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Caring on the Home Front - Volunteer memories from World War Two

Stories » Air raids » Mary Glasgow

Mary Glasgow

To the cheers of Royalty

mary1Mary Glasgow did not expect to enjoy it. But the first aid lectures inspired her. She ‘swotted’ on the bus home, studying bone structure and muscle groups. Her efforts paid off. At a first aid drill show, Mary’s team impressed the Queen, proving that Glasgow was ready to defend the Isles.

How did you become involved?

mary2” A notice appeared in the canteen one day that FIRST AID RED CROSS LECTURES were starting on Tuesdays at 7:15p.m. A doctor, a nurse and a man from the St. Andrew’s Ambulance Association would be present, it said. I coaxed a few of my friends to enrol but no one was interested – neither was I really but you were allowed away from your work early. So I thought, “that’s for me!”

mary3I started the lectures and began to enjoy them so much that when on night shift I arrived at 7:15 so I would not miss the lecture. I even swotted on the bus to remember the names of the bones; humerus, radius, femur, ulna, tibia, fibula. I loved it: sat the exam and then onto stuff about the effects of gas after an air raid.



I was now the proud owner of a Red Cross Badge and a tin helmet with a red cross painted on the front of it. I kept the helmet on the bottom shelf of my locker – I got enough ribbing about the badge.”

What did you do?

“As a Red Cross Badge holder I came into action in air raids. They always occurred on my night shifts. In the early forties these lasted from about 9 p.m. until the early hours of the morning; maybe around 6 a.m. when the ALL CLEAR would be sounded. The raid would begin with an announcement over the tannoy. Air raid warning ‘orange’ and I think civilians would be making their way to the shelters at that point. Next would be air raid warning ‘red’. We would then be prepared to abandon our workplace. Air raid warning ‘scarlet’ meant ‘make your way to the shelters’. The shelters were at the rear of the factory. They were clean and comfortable and had toilets and facilities for makin g hot drinks. There was a look-out point where the warden could raise a roof-flap; a very heavy round door. I was allowed to look out very carefully. The drone and strange bumping noises could be heard. This was the Luftwaffe attacking the Clyde shipyards. I could see the whole north side of the river and the fires burning.”

Any special memories?

mary6” The highlight of my Red Cross days was the occasion when Her Majesty the Queen and members of the City Council and the Provost visited and we had to give a demonstration of how we would cope in an air raid. There was an empty field beyond the factory perimeter and it a make-believe crater was cordoned off. The dignitaries were all seated. We were around the back of the factory in lorries with our Red Cross helmets on and rucksacks full of bandages and splints – the injured were already laid out here and there.
I still remember jumping out of the lorry and running the wrong way to my pre-selected patients through the crater – we had been given very strict orders about how to reach the injured and never to cross the crater – go around the edge! Very dirty looks from the St. Andrew’s Ambulance man.
Anyway we splinted and slung broken bits, soothed burnt bits, then got them onto stretchers to the claps and cheers of Royalty and the rest.”


Civil Defence workers needed to have uniform and equipment that not only protected them but also meant they were easily identifiable. For many, this meant a lot more than just a tin helmet. ARP training courses taught people about the horrendous effects of gas attacks and how they could protect themselves against gas should it be used. Find out more about Civil defence equipment.


In Scotland, the bodies carrying out the work of the Joint War Organisation were the Scottish Central Council Branch of the British Red Cross Society and the St. Andrew’s Ambulance Association. At the outbreak of war, these bodies began to issue their own appeals for funds in Scotland, but later they were given some of the money raised by the nation-wide Duke of Gloucester’s Red Cross and St. John Appeal.