By Sea, Land and Air - Scottish Fishing Communites & WWII

By Helen Barrett | 11 July 2005
shows a sailor manning a gun on a boat

Jimmy Allan and Robert Reekie of St Monans man a three-pounder gun on board the Girl Christian in 1940. © Scottish Fisheries Museum

The hidden story of the Scottish fishing community's contribution to the Second World War effort is revealed in a new exhibition at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther which runs until September 11, 2005.

With vital skills and unique knowledge of local seas, Scottish fishermen were able to turn their hands to active service in the Naval Reserve during World War II, engaging in minesweeping, patrolling, protecting convoys and setting anti-submarine nets. Others joined the Army, Royal Navy or RAF.

shows a photgraph of partially detroyed terraced houses with people milling about in the rubble in the froeground

Bomb-damage at 6 Rodger Street, Cellardyke, Fife, on 25 October 1940.

Meanwhile on Scotland’s shores, the families left behind experienced upheaval as women sought to earn a living beyond traditional roles. Many were drafted in to work in factories or on the land, and children rushed to take shelter from enemy bombers.

“The exhibition includes photographs donated to our collections by fishermen on National Service,” explained Curator Linda Fitzpatrick, “and we have objects – such as a kit bag, cap badges – that were used by our volunteers on requisitioned boats.”

The museum has also borrowed material from fishing families who coped with rationing and blackouts, including leaflets, recipes, and gas masks – including one for a baby.

shows three men sitting for a group photograph with arms folded, smiling with uniforms and caps

Above: Three Cellardyke pals in wartime: John Rodger, boat-builder, who became a shipwright with the Royal Navy, David Smith, joiner, who joined the RES, and Tom Boyter, engineer, who served in the Fleet Air Arm. © Scottish Fisheries Museum.

During the Second World War, fishing boats were requisitioned by the Admiralty for use as flit boats, mooring points for barrage balloons and mine-sweepers and so on and many of these vessels were manned by the Naval Reserve.

A series of personal accounts, including extracts from published memoirs and interviews by museum staff with Scottish volunteers who served in the Naval Reserve are also featured. As are reminiscences from those who remember the Home Front.

Visitors are invited to share their memories of wartime life in Scottish fishing communities, which will then be collated and included in the exhibition and the museum’s archives.

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