by Colin Campbell
WHILE much of the country is gripped to the point of obsession with Brexit, for some older Invernessians thoughts still loom large of the very different European conflict which broke out on September 3, 1939, 80 years ago this week. Inverness reader Sheila Macdonald forwarded to Inverness news and views items of memorabilia she retains from that time, which mean an immeasurable amount to her.
I was born 11 years after the end of the war, my brother eight years after, so in truth – apart from the huge proliferation of Commando magazines with illustrated stories of them sweeping aside the Nazis – it did not impact on us to any great degree.
But my late mother remembered and talked about seeing the sky lighting up as the German bombs fell on Clydebank, near where she was in lodgings at the times.
My late uncle Alastair fought throughout the conflict across Europe with the Scots Guards, and went on to live a happy and settled life after it was over as a policeman in Aberdeen.
An abiding memory that remains of him fits in with the experiences of so many others who knew battle-hardened Scottish soldiers who had seen things and endured experiences that we cannot imagine: he never talked about it. In all the years I knew him I never once heard him refer to it. I wish now I had pressed him more about what he’d been through. But it’s more than likely he would have had nothing to say.
However, Sheila writes: “This is the telegram which was sent to Inverness announcing war had started with Germany 80 years ago this week. I have some other war related items including a letter from Douglas Wimberley to my father. Wimberley Way is named after him.
“How it came into my father’s possession was that before the war quite a few men joined the Territorials.They joined just to make some extra money. However they were the first to be called up. He (my father) apparently was in charge here. They were based just off Haugh Road.
“He was fortunate that he was not sent abroad. When they were due to be posted abroad he took seriously ill, but one of his friends was killed when the boat my father would have been on was blown up.
“My father was stationed at Aldershot and then Pinefield Camp in Elgin. I also have a copy of the Pinefield Gazette Price 1d No 11 (Seaforth and Cameron’s) with lots of interesting articles. Also of interest I have in my possession from World War II a German Belt which my father’s friend who was in the Commandos removed from a German prisoner who had been captured by them somewhere in France. I also have his Green Commando beret and tie. The story goes that he also had the German’s gun, which he apparently threw into the sea at Clachnaharry before he went to Peru where he worked for a number of years.”
Sheila writes of the letter in her possession, below: “Writing on letter is pretty atrocious! This is what I make of it. I used a magnifying glass.”
“My dear Fenton,
I was sorry not to see you and to say good-bye and thank you for your help and work.I think attached is the missing form. Can you please get my – – – – – – sorted out and then send me everything to HQ 46 Div. Would you please give the attached notes to others I was not able to say goodbye to.
Yours, Douglas Wimberley.”
So much poignant meaning at this time in so few words.
The fateful announcement for Douglas Wimberley and Inverness troops on September 3, 1939
Britain and France are at war with Germany following the invasion of Poland two days ago.
At 1115 BST the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced the British deadline for the withdrawal of German troops from Poland had expired.
He said the British ambassador to Berlin had handed a final note to the German government this morning saying unless it announced plans to withdraw from Poland by 1100, a state of war would exist between the two countries.
Mr Chamberlain continued: “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.”