EIGHT-year-old Harry Edwards could see the flames and hear the explosions from 20 miles away.

His mother had decided the family would be better off staying where they were in Glasgow , rather than making the long cold trek to the icy air raid shelters.

“To him, too young to understand the realities of war, the lit-up sky, the loud explosions seemed like the fondly-remembered 1938 Empire Exhibition’s fireworks all over again - remarkable, wondrous, exciting,” says Harry’s friend Anne Swannell.

“He remembers his uncle - horrified at the boy’s misplaced enthusiasm - exclaiming, ‘I hope you realise, my lad, that these b******* are trying to kill us?”

Next week marks the 80th anniversary of the Greenock Blitz, two nights of intensive bombing in the ‘town of sugar and ships’ during the Second World War.

Harry emigrated to Canada in later life and is now 87, living in a care home in Victoria. He has Parkinson’s disease. Anne is a retired newspaper writer who is recording her friend’s stories.

Belville Street in the Greenock Blitz. Picture by James Hall, (Greenock Telegraph).

Belville Street in the Greenock Blitz. Picture by James Hall, (Greenock Telegraph).

“I visit him once a week, do a little research to add the facts and to get the dates straight, and write them up,” she explains.

“He’ll be tickled pink to see his memories in the Glasgow Times.”

The Greenock bombing began on May 6, 1941, as the Luftwaffe targeted the many ships and shipyards on the Clyde – similar to the Clydebank Blitz a few weeks earlier.

“It started around midnight, when 350 German bombers attacked,” writes Anne. “Air raid sirens sounded the start of a second night of bombing. The final wave came at two in the morning, when parachute land mines were dropped, and by 3.30am the entire town of Greenock was alight, factories, distillery and sugar refineries ablaze.”

It was a devastating time for the town, as the bombing killed 281 people and injured 1200 more.

From Belville Street in the east end to Robertson Street in the west, a trail of destruction left many homes and businesses in ruins. Around 10,000 homes were damaged, more than 1000 beyond repair. St Laurence’s Church in the east end had to be rebuilt. The nearby communities of Port Glasgow and Gourock were also badly affected and ironically, the shipyards emerged relatively unscathed.

Around nine months earlier, Harry, staying with his grandmother in Arbroath, had seen a German plane crash into the cliffs nearby.

Harry Edwards, who recalls the Greenock Blitz.

Harry Edwards, who recalls the Greenock Blitz.

“Three of the four airmen aboard died,” writes Anne. “There was one survivor, who, apparently, had been an Olympic runner. Some people were disturbed by the heroic efforts made to save the man’s legs when, after all, he was the enemy....

“As soon as they were allowed out, Harry and his brother eagerly scrambled down the rocks to investigate. His uncle hacked out one of the swastikas from the plane’s canvas fuselage, which was placed on his granny’s mantelpiece.

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“This became the source of much mirth in the family, since Lord Haw-Haw, broadcasting propaganda from Germany later that very evening, announced that that all Luftwaffe planes had returned safely to their home base.”

Anne adds: “Harry remembers hearing his grandmother shout to Lord Haw-Haw on the wireless, ‘you’re a bloody liar’ - the one and only time he ever heard her swear....”