming weeks. This week reader Ian McPhedran of Bearsden shares his wartime memories on Arran – including a close encounter with a German bomber.
We went to Arran for our holidays for the month of July every year of my life and my family went even before I was born.
We went during the Second World War as well to a rented house on Craig’s farm in Corriecravie near the nine-hole pre-war golf course and the Neuk, an isolated house close to the first tee. The course was ploughed up in the war era and has never returned.
At one point in wartime, the ferries were moved from Ardrossan to Gourock and the Glen Sannox ferry over to Arran had cables put round the sides to magnetise her and repel German magnetic mines which were dropped in harbours to sink ships.
A patrol Swordfish aircraft went past the house every morning and, from memory, I did a painting of the scene which I donated to Arran Heritage Museum.
I also saw two German planes whilst on Arran. The first flew very low past my older brother and myself on a clifftop in Corriecravie and I saw immediately what it was, but Duncan started to wave at it, thinking it was one of ours which we had often seen flying very low past on morning patrol.
I had dropped down to the ground and Duncan asked me why I was doing that. I said: ‘Why are you waving at a German plane?’ Then he noticed the iron crosses on the fuselage and a big swastika on the tail.
The aircraft turned out to be a Junkers Ju88 and it was very close. Duncan said later the rear gunner seemed astonished at him waving!
The second was one day when I was out for a walk. The cloud was low when I heard aircraft engines and a German plane flew out of a gap in the cloud heading north at about 1000 feet. I could see its markings very clearly. Later we heard Oban had been bombed.
On Arran, we checked the waters edge on the shore most days and twice we found an American ‘K-ration’ tin which was full. We took them home and opened them and found five biscuits, cube sugar, three boiled sweets and a tin inside which was a brown powder. This was the first powdered coffee we had seen and it tasted great. The coffee we had usually was called ‘Camp Coffee’ and wasn’t very good.
I also found a tin of what turned out to be Black German Bread – not very nice – which, with the cap, must have come from a sunken German U-boat.
My son just recently found out that one (U33) was sunk near where we were on holiday but at some other time, so we didn’t know about it then.
Another day while our family and friends were at the beach, a British officer came to us and explained he was in charge of Polish troops who were searching the shore for explosive detonators which had accidently washed overboard. My father asked him if he would show the children what they looked like and he showed us a brown cylindrical object about the size of his hand and two or three inches in diameter.
He said they had found quite a few and would blow them up at the other end of the beach. They did that did later. What a bang and flash it made and we learnt that lesson all right.
Mr and Mrs Craig had three sons. John, the eldest, was in the merchant navy and Duncan was a pupil at Keil school.
The youngest was Donald, about my age – I was nine when the war started. When we arrived one year, Donald told us that at Easter his brother Duncan swam out to a crashed German plane and rescued a wounded pilot.
I can’t remember the year but it would be interesting to hear if anyone knows more about that incident.
Our family July holiday ceased after the war ended and we three siblings set off in our own careers. I still visit Arran with my wife and family, staying at Auchrannie for a few days, but I miss the piers at Lamlash and Whiting Bay.
Ian’s painting of the Swordfish patrol off Corriecravie. NO_B22swordfish01
A Junker Ju88 similar to the one which Ian and Duncan had a close encounter with. NO_B22swordfish02