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.

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