Hidden records show 800 Kirk buildings damaged during WWII

A wartime ledger has revealed around 800 Church of Scotland buildings were damaged in the Second World War, as an expert said the Kirk was 'in the front line' during bombing raids.

Bearsden South Church was virtually destroyed by a German bomb dropped in March 1941. Picture: PA
Bearsden South Church was virtually destroyed by a German bomb dropped in March 1941. Picture: PA

The Register of War Damaged Properties records every incident that befell churches, manses and halls across the country, setting out the date, the extent of damage caused and the cost of repairs to hundreds of properties in communities including Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Greenock, Clydebank, Lossiemouth, Kirkcudbright and Kirkcaldy.

The ledger, which has been preserved for decades in the Kirk’s offices in Edinburgh, will soon be handed to the National Archives of Scotland to enable historians to pore over it for the first time.

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Dr Jeremy Crang, a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University, said the register shows the Kirk was “very much in the front line” and provided an “insight into the great challenges and trauma” members faced.

Rev Bill Hogg, convener of the Church of Scotland’s committee on church art and architecture, added: “This ledger provides an insight into what church people faced during the Second World War and how they must have felt threatened in their ordinary life.

“Damaged churches must have been quite devastating for communities because they are regarded as places of stability and continuity. What this register represents is the attempt the Church was making to keep things going.”

A total of 89 cities and towns were bombed across Scotland during the war and official figures estimate 2,298 people were killed, and 5,725 injured.

Most casualties occurred during the two-night Clydebank Blitz in March 1941 which claimed the lives of 528 people and left 617 severely injured.

Bearsden South Church near Glasgow, now known as Bearsden Cross Church, was rebuilt after being hit by an incendiary bomb dropped by a plane returning from the Clydebank raid. The ledger states: “Totally destroyed – only walls standing.”

Audrey Taylor, 81, who has been attending the church since she was three, remembers her father, an air raid warden, went out while the rest of the family hid under the dining room table.

She said: “It was devastating for Bearsden because it was the only building hit, but it brought the community together.”