Wartime

The St Boswells War Memorial bears the names of 31 of the fallen from the First World War, and 5 from the Second. A commemoration service is held each year on Remembrance Sunday.

The oldest image here shows members of the WWI Machine Gun Corps, with George Oliver (d. 1974) on the left. Having volunteered in 1914, George saw service at Gallipoli and subsequently on the Somme.

During WWII, troops were stationed in the village, Nissen huts being erected for them. The women of St Boswells opened a canteen in the Church Hall, and kept it open until the end of the war. Given the need to disperse factories engaged in important war work away from large conurbations, a munitions factory was built at Charlesfield, which actually remained open until December 1959. Only one enemy bomb fell nearby (close to Bowden), but failed to explode. A nucleus of the Home Guard was formed from village veterans of WWI. The Hall was made available to them and other military units. (In WWI it had primarily been used for storage.) ‘Some damage unavoidably occurred but full compensation amounting to £150 was paid’, according to Lt.-Col. Frederick G. Peake, Change at St. Boswells (1961), p. 121.

This PDF presents the reminiscences of George Oliver, son of the abovementioned George, who was in his early teens during WWII. He recalls the issuing of gas masks (schoolchildren being included), the formation of a unit of Air Raid Precaution wardens and of an Air Training Corps, and, later in the war, the billeting of Italian prisoners. St Boswells lost its old metal railings, supposedly to be forged into weapons of war, and the Victorian lime trees on the Green were used to camouflage the military lorries which were parked underneath them. Other items from the Oliver family archive record the work of young George’s mother, Margaret Oliver, for the Red Cross. The Red Cross nurses in the photo below are Lennie Scott, Margaret Oliver and Bella Mackenzie, standing with Col. Dove.