MUCH has been said by commentators about the conditions we are currently living under being similar to “wartime” and that we have seen a return of the so-called Dunkirk Spirit.

For those of us living in much of Scotland, nothing could be further from the truth. Communications as we know them didn’t exist during the Second World War. Television had barely been invented and in any case wouldn’t be available here for nearly a further quarter of a century. Telephones were few and far between, and “steam” radio was the only device readily available.

While there was electricity in my village, none of the farms around had this and many, including our farm, only had cold running water. Toilets were usually of the outside variety. Oh, and toilet rolls hadn’t been invented, which eliminated from the overstressed mind one of today’s big considerations.

My family had moved to a new farm on the east end of Sheriffmuir three years before the outbreak of war. Our nearest village was Blackford. I doubt if anyone there had ever seen an image of Neville Chamberlain waving his bit of paper about unless, of course, it had been seen on a cinema newsreel.

About the only manifestation of the existence of a war footing was the shooting down of the first German aircraft over Britain which had taken place in East Lothian, at the hands of pilot Archie McKellar.

Around this time my father decided we should get a radio so we could join the ranks of those who could keep up with the acrobatics of Mr Hitler via, of course, the news bulletins of the BBC. A trip to a bigger town was made and a large Murphy radio came home with us. This was powered by two batteries; a quite large “dry” battery, and two “accumulators”. The latter was a square glass bottle about six inches square and nine inches or so tall, which contained the lead elements.

A certain small boy would sometimes have to carry this the three miles to the village on his way to school, to be recharged by an elderly gentleman in his garden shed. We were now ready to go to war.

A very early result of the outbreak of hostilities was the imposition of a blackout. This was intended to make targets for enemy aircraft more difficult to find. Street lights, such as they were in those days, were switched off, and masses of plain black material appeared from somewhere in order that householders could make sure that no light escaped from their homes.

Any healthy male under 40 was liable to be called up to the army. Mostly, however, the residents around our village and the surrounding area were employed in agriculture and exempt.

My main memory of outdoor activity from this early period of wartime was the number of aeroplanes which were now to be seen in the sky. Blackford is situated about 20 miles west of Perth, and just to the east of there one finds Scone aerodrome, which had just become a training hub for the RAF.

Suddenly the skies could be filled with Tiger Moth training planes. Small boys could stare up into the clear blue sky and watch as these planes did their stuff; suddenly the engine would cut out and the plane would start to silently fall out of the sky, spiralling downwards until the engine was restarted and all of course was well. Another trainee pilot had learned a new skill.

Another change to village life was the arrival of white paint. Certain things were given a coat of this so that people would be more able to find their way around during blackout conditions.

These included the sides of the steps leading up to the house of Doctor Taylor, the well-liked local GP. He had come to Blackford in the early 1920s and would continue to serve the community well, without a holiday, until retiral some 20 years later. The front room of his house was his consulting room.

ANOTHER was the parapet of the road bridge on the A9 just north of the village at the Bogle Howe. When I last looked at this a few years ago, it was still firmly in place, with nothing growing over it after all these years. Tells us something about the content of the paint used!

Apart from the serious question of food supplies, to which I will return later, the main concern of the government in this area was the possibility of imminent invasion. To this end, several things were put in place. One of the first was the blocking off of several sites which had been identified as possible landing grounds for a possible enemy invasion. The main one in this area was a stretch of farmland adjoining the A9 main road some three miles or so west of Perth, land which still to this day belongs to Windyedge Farm.

Quite quickly, I think early in 1940, all this area was filled with large wooden poles, very similar to the telegraph poles which were used for the distribution of the telephone service around the country. These poles were then joined up with wires between them.

This made it impossible for enemy gliders to land. It was the method which the RAF would use successfully at Arnhem in 1944; heavily laden troop carriers cast adrift from their tow-planes to land individually on suitable ground.

Another development was the construction of concrete road blocks at many strategic points around the country. Such a construction was put in place about one mile west of the Perth boundary at Cherrybank. These were substantial concrete constructions which could only be traversed, by such traffic as there was about, at quite a slow speed.

These checkpoints, usually referred to as pill boxes, were manned by small army units. All vehicles had to stop and everyone had to identify themselves before being allowed through.

This was achieved by the production of the new identity cards which had recently been issued; my number was SSBF/30/3! Rumours circulated, largely believed to be true, that a farmer, returning home from the weekly Perth market, slowed to a stop when ordered to do so, then rapidly drove through. He was allegedly shot by the soldier on duty at the time.

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