The fire of 1940 and its consequences

Destructive Blaze in North-East

Newspaper report - November 1940
The most destructive fire that ever occurred at a North-east of Scotland town occurred last night and caused damage roughly estimated at £50,000. It broke out about seven o'clock, and the conflagration, which must have been seen for fifty miles around, did not fail to attract an enemy bomber, which let fly a high explosive bomb. The fire originated in the premises of a large department stores.
Apparently it was at the back, where the workshop is situated, that the fire originated. Packed with inflammable material, the building became an easy prey to the flames, which shot skywards in a most awe-inspiring manner, and a light breeze carried large embers and a shower of sparks all over the district. The Fire Brigade, assisted by the Auxiliary Fire Service, worked hard to save the Picture House on the other side of the street.

Large crowds gathered in the vicinity to watch the huge blaze which lit up the town. One or two enemy planes had passed over before the flames got a hold and many people were heard to say that the town would be an easy mark for them. Sure enough one bomber arrived shortly after nine o'clock. The fire engines were making such a noise that nobody was aware of its presence until it let fly a high explosive.

Fire Leads to Bombing Attack - Brutal Raid on N.E. Town

Newspaper report - 12 November 1940
A big fire in a North-East Scottish town led to a brutal attack by an enemy raider last week. Women and children were among those killed when the bombs dropped on a block of houses and shops a short distance from the scene of the fire. A large crowd was attracted to the scene when the fire broke out, in spite of the risk from enemy bombers known to be in the vicinity, and it is surmised that had the raider not already dropped part of his load the casualties might have been much more severe. A darts match was in progress in a public house and many of the victims were men who had been watching the play.
The bombed buildings also caught fire and the firemen had a hard task to keep the outbreak from becoming more serious. Throughout the night and the whole of the next day the firemen, demolition squads and A.R.P. workers toiled among the ruins in order to recover the bodies of the victims.
One family was thought to have perished but they had taken shelter in a passage-way and they had an amazing escape. They were ultimately taken out through the rear of the premises. In an adjoining church not even a window was broken, the blast having been directed across the street.
There can surely be few towns so unfortunate as one situated in the North East which must remain nameless until after the war. Misfortune was piled upon misfortune when a devastating fire was followed by death and destruction from the skies. No better, or worse, example of German callousness could be cited. It is in vain to beat the wind with revengeful words, but those who have seen the unforgettable tragedy, out of all proportion to the town's inhabitants, will not easily forget or forgive. Such a nation is fit to be ranked amongst the lowest savages and barbarians and if they are permitted ever again to bring their intolerable militarism into a position of ascendancy then our politicians deserve shooting. "The Germans are a kind-hearted people led astray by the Nazi regime?" Yes, and the heroic member of the German Air Force who rains down bombs on women and children is, we may remember, a representative of that race.

Another account

by Robert []
My mother well remembers the night they bombed the Commercial Bar. She was living in the Old Police Buildings with her mother and sisters. Sergeant Dick Sim was on duty at Benzie and Millers on Mid Street, which had been set alight by the chain-bomb. He had been sent to stop the looters who were using prams to escape with the spoils. The Old Police Buildings were about a quarter of a mile away and when the alert sounded, they took cover under the stairs. The mortuary was just around the corner on Quarry Road and later they were to count the number of times the mortuary car went by and came to realise how bad the raid had been. They were very worried about the eldest sister who had gone out for the evening to Broadgate. She came home later quite breathless because she was to have taken cover in the bar, but didn't. She recalls the poor railway delivery horse that was killed by another bomb in Hanover Street and how they all went to have a look.


We would like to take this opportunity of expressing our thanks to all who have supported us in the past and enabled us to build up a business which was the pride and joy of not only ourselves and also our staff but also we hope of the many who patronised us.
although present circumstances will limit our activities.
In coming to this decision, several factors have weighed with us. In the first place we have a duty to our staff who have served us loyally, and to keep as many as possible in employment we will shortly re-open several departments, it may be in various parts of the town. Shortage of supplies will confine these meantime to Men's Wear and some of the Drapery sections.
We feel we have also a duty to you, our customers. The limitation of Supplies Order will very soon affect even those shops with the largest of stocks and our quotas, if we did not take them up, would not be passed on to other traders in this district. Our intention is therefore to take advantage of every avenue of supply, not only to keep up our wide connection but to ensure that these goods are available to the public of Fraserburgh.
Benzie & Miller Ltd.
November 12, 1940

Saturday 30th November

Men's Underwear, Raincoats Etc., at 70 High Street

Towels, Sheets, Etc., at 14 High Street

Wools, Ladies Underwear & Corsets at 12 High Street

HOURS    9 to 6 p.m.
CLOSED   1 to 2 p.m.
Benzie & Miller Ltd.
November 26, 1940


Members of Group 11 0/2/9 will now receive their Petrol Coupons at above address

Benzie & Miller Ltd.
12, 14, 70 HIGH STREET
November 19, 1940

Until further notice the following shops are open for business:-

Wools - 12 High Street

Linen, Towels - 14 High Street

Men's Wear - 70 High Street

We will shortly open the following

31 Commerce Street - Wools

77 Broad Street - Stockings and Fancy Goods

97 High Street - Toys

    Hours of business:-
    Week Days - 9 to 5 p.m.
    Wednesdays - 9 to 1 p.m.
    Saturdays - 9 to 6 p.m.

Benzie & Miller Ltd.
12, 14, 70 HIGH STREET
December 3, 1940

Extracts from the Channel 4 programme: Fraserburgh during World War 2

Eric Rennie - born in 1932 and lived in Fraserburgh for 21 years.

What I can remember 1939 when the war broke out. Went to the pictures and saw it on the movie news, the Pathe News, bombing in London. We used to think, "They'll never bomb Fraserburgh, little wee village like us, a town." And I think it was about a year later the Heinkels appeared, they started bombing. This was exciting, this. The bombs got nearer the house and the house started shaking, "Oh my Goodness. This is terrible."
The bombers used to come in after having a go at the convoy, they used to sweep in, skimming the water - I'm exaggerating but you could see the bombs coming in. Used to watch the Heinkels coming in, that's a Heinkel German bomber, you'd see a gunner right in the nose, used to lie flat on the stomach - and just machine-gun the pavements.

I think it was way back in 1940, 5th November Guy Fawkes Night, we had the biggest blaze I think in Europe. I wasn't exactly sound asleep, I must have been just on the verge of sleeping and I noticed something, a glow coming through the curtains. And during the war no lights should be shown coming out of the house, and the best light was coming through. And a rap comes to the window, you can see the window from here, second window on the ground floor. And I'm not sure if it was George Ironside, but I'm sure it was, he says, "The town's on fire." So I climbed out of the window, got dressed, come out the window, cut across the gardens. By the time we got down to the bottom it was all cordoned off with soldiers, police. And we got through, worked our way through the crowds to the front and we saw the Commercial Bar obliterated and this soldier turned round and asked us, "What are you two laddies doing out here at this time of night?" And we said our house was bombed and of course he was so apologetic and he says, "I'm sorry, laddies." We realised we'd better get home and it wasn't long after that the police came up and said there was an unexploded bomb across the street, so I was evacuated to a house down in Pennyduff Road.

All this area was blasted, flattened. You couldn't see the street for rubble. Where Woolworth's stands now was the Commercial Bar with a few shops alongside. Of course the German Heinkel one-eleven bombers came in, bombed the Commercial Bar here, there was 34 people killed and over 50 injured. It was the night I sneaked out. It was down there I saw things going on. People being taken injured, out of the rubble and laid on wooden stretchers.
..............More details of the fire still to be added.