Friday, July 29, 2011

Ernie Pyle Visits Edinburgh in 1941

Ernie Pyle was a famous journalist during the Second World War. He mostly wrote about the infantry soldier on the battlefields of Europe but, early in the war, he visited England and Scotland. This is how he wrote and this is what he had to say.

Ernie Pyle, 1941

“Edinburgh is a graceful city. It is the Washington or the Ottawa of Scotland. It is a city of government. It is a planned city. And it is the sturdiest city I have ever seen. In its buildings, I mean. Everything is of massive stone, so massive and so heavy that the entire municipality seems embedded in the rock underfoot.

“It seems to me that Edinburgh would stand up physically under an aerial blitz better than any other city in Britain. They haven’t had one yet, and let’s hope they don’t. If they ever do, it will be the rankest of outrages, for Edinburgh is not an industrial city. (EWR note: I don’t know if Edinburgh was bombed during the war. Glasgow was because of the shipyards. Does anyone know about Edinburgh?)

“Many things are different up here. There is more food than in London, and a greater variety of it. There are beautiful restaurants, where Scottish officers dancing in kilts make a picture. Edinburgh children were evacuated, but 80 per cent of them have come back. The movies run during the day and the night.

“True, Scotland has not been on the receiving end of many bombs. True also, there is a certain fundamental dislike of England, but that goes by the boards in an emergency. Their heart is in the war all right. I get the impression that if I were an invading German, or even a fire bomb, I wouldn’t relish the job of trying the land on Scottish soil.

“I like the Scottish people. Somehow, I had them all wrong. For one thing I thought I wouldn’t be able to understand anything they said, but they are easy to understand. Also, I thought they were dour. On the contrary they are fundamentally witty. It is hard for a Scotsman to go five minutes without giving something a funny twist, and it usually is a left-handed twist. All in all, I have found the Scots much more like Americans than the Englishmen are. I feel perfectly at home with them.

“And incidentally, just a couple of tips in case you ever come over here. Don’t refer to Scotland as if it were a part of England, as I did, for it isn’t. England is England, and Scotland is Scotland. Many bars now limit their customers to two drinks. The whiskey is being sent to America for good American dollars to spend on arms."

(Ernest Taylor Pyle was born August 3, 1900, near Dana, Indiana. He was an American journalist who served as a roving correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspapers. As a war correspondent during WWII he wrote about the common soldier and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. On August 18, 1945 on an island off Okinawa, he died after being hit by Japanese machine-gun fire. He was buried with his helmet on among other American soldiers in a long row of graves. Later, his body was moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located in Honolulu. There is much information about Ernie Pyle on the Internet. Millions of us cried upon hearing of his death. He was much loved by the American people. I have read that he had a Scottish heritage. Anyone know for sure?)

Wayne Rethford
President Emeritus

P.S.  August 6 is the Scottish Home Picnic, 2800 Des Plaines Avenue, North Riverside, IL.  I will have the museum open from 10-2.

1 comment:

  1. I believe that Edinburgh was not bombed during World War II. The first raid was on the Forth and the first British casualty was a woman standing by her kitchen sink in Salamander Street, Leith. Her house was hit by a British anti-aircraft shell which missed the German aircraft it was aimed at. She survived. The Nazis concentrated on trying to bomb the nearby Forth Rail Bridge as that would have been a wonderful propaganda coup for them. They also tried to bomb one of the islands in the middle of the Forth as it is shaped like a warship. They claimed to have sunk it several times!
    The west coast took most of the bombs as it was much more industrial. All of the towns along the Clyde were targeted - Glasgow,Clydebank and even Dumbarton where I was brought up. There were still old bomb sites around the area when I was growing up in the 1970s but they've been built on in the last few years.
    I've been enjoying reading your interesting posts.