Wartime memories

We reproduce here some poignant first person accounts on everyday life during wartime. Taken from Sarah Horne’s Bonar Bridge booklets, printed in the year 2000.

Ardgay Post office staff in 1938. Second from left is the postmaster and owner David Mackay. Wearing glasses is his daughter Madge Mackay. The other lady is Jessie Aird and the gentleman first from right is George Peat. © Photo courtesy of Donald Brown
Telegram forms dispenser. © Photo courtesy of Donald Brown
The “second” bridge linked Ardgay & Bonar during the Second World War. © Photo courtesy of Sarah Horne

Angus Sutherland

“During the war Bonar was a centre for military personnel. There were 400 Canadian Forestry troops stationed at Invershin. The SAS trained at Achany Battle School with 300 to 400 troups and the Norwegian and Czechs and Poles in the RAF located at Tain and Edderton. Bonar was geographically at the centre, so large numbers came in. It was rather like the Wild West on a Saturday night and my father had to deal with brawls with a hundred or so troops in the main square. He had some trusty special constables. The military police sent out a detachment, but they would not interfere on civil ground until the local police had got control.”

Bunty Gordon

“While Bonar youth went to war, many other soldiers passed through the village. During the first World War Americans had a camp at Culleave. They worked mainly in forestry and had a sawmill at Cornhill. In the second World War many different troops visited the village. The Canadian Forestry Corps (29th and 30th Company) were based in Spinningdale with their headquarters at Fearn Lodge and the 17th Company were based at Rosehall with a mill at Invershin. The Canadians were a very cosmopolitan crowd, there were French Canadians and Indians as well. The Royal Artillery were at Invercarron House for a short time and some members of the Cameron Highlanders were at Daisy Bank. There were Norwegian troops based in Dornoch and Polish men in Invergordon. The Czechoslovakians were based in Tain. There were people from Newfoundland here also. There were some RAF men stationed at Dornoch as well. Many of these troops were only here for a short time. There was a battle school at Altnagar and soldiers came to be trained for all sorts of special missions. It was all very hush hush, the troops didn’t talk about where they were going, they may not even have known.

“Soldiers came to be trained for all sorts of special missions. It was all very hush hush, the troops didn´t talk about where they were going”

Of course we were a restricted area here north of Inverness and you had to get permission to go down to Inverness even. Many of these troops came to the village for dances and entertainment. Mrs Rattigan from Craigdhu used to arrange functions. One evening the Czech band came to give a concert in the hall. They were amazing as they could all play by ear, light classics and dance music. When the fleet came into Invergordon they came up too. One time we had the band of the King George V here. It’s funny, you know, despite all these strangers about, I would cycle back to Fearn with never a fear. You felt quite safe. It’s not the same these days.

We used to go down to Invergordon to see the ships. I remember we got to go over the boats. I was with Pansy Ross and we went all over, probably in places we should not have gone. One time I remember we got on a U-boat that came right into the pier. It was tiny, very short, you went in at one end and walked through, and came out at the other end. Right above the captain’s bed there was a map of Britain.

“At the Post Office we had to deal with all the telegrams that came through. In those days you got no training as to how to give bad news”

I was working in the Post Office at that time, and we had to deal with all the telegrams that came through. In those days you got no training as to how to give bad news, the telegram came and was delivered by the post. They dictated the telegrams, and of course in a small place like this where you knew everybody, it was always distressing. And of course we were very young and were not prepared for that sort of thing. I even remember taking one for one of my relatives, but on this occasion it was just that he was wounded, but it was a shock all the same.”

Katherine Broome

“I recall coming downstairs, one morning in the late summer or autumn of 1940, to see an amount of rubbish on the porch step. What had been happening? Well, the army had been camped in the garden overnight -apparently some invasion scare. There was a concrete gun emplacement in the corner of the garden on the Ardgay side of the house. It was in full view of the bridge. I think the bridge would could have been blown up from that point.”

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