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Some words and a drawing of a cross written on a wall.

World War One Wall Painting Discovered

By News

Our thanks to Callum Boyd for sharing this account of his discovery.

An amazing survival, believed to be from World War One, has been discovered in Victory Avenue, Gretna.  Callum was doing some maintenance work to his house, he peeled back the wallpaper and discovered a wall painting showing a grave with a cross on it and the following text: “Here lies the body of Jack Ellmenery or Elmenwery (?) Departed this life for the country’s good AD 1916”

The picture is quite difficult to see on the wall.

Close up view of the picture.

Close up view of the picture in black and white.

Callum’s house is one of the original World War One houses built to home the 30,000 workers at HM Factory Gretna.  This drawing could have been done by one of the builders of the houses (the Factory and townships of Eastriggs and Gretna were built by 10,000, mainly Irish, navvies) or it could have been drawn by one of the workers who stayed in the hostel during the War (12,000 of these workers were women).

Gretna was built in World War One, many of the houses built for workers at HM Factory Gretna are still occupied today.

Victory Avenue today.

This map shows historic Gretna and the uses of the different buildings which still stand today.

We have begun to look into this but if anyone knows any more or is able to track down Jack and his connection to Gretna – we would love to know!  It is incredible to think of all the history that lies hidden right under our noses!

Unfortunately, the picture was destroyed when Callum tried to remove it to donate to the Museum but we are very grateful to have the photographs and information he provided.

If you would like to know more about HM Factory Gretna, the following items from our online shop may be of interest:

The Devil’s Porridge Museum Guidebook – Devils Porridge Museum

Gretna’s Secret War – Devils Porridge Museum


Festive POW Christmas Card with the words "a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year."

POW Christmas Card Object of the Month

By Object of the Month

This month’s object of the month was chosen, researched and written about by Jordan Murray.  Jordan is a third year University of Stirling student who is doing some work experience at the Museum during his Christmas holidays (good for him!) This is his blog about this month’s object of the month…

This month’s object of the month, shown below, is a Christmas card sent from Germany by Helmut (who was a Prisoner of War during WW2) to the Wright family on the 10th of December 1947.

The message reads “Dear Family Wright. As Xmas is coming means I’ll not miss to send you my best wishes and ‘a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’. Hoping this card will obtain in correct time… Yours ex-POW. Helmut.”


The Wright family stayed at P West II in Gretna shown at X


The postcard was sent to the Wright family at P West II Gretna where Helmut stayed with the family as a Prisoner of War.  The hut below is an example of the sort of hut they must have lived in.

These wooden huts were built for workers at HM Factory Gretna in World War One.  Many were still inhabited during World War Two (and some rare examples still stand today!)

During the war Britain aimed to fill the gap in labour which had been left behind by those who went to war and the use of POW soldiers solved this issue. As a result, Britain was more accepting of housing the enemy’s soldiers and began opening more POW camps. Hellen states that the aim was “to use some of the German soldiers for agricultural and forestry work” (Hellen 1999:193). In Britain by 1946 there were around 400,000 prisoners of war being held in multiple different types of camps. These camps include internment camps (held civilian aliens), command cages (early versions which used existing buildings, huts, camps etc), transit camps (held prisoners temporarily before being moved to another camp) and interrogation centres (where German soldiers were classified according to their political views).

No. 4 Camp (marked as X) was located near Longtown held German, Polish, and Ukrainian prisoners who worked on local farms and in sawmills.



There were 6 POW camps around the Solway Coast area,

  • Hallmuir Farm Camp, near Lockerbie

  • Dryfeholme Camp, near Lockerbie

  • Barony Base Camp, near Dumfries

  • Barony Working Camp, near Dumfries

  • Carronbridge Camp, near Dumfries

  • 4 Camp, near Longtown


However, some POW’s stayed with local families such as Helmut who stayed with the Wright family in Gretna. There was not only German POW’s living in and around Gretna at the time, many Italians also stayed in the area. Ruby Hardisty mentioned Italian POW’s who were camped at Kirkpatrick Fleming  and would often cycle to Gretna to use the local amenities such as the cinema, “they were always at the pictures, that’s where most of them learnt English, the pictures mostly”. While some POW’s fit in well within the community in Gretna such as Helmut, this is not true of them all. Jean Mackay mentioned the animosity felt towards the German prisoners, “they [Germans] used to march up Vancouver Road every Sunday because the Catholic chapel was at the top of our road. My poor Dad, because my Dad was at Dunkirk and everything, he used to tingle when he saw those Germans”. Furthermore, Ruby Hardisty talked about pranks the youngsters used to play on the Italians, “Our boys were devils: they would put things on the road to give them punctures on their bikes. Just daft, just boys’ stuff, you know”.

The cinema in Gretna located on Central Avenue.


Front cover of Gretna Parish War Memorial book.

George Johnstone PTE Canadian Scottish

By Collections blog

George Johnstone, Age 21, Private (420625) 16th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, (Canadian Scottish).


Born 1844 in Hoddom, Dumfriesshire. Son of the late Maragaret (Little) Johnstone and of Christopher Jonstone. Brother David Johnstone of Cove Railway Cottages, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Dumfriesshire. Husband of Ellen (Dodds) Johnstone of 55 Florence Avenue, Kells Lane, Low Fell, Gateshead, who he married in Gateshead in 1916.


George was working as a labourer when he enlisted at Winnipeg Manitoba in December 1914. He sailed from Montreal in June 1915 and was posted to the 16th CIF in France in October 1915. George was taken ill at Ypres in June 1916, was diagnosed with rheumatic fever at the Canadian Hospital at Boulogne and evacuated to England where he spent some months in various hospitals until he was posted to a Training Battalion. While serving in the South of England he was granted permission to marry in November 1916. George returned to France on 27 August 1917.


Killed in Action – 12 October 1917


Commonwealth War Grave – Sucrerie Cemetery, Ablain-St. Nazaire, France.

Front cover of Gretna Parish War Memorial book.

PTE Samuel McCarl & PTE William McCarl

By Collections blog

Samuel McCarl, age 22, private (18162) 2nd Battalion, Border Regiment. Born 1893 in Gasstown, Dumfries. Son of the late Samuel McCarl and of Annie Jane (Miller) McCarl of Springfield, Gretna.


Samuel was working as a farm labourer in Appleby, Westmorland when he enlisted in the Border Regiment as Private (15306) in October 1914. Initially he was rejected as unlikely to make an efficient soldier but he was later enlisted as Private (18162) and joined his Battalion in France May 1915.


Missing in Action – 25th September 1915.

Commonwealth War Grave – Loos Memorial, France


His Brother


William McCarl, age 22, Private (23358) 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers.


Born in 1895 in Gasstown, Dumfries. Son of the late Samuel McCarl and of Annie Jane (Miller) McCarl of Springfield, Gretna.


Killed in Action – 27 August 1917.

Commonwealth War Grave – Poelcapelle British Cemerery, Belgium.

Front cover of Gretna Parish War Memorial book.

Ken J. Stafford M.C. Lieut. R.F.A.

By Collections blog

 This will be the first in a series of posts commemorating those named on the Gretna and Dornock Parish WW1 War Memorials. Today we commemorate Ken J. Stafford M.C. Lieut. R.F.A.


Kenneth James Stafford, Military Cross, age 20, Lieutenant 37th Battery, 27th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.


Born in 1898 in St. Andrews, Fife. Son of the Reverend John Owen Stafford, Minister at Mochrum Parish Church and (for many years) at Gretna Parish Church, and of Mary Anne Tweedie Kerr Stafford.


Kenneth was educated at Carlisle Grammer School and at Clifton Bank School, St. Andrews. He enlisted in April 1916 was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in February 1917 and promoted to Lt. in August 1918. He was awarded the Military Cross.


“Lt. Kenneth James Stafford, R.F.A. (Spec. Res.) attd. 37th Battery, 27th Brigade. For great gallantry and devotion to duty on 4 November 1918 near Beaudignies, when his battery was heavily shelled, he went up to the position and remained there for some hours encouraging the men and attending to several who were wounded. He continued to do so after being badly wounded. Throughout these operation he set a fine example to those with him.


Died of Wounds – 14 November 1918.


Commonwealth War Grave – St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France. Also named the Mochrum Parish War Memorial in Port William, Wigtownshire.


Kenneth’s father, The Rev. John Owen Stafford was killed on 7 April 1941 in Gretna when a German Bomb hit the town’s Masonic Hall.

Roundabout near Gretna Gateway. This photo is from the past.

Old Gretna Drop-in Session

By Events

A chance to talk with Judith Hewitt, Manager of The Devil’s Porridge Museum about objects in the Museum collection.  Judith will showcase maps, photographs and objects relating to Gretna in World War One.  Come along if you’d like to take a look and discuss any aspect of local history with her.

Postcard of Gretna township in the past.

Old Postcards of Gretna and Eastriggs

By Collections blog

When HM Factory Gretna was built in WW1 they needed a place to house all of their workers, they came up with the idea to build two new townships near the Factory site. These two townships were Eastriggs and Gretna, many houses and hostels were built to house all of the workers during WW1 some of which you can see in the photo below of Dunedin Road in Eastriggs.



The photo below shows the temporary wooden huts which were eventually converted into proper houses using brick after the war built in Gretna along with some of the permanent  hostel buildings which have now been converted into houses.



Below is a photo of the girls reading room which would be used some of the 12,000 female workers who worked at HM Factory Gretna during their spare time. The interior looks very nice but some reports we have of girls who worked at the Factory say that it was very cold inside during the winter as there was no heating.


Photo of Annan Riding of the Marches.

Devils Porridge Museum Podcast

By News

Welcome to The Devils Porridge Museum Podcast!


The Devils Porridge Museum Podcast has been created as part of an inter-generational oral history project. The project is now available for you to listen to online.


Through conversations and interviews, our volunteers and others from the local community will be sharing their personal stories and memories with The Devils Porridge Podcast team.


This week on our podcast we chat to Sybelle, who is one of our volunteers about the Annan Riding of the Marches and the history of the event.


More episodes will follow over the coming weeks, so please come back and listen to more installments throughout the summer.


If you would like to get involved in the project to share your own stories and memories or if you would like to find out more about joining our production team please contact:


You can listen to the podcast below:

Illustration of a child dressed as a police women on a postcard.

Women’s Police Service at HM Factory Gretna

By Collections blog

Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be focusing on one interesting aspect of HM Factory Gretna – the Women’s Police Service.

This first post provides introductory information, then we’re going to take a look in more detail at some of the documents and accounts in the Museum collection.

During World War One, 12,000 women worked at HM Factory Gretna.  They were mainly young, unmarried women and the Ministry of Munitions felt responsible for them, taking several actions which they saw as being for the girl’s own protection. We might now view curfews, searches and the largest women’s police service in Britain as restrictive, but at the time there was a War on and the measures were seen as necessary.

All work at HM Factory Gretna came under the Official Secrets Act. There was large police presence, this building in Gretna was once the police HQ, it still stands and is now converted into flats.

The Devil’s Porridge Museum has several items in its collection and archive which relate to the Women’s Police Service.  There were over 150 members of this unit and they were, on the whole older, better educated middle class women who policed the younger, less educated, working class women who made up the majority of the Factory employees.  These young women were known as the ‘Gretna Girls’ although they came from all over Britain and worked in a Factory which stretched as far as Longtown.  For example, we know one female police officer was born in Braithwaite, Cumbria.

Members of the WPS outside the Women’s Police Barracks, Gretna in World War One.

The Museum archive includes documents about the training of the female police force and their uniforms, photographs of them and the buildings associated with them (one of which, the Police HQ in Gretna, still stands and is now flats).  An interesting document is a petition to Winston Churchill for improved pay.  This dates from 1918 when Churchill was Minister of Munitions and includes the signatures of lots of women employed in this role.  We are also fortunate to have a women’s police truncheon and WPS badge on display in the Museum.

Ministry of Munitions WPS badge from the Museum collection.

What did the women police do?  We know they inspected the girls as they entered and exited the Factory (for example one young woman tried to sneak in her knitting, another some cigarettes, one tried to steal some cordite).  They also policed the morals of the girls (breaking up a kissing couple on the railway platform, maintaining the 10pm curfew and inspecting the back rows of the two factory cinemas).  At the end of the War, some women remained in police service while others returned to their families or other employment.

That’s the end of Part One, Part Two coming soon.

If you’d like to know more about HM Factory Gretna and women in World War One, the following items from our online shop might interest you:

Gretna’s Secret War

Lives of Ten Gretna Girls booklet

The Devil’s Porridge Museum Guidebook

Gretna Township Education Authority certificate.

Gretna School Certificates

By Collections blog

While looking through our items in the Museum store we stumbled upon some old certificates from the Gretna Township Primary School from the 1920’s just after the First World War.

We also have some photos of the old school and even a photo of one of the registers from the school with some of the pupils names on it from 1917!



The certificates are all from the same person and were given to them each year. We only have three of them from 1920, 1921 and 1924.



We also have some from Annan Academy with the same name on them but we will share these at a later date.

Below you can see some of the old images of Gretna Township School which we have in our archives.


This is an old photo of the Gretna Township school



This is the old register for the class at Gretna Township school from 1917.


Watch our social media accounts to see more old photos and documents from the local area in Dumfries and Galloway!

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