Kate Bowell

Feb 212024

Cramond Brig, Cramond, Edinburgh EH4 6DX

Bridge over water with a white building on the right and trees throughout.
The Cramond Brig over the River Almond
©M.J. Richardson, Wikimedia Commons

The River Almond Walkway follows the shores of the River Almond from Cramond Village. It is a great place to observe ducks, grebes and, in particular, the Dipper, a small river bird known to enjoy bathing and jumping in the water. The river is also a fishing ground for the Kingfisher. Also pay attention to bigger birds on the river such as Mallards, Goosanders and Mergansers. The river itself is not the only bird habitat; be sure to look up to see many Passerines in the trees, as well as Woodpeckers.

The starting point of the walk is here the Cramond Brig, a historic bridge built between the late 14th and early 15th Century, up to the seashore. Please note that not all stops are close to Edinburgh city centre and so do take this into account when planning to do the tour. There are good public transport links, e.g. bus to Cramond, bus or train towards North Berwick. The Isle of May and Bass Rock can be visited via the Seabird Centre (please book in advance as often sold out) or via organised tours from Anstruther in Fife. 

Small brown and white bird with an insect in its mouth.
A Dipper
©Walter Baxter, Geograph


Wikipedia; Individual Researcher Walk

Jun 052023

45 Abercorn Terrace, Portobello, Edinburgh, EH15 2DG

Portobello Beach, looking south-east in the direction of Abercorn Terrace.

Joseph McLuskie, house painter and Edinburgh resident, became the first civilian air raid casualty on mainland Britain after being hit by a stray machine gun bullet whilst he was up a ladder in Portobello (16 October 1939). McLuskie also became the first civilian in Britain to receive compensation for an air raid injury. Portobello hosted the funeral for the two German pilots shot down in the raid on the Forth. On 20 October 1939, a Royal Air Force procession escorted their remains from St. Philip’s Church to Portobello Cemetery, Milton Road East. The coffins were draped with the flags of Nazi Germany and hundreds of people lined the route as a pipe band played ‘Over the Sea to Skye’. At the graveside the chaplain stated, ‘There is much to divide us in thought and sympathy from those around whose graves we this day stand as mourners. And yet we do sincerely mourn the sacrifice of life demanded of them, and of so many other young and gallant men of all nations unhappily involved in war’. This suggests that ideas of heroic masculinity and nobility attached to the wartime pilot could transcend national boundaries, even at the height of war.

Tip to see this location: look east from Edinburgh Castle or Calton Hill, or travel to Portobello to see Abercorn Terrace and Portobello Cemetery.

Sources: Daily Express, 13 December 1939, p. 1, The Scotsman, 17 October 1939, p. 8, The Scotsman, 21 October 1939, p. 7 .

Additional links:

Jun 052023

Rosyth, Dumfermline, KY11

Rosyth in the distance, photographed from Calton Hill.

Scotland was an important centre of naval operations with the naval base at Rosyth mainly acting as a refitting and repairing yard for the Royal Navy. In October 1939, six British sailors killed in the German raid on the Firth of Forth were buried with full naval honours in Douglas Bank cemetery near Rosyth. Many people gathered outside the Dockyard gates to watch the funeral procession. Rosyth was also a base for part of the Norwegian Navy, underlining the close ties between Scotland and Norway during the war. In 1942, King Haakon of Norway opened Norway House at 37 Inverleith Place, Edinburgh to be used as a club for Norwegians for the duration of the conflict. On 11 May 1945, Crown Prince Olav sailed from Rosyth back to Oslo on the same ship, HMS Devonshire, which had first brought the Norwegian royal family and government to the UK in June 1941. The departure of the prince coincided with the arrival of German delegates from the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe in accordance with the unconditional surrender terms imposed by the Allied Supreme Commanders. They were received on board a British warship lying off Rosyth.

Tip to see this location: look north-west towards the Forth bridges from either Edinburgh Castle esplanade or Calton Hill.

Fighting Norwegians go back to Norway, 29 October 1944, Rosyth. © IWM A 26188.
HMS Duke of York Readies for Sea Trials. 24 October 1941, Rosyth. © IWM A 6027.
Rosyth in the distance, photographed from Edinburgh Castle.

An image of King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav abord HMS Glasgow can be seen here: https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-061-593&scache=3lrsr1bqcc&searchdb=scran

Sources: Craig Armstrong, Edinburgh at War, (2018), p. 175-6, ‘Norway House opened by King Haakon’ The Scotsman 2 November 1942, p. 3, ‘Prince Olav arrives in Norway’ The Scotsman 14 May 1945, p. 5, ‘Naval Funeral at Rosyth’ The Scotsman 21 October 1939, p. 7.

Additional links:

Jun 052023

Mortonhall, Edinburgh, EH16 6UT

Remains of the Mortonhall army camp Nissan Huts.

Recent archaeological excavations undertaken on behalf of Scottish Water revealed that Mortonhall caravan park acted as an army camp during the war. Initially, in July 1940, the camp was occupied by the 16th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI), converting from tented to permanent accommodation in mid-1942. Following the departure of the DLI on Christmas Day 1942, it is believed that the Royal Signal Corps occupied the camp until the immediate postwar period. Archaeological finds included an ink bottle, a milk bottle, a sauce bottle, and stainless-steel knife blade. Researchers also believe that the site served as a postwar camp for displaced people from Eastern Europe, including Ukrainians and Poles. A tip to see this location: look south from Edinburgh Castle esplanade, the top of Calton Hill or Blackford Hill. Alternatively travel to Morton Hall to see the site in person. The camp can be accessed via a silver gate into the field off Mounthooly Loan, opposite King Malcolm Close.

Remains of the Mortonhall army camp – accessible via Mounthooly Loan.
Remains visible along the tree-line of the field.

Sources: The Excavation of a World War II Army Camp at Mortonhall, Edinburgh – Magnus Kirby, Alasdair Ross and Sue Anderson, Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Vol. 8, No. 2 (May 2013), pp. 106-135; ‘How Our Armies are Housed’, The Scotsman 9 October 1942, p. 7

Additional links:

Jun 052023

Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG

Edinburgh Castle esplanade

During the war, a military hospital was established at Edinburgh Castle which was mainly used for prisoners of war who required treatment. In 1939, Luftwaffe pilots shot down over the Firth of Forth were brought up to the castle and treated in the hospital. Norman MacCaig, one of Scotland’s most important 20th century poets, was briefly imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle after refusing military service, before being sent to join the Non-Combatant Corps. Other Scots who were imprisoned for refusing conscription included Douglas Young, chair of the Scottish National Party (SNP) from 1942-45, who spent time in 1942 in Saughton Prison in western Edinburgh. As a dual national, the Italian Scottish artist, Alberto Morrocco, serving with the 51st Highland Division, was based at Edinburgh Castle where he was employed making false wounds for training exercises. In 1944 he painted a portrait of the Commander-in-Chief of the Castle.

A.T.S. and F.A.N.Y. at a Church Parade, Edinburgh Castle, 6th October 1940. © IWMH 4591
Band of the King’s African Rifles Visits Edinburgh, Scotland, 1946. © IWMD 27974
Edinburgh Castle

Sources: ‘Edinburgh Castle’, The Scotsman, 21 February 1946, p.6, https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/the-castle/history, Richard Finlay, Independent and Free. Scottish Politics and the Origins of the Scottish National Party 1918-1945 (1994), Victoria Keller and Clara Young, Alberto Morrocco (1993), p. 42.

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Jun 032023

Leith Walk, EH6

View from the top of Leith Walk and Union Street, looking north towards Leith.

On the night of 10 June 1940, when Italy declared war on Britain, anti-Italian riots broke out in Edinburgh. These were concentrated in Leith where there was a significant Italian commercial presence of cafes and fish and chip shops. Afterwards, a local journalist reported that the main thoroughfares of Leith looked as if a series of heavy bombs had fallen. Shop windows were smashed and premises ransacked and looted. Hostile crowds of up to 2000 people gathered and the police reported that over 100 shops were attacked. The Scotsman pointed out that an Italian man whose premises were severely damaged had two sons on active service in the Black Watch. This incident illuminates the readiness of British society to identify and target the internal ‘other’ at times of national crisis.

An image of an Italian ice cream shop in Edinburgh, c. 1907, can be seen here: https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-003-554-C&scache=5nhz091lz7&searchdb=scran

Sources: Wendy Ugolini, Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’ (2011), p. 123, ‘Italians Detained: Rioting During Night of Big Round Up’ The Scotsman 11 June 1940, p. 6.

Additional links:

Jun 032023

20 Picardy Place, EH1 3JT

Site of 20 Picardy Place, former Italian Fascist Club, now a Holiday Inn.

20 Picardy Place was the site of the Italian Fascist Club, set up in 1923, as part of a global project to spread Fascist ideology beyond Italy’s borders. Although it functioned primarily as a social club, members were expected to swear an oath of allegiance to Mussolini and MI5 began routinely monitoring the club in the run up to the war. On 10 June 1940, when Italy declared war on Britain, the police occupied the premises and the press reported that the burning of papers caused a slight fire. Many of those involved with the club were deported as ‘enemy aliens’ on the Arandora Star and lost their lives when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat whilst en-route to Canada. See also the sculpture of Edinburgh artist, Eduardo Paolozzi, entitled Manuscript to Monte Cassino (1991), which pays homage to his Italian heritage and those lost on the Arandora Star. It is located outside St Mary’s Cathedral, Leith Street.

Manuscript of Monte Cassino – current location on Leith Street, outside St Mary’s Cathedral.

An image of The Manuscript of Monte Cassino from 1991 can be seen here: https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-095-300-C&searchdb=scran

Sources: ‘Italians Detained’ The Scotsman 11 June 1940, p. 6, Wendy Ugolini, Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’ (2011), p.60.

Jun 032023

The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL

National Gallery of Scotland, The Mound. Photographed from Princes Street.

In September 1939, the National Galleries of Scotland dispersed its collections from the National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to six country houses across Scotland. Lists of works were prepared in order of importance and packing cases loaded with the transfer taking three days in total. The artworks were kept under continual close observation, ‘like hospital patients’, in their new homes. Two rooms of the National Gallery reopened in late 1940 with an exhibition of photographs in aid of the Polish Relief Fund. Temporary exhibitions continued throughout the war years, promoting collaborations with artists from all over Europe and displaying the flags of Allies ‘from China to Peru’ from the pole above the gallery door. The original paintings returned to the galleries in July 1945. This initiative reflected a global impulse to ensure that artistic masterpieces were protected and moved to places of safety at a time of conflict.

How Scotland’s Pictures were Safeguarded. The Scotsman, 19 July 1945, p. 3.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street.

An image of the Scottish National Gallery c. 1900 can be seen here: https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-299-993-773-C&scache=3lnez1bqc4&searchdb=scran

An image of the National Gallery of Scotland in 1927 can be seen here: https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-129-663-C&scache=5los51bqcn&searchdb=scran

Source: ‘How Scotland’s Pictures were Safeguarded’, The Scotsman, 19 July 1945, p. 3.

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Jun 032023

Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2HG

Princes Street Gardens. Photographed from the entrance on The Mound.

In the post-war era, Princes Street Gardens has been the home to multiple memorials (see, for example, stop 4: Wojtek the Soldier Bear Memorial; as well as The Holocaust Memorial and Norwegian Memorial Stone), taking advantage of the open location in the middle of the city. However, during the war, the gardens provided a focal point for the Edinburgh ‘Holidays at Home’ movement. This government scheme enlisted local authorities to draw up a program of amusements and entertainment for the summer months, encouraging civilians to relax at home rather than travel for their holidays. The gardens hosted numerous dances, showcasing Highland and Scottish country dancing, with some 200,000 people attending the dances in 1943 alone.

In July 1940, a series of air-raid shelters were built in the gardens, with the intention for them to be used as “shelters from the weather” after the war. The central location of the gardens was also the ideal area to access Princes Street and the Mound, where military parades and marches throughout the war took place.

A Middle East soldier revisits Britain: life in wartime Edinburgh, 1943. © IWMD 15666.
New Edinburgh Air-Raid Shelters. The Scotsman, 6 July 1940, p. 8.
Princes Street Gardens.
Princess Street Gardens.

Sources: Craig Armstrong, Edinburgh at War, (2018), p. 75, pp. 138-141, Chris SladenHolidays at Home in the Second World War’ Journal of Contemporary History 37: 1 (2002), The Scotsman, 6 July 1940, p. 8, The Scotsman, 4 July 1942, p. 6.

Additional links:

Jun 032023

4 Princes Street, South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2HG

Wojtek the Soldier Bear Memorial.

Focusing on the relationship between Wojtek the mascot bear and Polish troops under the command of General Anders, this 2015 statue alludes to the significant Polish military presence in Scotland during the war. There were two distinct waves of Polish arrivals in Scotland. Following the Fall of France in June 1940, some 20,000 Polish servicemen, under the leadership of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, came to be based in Scotland. In 1941 the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade was formed, followed by the 1st Polish Armoured Division. Wojtek alludes to the second wave, the arrival of the 2nd Polish Corps, as part of the post-war Polish Resettlement Corps. Additionally, in March 1941, the University of Edinburgh established the Polish School of Medicine. Intended to meet the needs of students and doctors in the Polish armed forces, clinical medicine was taught and civilians were also treated. The novels and short stories of Edinburgh writer Fred Urquhart vividly capture the transformative effect of the wartime arrival of Polish, and Free French, servicemen and Norwegian sailors upon the city. This monument reflects recent trends in memorial sculpture which focus on animals and raises questions over who commemorates, in what ways, and for what reasons. Why do some wartime stories evoke a more empathetic response in the twenty first century than others?

Memorial Tablet, Polish School of Medicine, University of Edinburgh, 1949. © University of Edinburgh.

Also see: Statue of General Stanisław Maczek, Commander, Polish 1st Armoured Division, City Chambers, Royal Mile (inaugurated 2018).

Statue of General Stanisław Maczek, Commander, Polish 1st Armoured Division, City Chambers, Royal Mile (inaugurated 2018).

An image of Polish soldiers from 1940 can be seen here:

An image of the staff of the Polish School of Medicine, University of Edinburgh, can be seen here:

Sources: Jeremy A Crang, ‘The Second World War’ in E M Spiers, J A Crang & M J Strickland, A Military History of Scotland (2012), p. 564, Wendy Ugolini, ‘“When are you going back?”: Memory, ethnicity and the British home front. In: Noakes, L. and Pattinson, J. (eds.) British Cultural Memory and the Second World War (2013).

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