Life in Ayr during WW2
The profile manager of this page was not born until just after WW2, therefore this is a compilation of similar facts as told by a late family member as well as a non-related civilian both of who lived through that period in history.
By the time World War 2 was over, a total of 37,000 military aircraft had arrived at Prestwick, a town next to Ayr, Scotland. As a multi-country effort, aircraft from The Royal Air Force, The Canadian Royal Air Force, as well as the United States were flown in locally during the war years as a show of force in the war in Europe with aircraft arriving on a daily basis in Ayrshire.
It was just not the military doing their job, but the local citizens of Ayr as well who were also being asked to do their part for the war effort in the lodging of military personnel and children as well in their homes.
To get young children away from the possible horrors of war, Ayr Academy on Fort Street was used as a reception centre for evacuees from main cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh. Children arrived by train at Ayr station and would make their way to the centre for processing, then be billeted in homes around town.
Adults and children alike carried a gas mask at all times. The children were taught air raid drill, and there were total blackouts every night as well as constant air raid siren testing during the days. It was a serious situation and everyone had to be prepared for the worst.
Everyone was issued a rationing book for meat, bacon, eggs (one per week per person), butter, milk, and tea. Everyone also received 'Points' which were issued as a supplement to the rationing book and were used for other items like tinned beans, peas, and fruit. The billeted solders and airmen also got rationing books which they willingly gave to their host families so as to buy in bulk. Ayr was a good agricultural area so there was always a good supply of vegetables available to make soup.
By 1941 German aircraft were flying over Ayr on their way to bomb northern locations like Greenoch, Glasgow, Clydebank (shipyards), and Paisley. There was only one occasion when Ayr heard a loud explosion when the German planes dropped a mine at the mouth of the Ayr harbour which shook the whole town. There was a large navel training base at the 'Heads of Ayr', and an Army Assault Training Team at Craigie Park, as well as the airfields at Prestwick, Ayr was never bombed like other cities by the enemy. This may have been very different if the German pilots had known there was a film showing at the Odeon entitled 'The Great Dictator' (a satire about Adolf Hitler) starring Charlie Chaplin. If they only knew............
Wilson, Jean; Family Member
Cameron, James (Hamish); Author of 'A Scottish Child's View of WW2'; 2006
BBC London CSV Action Desk