Author. R Morley BA(Hons) Hist.
The height of the German air offensive during 1941 saw the Luftwaffe visit Stratherrick on at least four occasions. Whilst the bombing of British Aluminium’s Foyers factory is well known, details of the other three are less well recorded. This article based on Foyers Police Office Occurrence book and an interview with a local resident will hopefully bring the events of Monday 7th and Tuesday 8th April 1941 more into the public consciousness.
At 0904am on Monday 7th April 1941 Constable Colin Ross, stationed at Foyers received the first Air raid message of the day, the all clear was sounded without incident at 0940hrs. Air raid warnings during 1941 in Stratherrick were a common occurrence, by the end of the year Constable Ross would have received ninety nine such warnings from Gorthleck 42 (Code name for Foyers factory) four of which would result in direct enemy action.
At 1021pm the same day PC Ross received the message ‘Air raid message Purple’ (Raid likely), he activated the air raid sirens and immediately after heard the sound of aircraft in the distance followed he recorded by ‘ten violent explosions, believed to be somewhere in the Stratherrick district’. PC Ross upon requisitioning a car from Mr Ken Ross (Merchant, Foyers) set out along with War Reserve Constables Rae and MacInnes to make search for the locus of the attack. En-route they encountered Simon Fraser (mail contractor) who offered to assist in the search.
At 1245am on 8th April 1941 a ‘huge crater was discovered on Gorthleck moor, 97 yards west of farm steading at Gorthleck Mains tenanted by Angus Matheson (Farmer) residing there’. Matheson who was also a Special Constable was awoken by the search party and stated that he was unaware that a bomb had dropped near his premises and hadn’t heard a thing. Matheson checked the Mains for damage, the extent of which amounted to no more than a few shattered windows before assisting in the search for additional craters. Continuing the search in a westerly direction, nine more bomb craters were found, extending in a direct line for just over half a mile from the initial one.
During the course of the search at 1.15am 8th April 1941 another aircraft was heard Constable Ross records ’flying high, approaching from a southerly direction. It passed overhead as if going towards Drumnadrochit. Soon afterwards the plane returned by the same course heading south in the direction whence it came, at 1.25am flashes of fire where seen followed by nine heavy explosions somewhere in the hills about Wester Aberchalder’.
At 9am on the 8th April Constable Ross met with Donald J MacKintosh, Aberchalder’s gamekeeper and together they began to search for where the bombs from the second raid had fallen. They initiated their search on Beinn Bhuraich and located the first crater at a point about 3 ½ miles south of Aberchalder lodge. The crater was measured as ‘40 feet wide and 20 feet deep’ and the line of nine craters stretched over one and a half miles the last one being on Corriegarth estate, half a mile south of the boundary fence between it and Abercalder.
Some days later Special Constable J MacKintosh (Newlands, Errogie) handed to Constable Ross a bomb fragment that had been found with the markings on it SO5. I have been unable to verify to what these markings relate but they are likely to refer either to the bomb type or its manufacturer.
It is fortunate that during these attacks unlike the one against Foyers Factory damage was minimal and there were no casualties. The question will however be asked ‘why was this area targeted’. In the authors opinion there are a number of possible scenarios. Firstly the attack on Gorthleck Mains could be a simple case of target misidentification and that the actual target was Foyers factory. Speaking with a local resident who recalls the night of the raids, he remembers how in 1941 a farm building at Gorthleck Mains which housed a steam engine had a tall chimney and looked ‘more like a factory than a byre’ whilst Foyers Factory was covered in ‘nets, broom and gorse’ for camouflage making it very difficult to identify from the air especially at night. Secondly the raiders may have been unable to find Foyers Factory and instead looked for a target of opportunity which Gorthleck Mains presented.
Regarding the second attack, the raiders on being unable to identify the factory may have decided to drop their bombs on the south side of a loch on which they thought the factory may lay hoping for a lucky hit. The final scenario is that upon failing to locate Foyers Factory the raiders aborted their mission and as was standard operational procedure jettisoned their bombs prior to returning to their airbases in Norway.
The night of 7-8th April saw extensive German Air raids over Scotland with 15 towns and cities targeted. Ministry of Defence records only indicate one German loss over Scotland during the period 7-8th April 1941 which was a Heinkel HE111 crashed due to engine failure at Fife Ness and piloted by Uffz H Braucks of Kampfgeschwader 1/KG26. Whether or not this was involved in these attacks further research may reveal.
Copyright RMorley 2019