The War Years
The Capture of Rudolf Hess
The War Years
When the first world war began in 1914 the people of Stonehouse rallied
together in supporting the armed services overseas and those in need at
home. Stonehouse, like so many villages, was to suffer great losses of
men who gave their lives in the defence of freedom.
In the Summer of 1994, the old jail house was being redeveloped. While
dismantling the building, the original enlistment register were found
of those who enlisted during the first world war including the
regiments of which the men served. This information linked with
research from old copies of the Hamilton Advertiser provide an accurate
and sometimes disturbing insight into the incidents and casualties
experienced during both world wars.
The following is an extract from the Hamilton
Advertiser at the end of
the first world war.
On receipt of the news
that the Armistice had been signed, steps were
immediately taken to celebrate the great event. Flags and bunting were
displayed in great profusion, work was stopped, schools were closed,
the church bells clanged merrily and the streets were filled with
excited joyous crowds. An impromptu pipe band was formed of soldiers
and civilians who paraded the streets followed by cheering crowds. In
the evening a huge bonfire was lit at the Cross and the silver band
played a patriotic programme. On the following days, a high victory
demonstration was organised by the Discharged Soldiers and Sailors
Federation. The procession paraded the principal streets accompanied by
the silver and pipe bands and terminated at the Cross where an
enthusiastic meeting was held under the chairmanship of Mr A. McIntosh,
F.E.I.S.. Speeches extolling the great achievements of the Army and
Navy were delivered by Mr A. Anderson M.A. and Mr A. Haddow, M.A.
During the war years organisations were formed to aid the war effort.
Never before the first world war, had Stonehouse experienced such unity
and commitment in war time. A War Relief Fund was established by local
churches and organisations working together in raising money, food and
clothing for local soldiers. Local miners
donated 2d per pound from
their wages for as long as the war lasted. The hospital also played a
major part in the war effort acting as a recuperation hospital for
hundreds of wounded servicemen. In fact this is where my late
mother-in-law May Mair met her husband Pat Murray during the second
world war when he was convalescing.
Concert parties were a regular occurrence in the hospital during the
wars, as was the case at the Public Hall and the Bowling Club.
The Rex Cinema formed a committee
during World War II, contributing a
great deal of money to the war effort.
Food rationing took place in the village during the end of the first
world war around June 1918. This of course was common during the
1940’s. The Womens Voluntary Service was responsible for organising
food and aiding domestic problems. During the evacuation of the cities
during the second world war the W.V.S. along with the Red Cross and
hospital staff, assisted the mass reception of evacuees
to the village.
Unlike the war before, German bombers were a constant threat and so the
ARP was formed, organised by Dr. Murray. John Johnston was the local
warden who made sure that there was a total blackout whenever the
threat was present. He was aided by Special Constables Willie Millar
and Jack McKinnon, working 12 hour shifts, policing the village.
Although no bombs are recorded to have fallen on the village, it has
been noted that a farmer near Goslington saw bombs dropped close;
presumably to lessen the load of the German aircraft en route home,
after bombing the Clyde. These craters are still said to be in evidence.
In 1941 an Army Cadet Force was established, with the objective of
training youths for military service after school. The Local Defence
Volunteers were also formed to prevent the threat of invasion should it
occur. The L.D.V. later became known as the Home Guard. During the war
Canadians were billeted at Stonehouse Hospital
for some time, and
Americans are said to have been stationed at Cot Castle.
One of many men of notability in the village, during the second world
war was Flight Lieutenant Alec Torrance, of Meadowside Cottage,
Lockhart Street. Alec joined the R.A.F.V.R. (Royal Air Force Voluntary
Reserve) in 1939, previously employed as a compositor with the Hamilton
Advertiser. Alec learned to fly a range of fighter aircraft and was
part of the famous 137 Squadron flying the ‘Whirlwind’ bombers on
sorties, attacking enemy positions, supply routes and shipping.
In 1941 he sustained burn injuries overseas but was able to resume
active service only a few months later, after recuperating in
Gibraltar. Based primarily in England during the Battle of Britain, in
the later years of the war he was posted to Burma and Thailand as part
of a ‘Mosquito’ bomber crew, attacking Japanese positions.
Some people in the village may remember Alec for his daring swoop under
Stonehouse Viaduct, in his ‘Whirlwind’ during the war years.
Unfortunately, Alec was spotted and his number taken and reported to
the authorities where he found himself in trouble with his superiors
for his misadventure.
After the war, Alec continued to work in aviation. In 1959 he was
Senior Flight Officer with S.A.S. at Prestwick. In 1971 he helped to
co-ordinate and plan the route for the famous aviator Sheila Scott, on
her journey round the world, via the North Pole. This venture was part
of a NASA research project.
Many men from the village took part in the first and second world wars,
and many were highly decorated. In 1959 Major John Brown, previously of
60 Camnethan Street, was awarded an MBE for his service during and
after the war in Malaya and the Mediterranean with the ‘Green Berets’
and 3rd Commando Brigade.
On February 13th 1987 the United States Airforce training school in
Upwood, Cambridgeshire was renamed the Mathies NCO Academy in honour of
one of only a handful of NCO’s to have been awarded the Congressional
Medal of Honour, U.S.A’s highest
Mathies was born in Stonehouse on June 3rd 1918, but moved to
Pennsylvania with his parents to start a new life in America. His
Congressional Medal of Honour; one of only 17 to be awarded to
personnel of the 8th Air Force during World War II, was posthumous.
Archie died struggling to land a B-17 in a field South of Stilton (near
Cambridge) on February 20th 1944. He was buried with full honours at
the US cemetery at Madinglay, West of Cambridge. His body was later
exhumed in 1947 and returned home to Pennsylvania.
The citation of Staff Sergeant Archibald Mathies reads:
The aircraft in which
Sgt. Mathies was serving as engineer and ball
turret gunner was attacked by a squadron of enemy fighters with the
result that the pilot was killed outright, the co-pilot wounded and
rendered unconscious, the radio operator wounded and the aeroplane
severely damaged. Nevertheless, Sgt. Mathies and other members of the
crew managed to right the aeroplane and fly it back to their home
station. Mathies and the navigator aboard volunteered to attempt to
land the aeroplane. Other members of the crew were ordered to jump,
leaving Mathies and the navigator aboard. After observing the
distressed aircraft from another plane, Mathies commanding officer
decided the damaged plane could not be landed by an inexperienced crew
and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety.
courage and heroism, Sgt. Mathies and the
navigator replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved
and that they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a
landing. After two unsuccessful efforts the aeroplane crashed into an
open field in a third attempt to land. Sgt. Mathies, the navigator and
the wounded pilot were killed.
‘Archie’ Mathies had only joined the 351st, 33 days earlier and was on
only his second mission. The B-17 was one of over 400 B- 17’s on
mission 226 despatched to Leipzig, targeting a Messerschmitt factory
and other locations, when they were hit by a 109 over Germany. Mathies
had only a couple of hours flying experience but was prepared to make
the ultimate sacrifice to save the wounded pilot.
The Capture of Rudolf Hess
Many will still remember the capture of Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf
Hess, but how many know it was a gentleman from Stonehouse who arrested
Hess near Eaglesham in 1941.
The late Jack McKenzie of Lockhart Street was the man responsible for
his capture during the early years of the second world war. During his
service in the Post Office, he joined the Territorial Army as a member
of the Royal Signals and was then called up for military service at the
outbreak of war.
Posted initially to Stirling Castle and thence to Eaglesham House, it
was here Jack played his most notable contribution to the war effort,
when Corporal of the Guard, Jack McKenzie and his guards took Rudolf
Hess to a nearby farm house owned by a Mr MacLean. Jack’s Signals Unit
was also responsible for tracking the plane from the North of England,
as they were responsible for alerting the Anti-aircraft defences South
of Glasgow. Despite this, Jack’s Signals Unit got no recognition for
the capture of Hess, as it was felt the events could not be publicly
revealed because their regiment only had a couple of rifles,
supplemented by pickaxe handles for defence. The local Homeguard got
the accolade as they were equipped with rifles.