Wartime life at Kemnay House, part 1.

Updated: May 9

As we had planned to open for VE Day this coming weekend, we thought we'd communicate some of the stories about life at Kemnay during the War through our blog instead. We hope you enjoy!


At the time of VE Day, Arthur Burnett was the 8th Laird of Kemnay, living here with his wife, Muriel, Nanny (Ethel Burrows), a live-in maid and many, many spaniels. Most of the Estate workers, and all his children, had enlisted in 1939. However, Kemnay was not a quiet house...


Arthur (in his late 60s), having bravely fought for the King's African Rifles in the 1st World War, joined the Local Defence Volunteers as soon as he could. He then progressed to commanding the Garioch Division of the Home Guard. By VE Day, he had also helped form the Cadet Force, becoming Colonel of the Aberdeenshire branch.


He was known as a very kind man, so the new national crisis immediately prompted him to do all he could to help his Country. His wife Muriel, founder of the local SWRI, always supported his endeavours and together they opened up the House to be used as a place of recuperation for Polish and Czech airmen, who couldn't return home for leave.


The large formal drawing room was transformed into a dormitory, and the airmen enjoyed evenings playing cards while listening to the piano in the dining room. My grandmother (Susan) and her sister (Jean) enjoyed entertaining the troops with songs when they returned for their own leave (from Fort George and Bletchley Park respectively). Both were WRENS, deciphering codes at opposite ends of the country.


Unfortunately, their 3 half brothers never joined in the frivolities, as they had all been captured at Dunkirk (4th June, 1940), spending the remaining long years of the War as POWs in Germany. Luckily, they all survived the severe hardships, coming home after peace was declared, relatively unscathed.


Arthur died in 1948, but lived to see his steps sons return and the World at peace once more.


The images attached show:

• A Christmas message from an airman who stayed at Kemnay.

• One of the Kemnay House spaniels dressed for the celebration.

• A beautiful, if unfinished, scrap book entry made by Susan Burnett for VE Day.

• Arthur Burnett and his younger brothers (Admiral Sir Robert Burnett and Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Burnett).





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Kemnay House,

Kemnay, Aberdeenshire,

Ab51 5LH