THEY are the forgotten heroes of the Second World War - the men, women and children who soldiered on to keep their communities together across Glasgow and beyond.

Neil Leitch was a teenage courier, blown off his bike and killed as he delivered a message. Sergeant John Macleod rescued five children from a house destroyed by a bomb. Sixteen-year-old Anne Smith took her turn at firewatching on the roof of the lamp factory in Cardonald – the list of Glasgow individuals playing their part could go on and on..

Now some of these amazing stories have been captured in artworks to mark the 80th anniversary of the Blitz, a sustained German bombing offensive against several British cities which resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of lives and devastation on a massive scale.

From the German word blitzkrieg, meaning ‘lightning war’, it began in London on September 7, 1940, following the failure of the German Luftwaffe to defeat the RAF in the Battle of Britain, and it lasted until May 1941.

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In Scotland, the most devastating damage was done in Clydebank in March 1941,when the town was largely destroyed and suffered the worst civilian loss of life in the country during World War Two - 1200 people died and only a handful of homes were left undamaged.

In Glasgow, terrifying raids took place all over the city in 1940 and 1941: bombs destroyed buildings in the city centre; the HMS Sussex caught fire and sank in Yorkhill Quay when a bomb hit its fuel tanks; and Partick subway station (formerly Merkland Street) was closed for months when it was hit.

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To mark the anniversary, family history website Ancestry has commissioned 80 new pieces of art, available to view online, which depict life during The Blitz and World War II.

Glasgow artists Katie Smith and Greg McIndoe worked with Ancestry to create contemporary interpretations of local records and images from World War II.

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Katie explained: “I loved that the concept of the project was to focus on ‘everyday heroism’ of people across Scotland and the UK.

“It’s so important we celebrate the real people and heroes of the war, that were working hard for our country. I had the opportunity to look at people from my area which made this project all the more personal.

“One of the records I had the opportunity of reimagining was a Civil Gallantry award given to Sergeant John Macleod who rescued a family en route to duty at Clydebank Police Station.

“In light of houses being demolished and bomb raids, he entered and saved children across the street. His story was completely selfless and admirable.”

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“My work is often very positive and cheerful, so this project was a great opportunity for me to work outside of my comfort zone.”

Greg said: “I was so excited to be asked to contribute to Ancestry’s campaign, which was one my first commissions since finishing art school.

“I was particularly interested in getting involved as I enjoy the challenge of telling a true story via my artwork.

Glasgow Times:

“One of the records I reimagined was of 15-year-old messenger boy Neil Leitch who received a Civil Gallantry Award for his devotion to duty during the air raid on Glasgow in 1941.

“He sadly died when a bomb fell so close to him that he was blown off of his bike.”

Our archives told the story of Neil and his fellow ‘boy messengers’ at the time.

In an old clipping, it reads: “Leitch set off for the centre two miles away when the raid was at its heaviest. After a short distance, blast from a high explosive blew him from the cycle.

“But he carried on and reached the centre.

Glasgow Times:

“There officials told him he should take cover for a time. He refused. “I must deliver my message,” he said. On the return journey he was fatally injured.”

See the artworks online at