Why we mark VE DAY
8th May 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. National commemorations will be held to mark the occasion.
We too want to observe this moment. The Second World War had a profound impact on our colleagues, our customers and our day to day operations. Thousands of staff served in the forces, including women. Many more helped on the home front.
We share some of our stories from that period of our history with you here.
One Man’s War
More than 6,000 staff served in the Second World War, including Gregor MacDonald, based at the bank’s branch on the Isle of Harris.
Gregor joined the Cameron Highlanders, serving in France, where he was taken prisoner in June 1940. He managed to escape, making an extraordinary 1,500 mile journey on foot to safety in Spain.
He later trained as an officer, commanding troops for the Allies in Italy in 1944 for which he was awarded the Military Cross.
Letter to Janette
After the war Gregor returned to work for the bank, eventually becoming a branch manager before retiring in 1972.
Many years later Gregor wrote an account of his wartime experiences for his daughter, Janette. A copy of his memoirs was presented to the bank for its archive, where it remains to this day.
The Bank During the Blitz
During the war towns and cities across the UK were bombarded from the air, causing extensive damage. Many of our bank branches were damaged as a result of the bombs.
Some were saved, such as in Southampton, where staff on fire watch duty prevented fire taking hold of Civic Centre branch.
Many staff also served as air raid wardens, helping to save lives. One of these air raid wardens was Miss Yule, a member of staff based in Liverpool, who was decorated for helping 14 people escape from a burning house during the Liverpool blitz of May 1941.
After the war the process of rebuilding began, including our branch at Fraserburgh, which was extensively damaged in 1941 and rebuilt in 1959.
Our own Dad’s Army
Britain’s Home Guard was formed in May 1940 as a ‘last line’ of defence against invasion. Men too old for regular service joined the ‘Dad’s Army’.
Large numbers of older staff volunteered, including Robert Thomson from Edinburgh. Robert was 55 when war broke out. Having served in the First World War, Robert wanted to do his bit again, so he joined his local Home Guard unit.
Some of Robert’s Home Guard papers survive in the archive, including a guards' log book.
It records a ‘mock invasion’ exercise held in October 1940, when fears of invasion were at their highest. A large convoy of lorries and armoured cars was observed going by, under instruction to ‘Drive like Hell boys’. However, the bank guard concluded that:
‘had we been provided with two machine guns the convoy would not have been in a position to ‘Drive like Hell’.
Robert Thomson retired a few years after the war ended, having served 48 years in the bank.