PART II: 1900 - 1950

Weir of Peebles who gave outstanding service in both wars.

As in earlier wars, Peebles became host to many and varied individuals and units in the Second World War. In 1939, they received a number of children into their homes, children who had been evacuated from both Glasgow and Edinburgh in the light of the prospect of air-attack on those cities. Although many were to return to their homes when the prospect of air-attack was not realised, a number were to remain in Peebles for the period of the war; some still return to Peebles on occasion, a tribute to the kindness which they experienced in the burgh.

British Army units were early stationed in the area. A Field Regiment RA took over the Tontine in 1939-40 as their officers' mess and, for a spell in 1941-42, the County Hotel became the Divisional Headquarters of the British 3rd Division, the Division which B. L. Montgomery had commanded at Dunkirk.

By 1941 a Polish armoured division was stationed for training in the Borders. Elements of this formation occupied a hutted camp in Victoria Park; from then on until their departure at the end of 1943 the Polish soldiers were a common sight in Peebles and elsewhere. So also were the 'Matilda' tanks with which they were first equipped. The division moved to the south of England in 1943 for the invasion of Europe. The members of this unit had their revenge for the conquest of Poland when they closed the Falaise Gap to the retreating Germans in 1944. Many of the Poles, bereft of their native land by Russian occupation, returned to Peebles and the Borders where they were rapidly assimilated into the local population.

At the end of 1942, a camp for Italian prisoners-of-war was built on railway ground at the Caledonian Road. By the end of 1942 they became co-belligerents and as such were able to socialise after their daily work as farm labourers was over. This led to a certain amount of friction with local servicemen although there were few serious incidents. The Italians departed for home in 1944/5. As the liberation of Europe progressed, so the human detritus in the shape of 'Displaced Persons' grew. A number of these unfortunates were billeted in Victoria Park Camp in 1944/5.

In marked contrast to the losses suffered in the First World War, the number of Peebleans who were killed or died as a result of Second World War amounted to seventy. Although nonetheless grievous, there was some cause for celebration in Peebles on 8 May 1945.

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