IT was meant to be a special family treat.
Four-year-old Dolina Mackenzie and her older sister Rita settled into their seats in Clydebank’s La Scala cinema.
They were looking forward to watching Hollywood’s biggest star, Shirley Temple, in her latest blockbuster film, Young People.
But before the pair had munched halfway through their popcorn, there was a loud bang and the screen went blank.
There was panic as the cinema was plunged into darkness and someone shouted that the projection room was on fire.
What should have been just another trip to the pictures, would become the start of two days of terror that remains fresh in the mind of Dolina – and hundreds of Bankies today.
It was March 13, 1941 and the start of the Clydebank Blitz. In the space of eight hours, 236 German bombers dropped 272 tons of high explosive and 1,650 incendiary containers on the town and surrounding area.
The day after there was a second raid which resulted in more casualties and destruction.
Over 48 hours, 528 people were killed in Clydebank with a further 500 dead in the outskirts.
Last week, 76 years after that fateful night, Dolina joined other Bankies to recall the horror they experienced – and to remember those who lost their lives.
They met at the library after going on the Clydebank Blitz Heritage Trail. The library is holding an exhibition on the blitz which will continue for a few months.
“I was too young to understand what was happening, I just knew it was something very scary,” said Dolina, 80.
“My dad was working late at Singers and my mum didn’t like being alone at home, so she took my sister and myself to see Shirley Temple. Dad came running to the cinema, desperate to know we were all safe.”
Next to La Scala was the Wedderlea Dance Hall, a popular spot for young Bankies. On March 13, it was packed when it took a direct hit, killing an estimated 36 people.
“It breaks my heart to think of all those young people who went out to meet their friends and enjoy a wee dance and they died in such a horrible way,” adds Dolina.
“As dad arrived, they were bringing the injured into the cinema. Mum tried to take Rita and me to a shelter but bombs were falling so we sheltered in a close in Graham Avenue.”
Another Bankie who remembers that terrible night is Elizabeth Paterson, 81.
“I was only five but I vividly remember the noise of the bombs going off. It was terrifying. I’d never heard a noise like it,” she explained.
“I was walking with my dad when we heard a whistling noise. Thinking it was a bomb, he threw me to the ground and lay on top of me,” she adds.
“The noise was actually the sound of a tenement collapsing. As the dust settled, I heard a trundling sound and looked up to see a very badly burnt penny rolling towards me.
“I donated that penny to the exhibition. When you see how burnt and misshapen it is, it gives you a sense of the intense heat of the fires that swept through Clydebank on those terrible nights.”
Maurice Pert, 81, was at home in Briar Drive when the bombs started falling.
“We ran from the house with only the clothes we were wearing, so my mum went back to get a few things,” he says.
“She was in the living room when an incendiary device came down the chimney. It rolled across the floor, striking her and setting her clothes on fire.
“She ran on to the landing and a neighbour helped put out the flames. She calmly gathered what belongings she could and walked back to the shelter.”
Dolina, Elizabeth and Maurice were all evacuated to quieter towns such as East Kilbride and Bellshill.
When they returned, they were horrified to hear that friends and neighbours had lost their lives and to see the destruction of the streets and town were they lived and continued to live after the war.
“Sometimes, when I am watching the news about wars in other parts of the world, it brings back memories of the Clydebank Blitz,” adds Elizabeth.
“What happened to the people of our town that night was awful. Innocent people were killed and communities torn apart.
“I know the politics are different in other parts of the world and I cannot comment on that. But there are no winners in war.
“It is still down to man’s power and greed and innocent children and people are killed as a result.
“Looking at the world today, sadly, it seems little has changed.”