Charles (Charlie) McLachlan
Of Argyll farming stock and 29 when war was declared, this Scot’s tough beginnings provided him with an invaluable physical and mental stamina. He grew up with a realistic, working-class acceptance of things as they were in society and of his place in it. His father was a rough-tongued, family despot, who thought that life still owed him a few favours. In marked contrast, his mother was a lovable woman with a dry wit and a quiet dignity. Charlie takes after her. It is these very qualities that his wife, Mary, loves him for. If Charlie ever had any ambition at all it was to play football for Glasgow Celtic but he was too pragmatic to admit that was even a possibility. He has high hopes for his son, Bobby, born in March 1940. What Charlie is good at is cutting hair. He picked it up when he was a boy in Garscadden, doing the fashionable shingle cut for the young girls. He has no desire to do this for a living, but it provides a good sideline. His natural bent is towards the practical and mechanical. Though not religious in the conventional sense, Charlie is a highly principled man with a strongly developed sense of right and wrong. Physically slight, Charlie nevertheless has grit and, surprisingly to others, is more than able to defend himself. Never pompous, his easy-going, relaxed, almost diffident approach, coupled with a nice line in humour, wins him many friends. Enemies who mistake his natural reserve for docility and fail to see the glint of steel just below the surface underestimate him at their peril. Now working as a typesetter at the Glasgow Daily Record, Charlie McLachlan is still his own man, and is one of nature’s survivors.
Mary was 27 years old and three months pregnant when the war was declared. Her sole preoccupations are her husband, Charlie, and her son, Bobby. She has her own house and her world is all she’s ever dreamed it would be. The elder of three children, an introverted sister Hilda and a baby brother who died during the Great War of tuberculosis, Mary grew up in Kilbirnie, an Ayrshire village just a blue bus ride south-west of Glasgow. With parents, who were often poorly, Mary and Hilda virtually brought themselves up. Where Hilda grew up shy and reserved, Mary burst out, almost in defiance of her depressing environment, and blossomed into a bright, energetic, thoroughly extrovert young lady, who was determined to enjoy life to the full. Having to leave school to support her family she worked at Knox Linen Threads, the main employer in Kilbirnie. Her great passion, outside of fashion, was ballroom dancing. Being attractive, she never lacked for partners. Wanting to escape her tedious and depressing life in Kilbirnie, she left for a better life in Glasgow. She expected she’d meet her husband on the dance floor, but instead she fell for Charlie in a chance meeting. His quiet confidence was in such striking contrast to her exuberance that their very differences drew them together. She loves him totally and his only failing in her eyes is that he doesn’t dance.
– Charlie McLachlan
“Before I joined the war effort I was given two pieces of advice:
always have a trade like barbering and don't make any close friends.”
Mary and Charlie's photos taken on their wedding day.
Jock Foster's photo taken at Mitsushima POW Camp in Japan.
Sandy Mackie's registry entry of a prisoner of war kept by the Japanese.
Andrew (Sandy) Mackie
A stonecutter from Macduff, 26 year old bachelor Sandy lives with his parents. To most people, Sandy appears vague and dreamy. But when they get to know him they are taken aback by his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the fine arts and the natural world. As a child he had been accidentally locked in a cupboard, which gave him a life-long claustrophobia. Now he seeks the open spaces whenever he can and his great solace is tramping. Being happiest in his own company, he finds it difficult to be part of a team, except for his family. A gentle soul, Sandy would never harm anyone. He is slow to anger, but when he sees deliberate cruelty of any kind, he finds it difficult not to intervene – often to his cost.
John (Jock) Foster
From Dundee, 30 year old Jock is a family man with son born shortly before embarkation. In common with his three older brothers he was an enthusiastic rugby player. When younger, he even trialled for Scotland as full back. Though he was never picked, he wasn’t all that disappointed. Dundee was the team that he was loyal to. Likewise, they relied on him to play a mean game each week. He was smart, swift, could handle any ball that was kicked at him and was fearless in the tackle. A man’s man, Jock’s idea of a good time is a bevvy with the boys and a singsong round the piano. Though good-looking, he is reserved and tongue-tied around women. Consequently most girls gave up on him. Happy in his routine, Jock takes time to adapt to things that are different or exotic. A follower rather than a leader, he’s kind and generous, though not to a fault. He’s a good man to have on your team.
Bob Mitchell's registry entry of a prisoner of war kept by the Japanese.
Ken Watson's registry entry of a prisoner of war kept by the Japanese.
Ken shows every one of his 33 years on his sharp, ferret face. A product of the Dundee streets, he has made his own way since walking out of school on his 14th birthday. He was born to Irish Catholic parents but had no home life to speak of. His father had a drink problem; so did his mother. They hardly noticed when one child of their large brood was missing so Ken spent more time in the billiard hall than in the house. Before he was 16 he moved from petty pilfering to house jobs. Then he was caught and continued his education in a reformatory. Here he learned how to look after No1, and all the other tricks of the criminal trade. Through it all, Ken had the gift of the patter; a gallus, non-stop vocal delivery that covered a multitude of sins. At 18, he was pimping for a tart and living with another by the time he was 20. He had a light, pleasant singing voice and might have been a professional crooner - but he only sang when he had drink in him. Always on the make, Ken never misses a chance to score, whether it is on a bet at the billiard table or on a dog at the greyhound track. He is a hustler in every respect and the onset of war has just widened his ‘fallen of the back of a lorry’ opportunities. Surprisingly, his friends discover that Ken has a wife at home who is just as tough as Ken.
Robert (Bob) Mitchell
Recently married and still living with his widowed mother in Dundee, 36 year old Bob is a french polisher. Bob’s father was killed in a pit accident when Bob was young. It was from him Bob inherited his weak chest. Being a little slow, Bob was often the butt of schoolboy jibes, but his general affability and basic good nature saved him and his tormentors gradually lost interest. To this day, Bob is quite insensitive to the more subtle social nuances. But he’s trusting, generous, and wants to be friends with everyone. Women, particularly, find him easy to talk to, because he’s such a good listener. Men tolerate him – he’s no threat. What attracted Bob to his wife was her beauty. To him, beauty of any kind is nurturing; the grotesque physically disgusts him.
The only know photograph of Gavin Marshall. (courtesy Linlithgowshire Journal & Gazette)
A 33 year old from Bo’ness, Gavin is a big bear of a man with a soft centre. The little he did say was always effective. He isn’t particularly driven, only works when he has to and spends the rest of the time fishing with his friends. He’s a man who is content with his lot and has no wish to change.