IT WAS a dark day for Clydebank and its people, and one of the darkest in Scottish police history.

Ten officers were killed when the Luftwaffe bombed the Clydeside town on March 13 and 14, 1941.

A new book tells the story of those lost officers, alongside many more tales of policemen and women who have lost their lives in the line of duty between 1812 and 1952.

Glasgow Times: Clydebank Blitz aftermath

Fatal Duty is the second book by Gary Knight, a renowned historical storyteller and tour guide with a fascination, he says, for “Scotland’s dark and dangerous past.” His first book, No Fair City: Dark Tales from Perth’s Past was published in 2017.

Fatal Duty covers a time, says Gary in his introduction, when ‘policing was at its most perilous’.

“Constables patrolled alone and at night with only a wooden baton for protection and a whistle to attract assistance if attacked,” he says.

“This is a time before police patrol cars, radio, helicopters, drones, armed response units, riot police and specialised equipment became everyday resources.”

He adds: “The book also includes stories of police officers whose actions, whether accidental or by design, resulted in killing – so-called killer cops.

Glasgow Times: Gary Knight

“Policing is still a dangerous job. I would like to dedicate this book to all those police officers who have made and make our cities, towns, villages and streets safer.”

The book is full of fascinating and often moving stories.

The ten officers who died in the Clydebank Blitz, a terrifying and sustained period of bombing during WWII, which killed 1200 people, “died while involved in individual acts of bravery, lost amid the death and destruction of war,” says Gary.

There are several Glasgow stories too - like the time, almost exactly 120 years ago to the day – November 15, 1901 – city police arrested a ‘local nuisance’ in the east end. As he was being taken in, a large group followed pelting the police with stones and mud.

“The mob forced the police constables to take shelter in a baker’s premises,” says Gary. “As luck would have it, the shop had a telephone; a call brought police reinforcements.”A battle ensued, shops were wrecked and windows smashed. It ended with the ‘nuisance’ convicted of causing a riot and receiving a prison sentence of thirty days.

Another tale recounts the time Sanger’s Circus arrived in Motherwell in the summer of 1888.

After a local foundry worker was stabbed by one of the circus men, two police officers went to make an arrest, but the showman sounded an alarm by whistling like a parrot, bringing dozens more to his rescue. As the officers escorted their prisoner to the station, a running battle took place.

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Gary says: “About a hundred men assembled outside the station and threatened to tear it down from the foundations if the police did not release the captive. The circus men started to rip down iron railings, turning them into weapons….Inspector Ross gave a signal, the police and armed civilians charged from the station ... the circus men, armed with pickaxe handles, iron bars, paling slabs and ten-foot poles topped with iron spikes, fought back….”

It was a savage battle, says Gary, and two officers received severe head wounds. Eventually, reinforcements arrived and it ended with eight men found guilty of assault and breach of the peace, and fined £5 each.