Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Skye medical device designer and manufacturer saved

Medical laboratory testTo my personal shame, I have to confess that I had never even hear of Gaeltec Ltd, a small company which has been designing and making medical pressure measurement equipment since 1971. My only excuse is that I never touched the sales side of our business, and our sales director was more interested in exotic locations, and viewed small clients as a nuisance (yes, I consider him to be some sort of cretin, but had little power over him as we held similar authority).

The business is reported to have been rescued by another company involved in the same area of design and manufacture, London based Digitimer Limited, which manufactures clinical and biomedical research instrumentation, and has bought the Scottish business for an undisclosed sum.

I was a little surprised to read that the business was forced into administration in March, having failed to pay a tax bill. All I can say is ‘Been there, got the t-shirt’, and our taxman didn’t care about one missed bill (or a lot more to be honest), and was more interested in keeping the business and its employees afloat, provided we could show a viable business and maintain a payment plan. He certainly wanted his money, ‘or else’, but he was also answerable to his Government masters, and had no interest in folding the business for matter of some late payments. In other words, I think there must have been another story.

Gaeltec will become Gaeltec Devices in the deal, and Digitimer hopes to re-employ most of the 12 staff who work at the Dunvegan facility on the Isle of Skye.

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May 31, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The cash dispenser – another Scottish invention

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I see from the news that the funeral of John Shepherd-Barron OBE took place recently.

Credited with inventing the cash machine, Mr Shepherd-Barron was born in Meghalaya (then Shillong), India, on June 23, 1925, and died on May 15, 2010, at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, aged 84. He had been living in Portmahomack in Ross-shire.

The idea came to him during the 1960s, after he was unable to get access to his money after arriving too late to get into his bank. He later described how the idea of the machine came to him while he was in his bath, and had been inspired by a similar machine used to sell bars of chocolate. Barclays bought into the idea almost immediately, the then chief executive signed a contract with the inventor, and the world’s first ATM (automated teller machine) was installed in a branch of Barclays in Enfield, north London, in June 1967. First to use the machine and withdraw cash was Reg Varney, well-known for his role in the television comedy series On the Buses. The site is marked by a blue plaque, but it is reported that few visitors take any notice of it.

In order to withdraw cash (initially limited to a maximum of £10), the user had to complete and insert one of their cheques into the machine. As the plastic card and magnetic strip had not been invented then, the user’s PIN (personal identification number) was encoded on their cheques using ink tagged with radioactive carbon-14. The machine could read this, and compared it with the number input by the user. Carbon-14 is a well-known radioactive marker, and in this application harmless. The inventor calculated that someone would have had to eat 136,000 such cheques before any harm was likely from the ink. The health effect of eating the cheques alone does not seem to have been considered.

This was also when the four digit PIN was invented. Although Shepherd Barron could remember six digits (as per his Army number), his wife declared she could only remember four, so this set the length of the PIN, and became a worldwide standard.

The invention was never patented, and he described a conversation with Barclays’ lawyers where he was “advised that applying for a patent would have involved disclosing the coding system, which in turn would have enabled criminals to work the code out”.

Many years later, he was awarded the OBE for services to banking in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for 2005.

This leads us on to one of the more controversial aspect of the invention, which I believe was told some years ago, during a television documentary.

Another Scot, Paisley-born James Goodfellow OBE, was a development engineer working on ATMs at the time and holds a 1966 patent for the ATM, however his machine was tested one month later than Shepherd Barron’s. Goodfellow came up with the idea of an encrypted card to be used with a PIN number, and devised the mechanism of keying in a number code to cash machines in the 1960s.

When Shepherd-Barron was given his royal honour, Goodfellow was quoted as saying: “It is one thing for him to be awarded an OBE for services to the banking industry, but not for him to be portrayed as the inventor of the ATM. I have never bothered with this thing for 40 years, so it was a shock when it said he invented it. It’s not sour grapes. He invented a radioactive device to withdraw money. I invented an automated system with an encrypted card and a pin number, and that’s the one that is used around the world today.”

Goodfellow was awarded the OBE in 2006.

Update

2011 saw the cash dispenser redesigned to take account of various tricks and frauds committed against its users:

BBC News – Cash-machine fraud: foiling the tricksters

Russian copy – Needs some work

May 28, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taser used in West Lothian incident as pilot scheme begins

Last week, A Taser was used to subdue a 20-year-old male during a disturbance in East Lothian. After the event, he was taken to hospital for assessment, then released to be charged, and is due to appear in court.

The Taser delivers a 50,000 volt electrical charge which is intended to incapacitate the subject, rather than cause serious injury. The wires are tipped with small barbs, which attach themselves to the subject when they strike, and allow the application of the electrical charge to continue after the initial deployment.

Controversy claim

I’ve been following the recent controversy stirred up by Amnesty International over the past few weeks, which relates to the deployment of Tasers in Scotland. At present, the weapons will be carried by up to thirty officers, each of which has received three day’s of training in their use, as part of a six month pilot trial due to end in October.

Although I don’t have any specific issues as regards Amnesty International in particular, more generally, I do always worry when such organisations come out with claims that their interpretation of law is correct, rather than those who are actually responsible, answerable, and (should be) subject to oversight. In this case, Amnesty International wrote to the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, and asked that the Strathclyde Police pilot scheme to be halted immediately, claiming that it was ‘unlawful’ on the grounds that the trial required, but did not receive, his written approval.

A Scottish Government spokesman stated that the issue was an operational matter for Strathclyde Police.

Strathclyde Police have had Tasers available since 2005, and I recall a Taser was used locally back in 2006, when it was deployed against a man during a disturbance in the Tollcross area.

As far as I know, Amnesty International has been campaigning against their deployment in this country since 2005, on the basis that they can cause fatalities – these claims appear to be based in incidents in the US, although the news has reported that a County Durham man died after being subdued using a Taser. This incident took place in 2006, and the man actually died three days later, however he was also struck with a baton round as police attempted to subdue him as he wielded a samurai sword. (Although the incident can be found in the news, there does not appear to be any follow up regarding the cause of his death).

According to the authorities, there are no directly accountable deaths from the use of Tasers, and that there have been many thousands of both actual deployments and test firings, and that there are no documented fatalities arising. They also point out that many of the incidents could have resulted in the deployment and use of lethal firearms, which could have resulted in woundings or fatalities, and the use of Tasers avoided these possibilities.

I can’t pass comment on either the authorities’ position, or the validity of Amnesty International’s claim – I have neither the relevant documentation nor legislation to hand, and I’m not going to spend hours dredging it all up and reviewing it. After all, some folk are already being well paid to do that.

What I will say is that I hope police in this country apply the same restraint to Taser use as is applied to the issue and use of lethal firearms.

I make this observation in the light of the numerous videos we are now treated to on popular television programmes looking at police actions, where we often see American police officers use both Tasers and pepper sprays to subdue uncooperative suspects, rather than as a defence when they are threatened, and this is wrong.

A police spokesman has said:

“The use of Tasers is only undertaken in circumstances where a suspect presents a clear risk to the public, the officers in attendance or even themselves. Before a Taser is discharged a suspect will be given clear warning to cease their actions and surrender. As is standard practice, we will review the use of Tasers during this incident to ensure all necessary protocols were followed.”

While I have no issue with an officer who is being actively and seriously threatened in some way deploying a Taser, pepper spray, or other weapon against an aggressor, there is no case for any officer using these devices merely to coerce an individual into cooperating with them in some way, and the American videos often show officers using Tasers and pepper sprays as threats against individuals in order to have them comply with their instructions such as, “Get down on the ground”, “Get in the car”, “Get your hands behind your back (so I can ‘cuff you)”.

Clearly these are not situations where the officer is in imminent danger, and the only thing being threatened is his or her authority (or ego), not their life.

Other issues

There are many other, more important, issues that organisations such as Amnesty International could be focussing on. For example, while I see many quotes of 50,000 volts being issued from Tasers, I don’t see anything that effectively limits this charge dependent on the size of the individual concerned (does the charge delivered have the same effect on an 8-stone woman as it does on a 16-stone man?), and although the Taser does appear to have a timer to limit the duration which the charge is applied for, it seems there is nothing to stop the officer repeatedly applying the charge time after time.

For what it’s worth, the current density through a smaller individual will necessarily be greater than that through a physically larger individual, and if the Taser is set to stun the larger of two, then the smaller person (or perhaps a child) could potentially conduct a hazardous current through some part of their body if the Taser is set to deliver a large enough current disable the largest of subjects, and is not reduced. Again, I have no operational details or knowledge other than the news reports, and it’s possible the levels are well below those that could knowingly cause harm. There is also the matter of the discharge path, and a chest strike would result in currents flowing near the heart, while a strike on the back, arm, or legs, would clearly minimise potential heart current.

I might add that suggesting the individual concerned is merely getting what they deserve is unacceptable, as regardless of the circumstances, they are “innocent until proven guilty”, so do not deserve to be treated without due care. After all, it could you be YOU, if you were unfortunate enough to suffer some sort of mental failure one day, and lose control such that you endanger yourself or others. That should no sooner earn you a bullet to subdue you, than any other form of life-threatening measure merely because the police officers who attend have no idea of your mental state, or intentions.

There are clearly many disturbed people who can get hold of dangerous weapons while the balance of their minds is upset, and given the choice of a bullet or a Taser, the latter is surely preferable in a life-threatening scenario, so the Taser must be viable alternative in the real world, but is also something to be used with discretion, and in a way that does not create more problems than it solves.

Future developments

While Tasers are classed as firearms, private individuals may not legally posses them in the UK, but in America, you can now get a dainty little pink version, complete with a holder for you MP3 player. These don’t fire the barbed wires, but act as stun gun that has to be held against the individual to be incapacitated.

On the enforcement side, the Less Lethal Shotgun (LLS) fires a Taser round in a shotgun shell, which extends the operational range by up to three times that of the model shown above (items such as the LLS and Taser round can be seen in the gallery attached to the image), and the Taser round will continue to shock the target until it times out, or is removed. The Taser round can also be fired from a conventional shotgun, but a conventional shotgun shell can not be fired from the special Taser shotgun, due to its design, which prevents this from happening by accident.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Where in Glasgow was the Kingston Baths & Washhouse?

(Please note, the question has now been answered – down in the Comments section below.)

The answer to the question is clearly not Kingston – that much we know – the real question is where exactly was the Kingston Baths & Washhouse building located?

We’re trying to locate the name of the street it was located in, and any help would be appreciated.

Kingston Baths & Washhouse

Kingston Baths & Washhouse as seen in 1989

For what it’s worth, the picture above was just taken by chance when passing the derelict building, and in those days, we didn’t record the sort of detail we do now, nor did we have all the luxuries associated with digital pics that we enjoy today. It was taken, filed and forgotten, the building has been demolished, and the area redeveloped – so there are no clues to be tracked down on the ground.

We’ve accessed a number of maps from 1900 onward, including modern street mapping from the 1950s and 1960s, but none of these appear to show this particular facility, unless we are looking in the wrong place. Unfortunately, although there are a number of facilities identified as ‘Baths’ on these maps, they are some way to the south, and to the west, of the street where we think the picture above was taken, and none of them have any names attached to distinguish them.

If you recognise the building, and know which street it was located on, we’d be grateful for the information.

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Lost | , , , , | 4 Comments

Renewables bob back up in the news

The various renewable power generation schemes seemed to have gone a little quiet in the news, which was handy after I decided to stop following them as I was afraid of becoming stuck in some sort of pro or anti crusade, rather than just being interested.

From comments received, it seem that if you disagree with claims about any particular system you are quickly targeted by its fans, and seen as some sort of heretic, while if you offer positive remarks, others will consider you as some kind of nut – or green loony.

Still, the past week has been interesting…

Wave Power

Vagr Artfed wave power generatorStarting in Scotland, the Vagr Atferd generator has just been completed and launched in Leith, where it was produced by local firm Pelamis Wave Power (PWP) for the German energy giant E.On. It will travel to Orkney, where it will be tested for three years to prepare it for commercial use.

180 metres long, it weighs 1,500 tonnes and can produce up to 750 kW of electricity.

Launch picture courtesy of the Scottish Government web site.

Solar Power

Next, is the possibly surprising story that proposals for a £40 million network of solar farms are to be the subject of a public consultation. This will look at plans for a 15-acre “energy farm” on a green-field site at St Kew, three miles east of Wadebridge, which acts as the gateway to north Cornwall’s popular tourist heartlands. A local farmer has raised £4.5 million of private investment to construct the first of what could be ten similar sites across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, which, if all built, would triple the UK’s current solar generating capacity.

I sense an alarm bell ringing about the seriousness of this proposal, not because of the viability or otherwise of solar power – I’ve lived down on the south coast of England during summer and winter, and the difference between Central Scotland and the south coast is stunning, no wonder the oldies go and retire there. Even in the height of (a normal) winter, you can find there is no real need for heating – at least if you are a Scot used to freezing in Glasgow during (a normal) winter.

What I actually found of concern was the proposer’s statement to the effect that, “To reduce costs, R-ECO says it is cheaper to employ five staff to manually adjust the panels so they face towards the sun as it moves across the sky than install automated tilting mechanisms.”

Five staff at average wages would cost about £125,000 per annum, just to carry out an inefficient manual adjustment of the solar panels. Inefficient because they would only be able to optimise the panels at intervals, presumably when they did their rounds, and not continuously as would be the case of an automated system. I can think of two different control system that could be used to control cheap servos, and these are priced in the hundred of pound per system, rather than thousands. Costs could be further reduced by having one controller control banks of panels, meaning only the servos need to be duplicated.

Update

As I thought, there is no problem in automating the sun-tracking process, and gaining a considerable efficiency increase as a result. This site offers one way of achieving this, which could be constructed more professionally, and still be cheaper than the annual cost of employing five staff to do this by hand.

I think the people in Cornwall need to employ some smarter planners, if they are serious.

Britain described as the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewable energy’

I suspect that the articles suggesting Britain could be the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewable energy’ might be better entitled if the word ‘Britain’ was replaced by ‘Scotland’, as most of the reports I’ve spotted have tended to concentrate on the North Sea, and the power that could be collected there. But to be fair, the bigger picture does draw on power that could be collected from further afield.

My own opinion of these claims is to side with the sceptics, as although the report was produced by an independent group, it was sponsored by Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Scottish government and the Crown Estate as well as companies including Scottish and Southern Energy, E.ON and wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas.

This is not to imply that there is anything particularly underhand, rather that it will be biased to report the most favourable options, and minimise or ignore those that are not advantageous to the sponsors. Although I haven’t noted any particular article or report, a look around the web nowadays will find publications which suggest that the promised return from wind farms are failing to meet promised made, as the wind has failed to blow to the extent that initial applications claimed it would. In light of this real world ‘revelation’, the following quote from the study just sounds to good be true, and perhaps the cost of achieving what is stated would be impractical:

The study, undertaken by the Boston Consulting Group, suggests that Britain could not only keep the lights on but would produce a surplus, suggesting the need for connections to a “super grid” to enable electricity to be exported via subsea cables. It predicts that using even 29% of the available resources, Britain could save 1.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and the middle the century.

I think the closing remark is much more reasonable, and contains the necessary warning about net getting too carried away by promises of Britain becoming the Saudi Arabia of renewables:

There was caution among financial analysts such as Dean Cooper, head of clean tech at Ambrian Resources. He said: “We see the report as providing compelling sizing information to value the offshore resource, but equally it highlights the herculean scale of efforts needed to achieve the numbers outlined. To reach 78GW will require a build rate of 2.8GW per annum by 2050, which is equivalent to more than two 5MW turbines every day. This compares to the equivalent of one 5MW turbine installed every two weeks for the installed stock of offshore wind in the UK today. Offshore wind will be an important element in the UK’s energy mix to keep the lights on, yet the gaps in supply chain, grid and planning to achieve this are monumental. There is money to be made in offshore wind as a structural growth trend, but when?”

This sounds much more like a statement made in the real world where such projects have to be funded by real money, attract real investment, and work in real time, not some impossible or impractically short timescale that suits a soundbite made for the benefit of the media, or political expediency.

Think back to the first article I mentioned above, where new technology for collecting wave power is not even going to become operational for at least three years, as it is going to take that long merely to test its practicality in the sea. If anything goes wrong and it falls apart, the technology could take many more years to refine and make practical, and the way some investors work, it could simply be scuttled and abandoned if it does fail under test, and no-one is prepared to invest further.

May 23, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 4 Comments

Missing rivet head may have caused air crash that killed David Leslie

Plane crashWhile we are often told that commercial air travel is statistically safer than road travel, I don’t know that anyone has ever carried out the same analysis of private air travel. At a guess, it may be rather more risky as the altitudes involved in private flight are much lower, and altitude = time, and less time means less opportunity to recover, or search for and try options to resolve any problems that may arise in flight.

The recent Icelandic volcanic ash event reminded us of the first such encounter by a 747 jet, when the crew had about thirty minute of glide time during which to solve the problem of their mysterious engine shutdown, and during that time were able to attempt more than 50 restarts before the restored power and were able to land safely.

In one private, piston-engined helicopter I am familiar with, the pilot only has between two and four seconds to recognise an engine failure and set the controls for autorotation before the aircraft begins to lose momentum, and recovery becomes a more difficult procedure.

Private flying certainly doesn’t necessarily seem to be kind to those that can afford it, and the news from the more densely populated area of England seems to produce fairly regular headlines along the format of ‘Two people were killed when a light aircraft crashed today…’. In America, it would appear that so many people who became wealthy from the part they played in creating the ‘personal computer, and were later to die in air accidents involving the aircraft they were able to afford, that the conspiracy brigade have claimed that there was a plot to assassinate them. We lost rally driver and champion Colin McRae to a helicopter crash near his home back in 2007, which also claimed his son and two close friends of the family.

In 2008, British Touring Car Championship driver David Leslie was killed, together with four others, when the private jet they had just taken off from Biggin Hill airport in Kent came down on a residential area – the crew had reported engine vibration only two minutes into the flight, and were about to return to the airport, but never made it.

As one who may be described as an engineer (amongst many other things), I never cease to be amazed at the detail air accident investigators are ultimately able to extract from the wreckage of a crashed aircraft, and how they can identify clues that allow damage to be defined as being a result of the crash, or of some incident prior to the crash, and therefore a probable contributor to the cause.

In the case of the David Leslie crash, which was further complicated by the absence of a black-box or flight recorder (not required on the type of aircraft involved), they have come up with the remarkably tiny clue of a missing rivet head related to the left engine fuel cut-off lever, which had become
detached at some time prior to the crash. The aircraft was unable to develop power, lost altitude, and could not be recovered.

Update June 1, 2011

An inquest has decided that the five deaths were accidental.

A senior engineering inspector at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has said that the vibration was most likely to have been caused by a failure of the plane’s air-conditioning and pressurising system, and that a rivet head missing from the left engine’s fuel-cut-off levers could have caused it to shut down.

Jurors said the presence of “black box” flight recording equipment would have helped with the investigation into the cause of the crash.

The coroner said he would be writing to the relevant authorities about the lack of a “black box”, and the AAIB also recommended making it mandatory to examine rivets during maintenance checks.

BBC News – Farnborough jet crash deaths were accidental

May 21, 2010 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Only four miles from home, the cat lost for six years

Cat in a bagSaffy the cat disappeared from the village of Torrance, to the northeast of Glasgow, six years ago. Only one year old, it seems she just wandered away one day, and didn’t come back.

The family tried to find their pet, but eventually gave up the hunt as a lost cause. As the cat had been chipped, the chances of being identified at the vet’s was likely, however, since nothing was heard, the chances of Saffy’s return declined with time.

Then, in 2010, Saffy’s owners received a call from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), informing them that – thanks to the chip – they had found Saffy wandering in Drumchapel, only about four miles away from Torrance.

Described as ‘half-starved’ when found, she had also lost half of her tail at some point, possibly having been broken or caught somewhere during her wanderings.

Reported to be happily settling in at home, and having recognised her name when called, Saffy is also said to be staying close to home now that she’s been reunited with her family, although her owners have said it will be a while before they let her out to wander on her own again, just to make sure she’s knows where home is.

Check your borrowed pics!

I originally came across this story by chance, when a search for something else landed on a web site related to news about pets in general.

Although it was a .co.uk site, the article was illustrated by a picture of a typical, home-made, ‘Lost Cat’ poster taped onto a lamppost – an American lamppost.

I don’t know if the person that wrote the article just grabbed the first picture they could find, or chose it deliberately for a bit of fun, but I decided to blow up the image and read the text, because something didn’t look quite ‘right’ about it. My suspicions were correct, and this is what was written on that ‘Lost Cat’ poster, possibly proving it always pays to check the small print, even in a pic you borrow:

LOST CAT

REWARD if you find him & don’t return him.

Promised girlfriend I’d put up a sign.

Cat’s a total pain in the ass. Tears up furniture, craps everywhere.

CALL if you find him & want to keep him. Will pay $$$.

(Right, girlfriend will probably be ex by tonight)

May 21, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Investment in Anstruther

Anstruther lies on the Firth of Forth, in the East Neuk of Fife, and is well known to some, but is not somewhere I have been particularly attracted to. It’s very nice, but just not on what I considered to be my own well-beaten track around the country. It comprises the coastal settlements of Anstruther Easter and Wester, the old fishing village of Cellardyke, and the inland settlement of Kilrenny

For various reason, I’ve never really managed to see the place properly, despite visiting on a number of occasions. I knew someone who had a family caravan on the site just to the north, so when I dropped in on them, I largely missed the village. At another time, I put in a ‘good word’ for a friend of a friend, and got their cousin a job with my company, and it turned out they owned a small hotel near the shore. Again, this meant missing the best of the village, as invitations to drop in on them always seemed to suffer from bad timing, and I would be there at times when they were shut, and off on their own holidays.

The village is due to see the benefits of some Heritage Lottery grants, and has received £30,000 to draw up plans for the restoration and regeneration of a number of its historic buildings, and this will eventually lead to some £915,000, which has been earmarked for the initiative.

The village is already well-known to some, having been designated a Conservation Area in 1972. For visitors there are sea angling, diving, swimming and bowling facilities, together with a 9-hole golf course, caravan parks, and boat trips to the nearby Isle of May. It has also gained some fame as home to the Anstruther Fish Bar, which has won the Seafish Fish & Chip Shop of the Year on a number of occasions.

This is possibly both a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ thing at the same time, and is another reason I have tended to bypass Anstruther. Travelling home in the evening, after spending a long day somewhere up north, it’s nice to pull into one of our coastal resorts and relax with a fish supper or similar. However, due to Anstruther’s fame as a winner of prizes for its fish and chip shop, on the occasion I’ve pulled in while passing, I’ve had to pull out again, almost as quickly, because the queue outside the shop is simply too long to wait in, when I still have anything up to two hours to go before I get back home. It doesn’t really take that long, but there’s nearly always some clown that holds the traffic up, or causes a jam for some reason. 90 minutes turned into more than four hours on this road once, after a diesel tank ruptured and contaminated the roads for miles around. The diversion was huge.

The view below shows the fish and chip shop, and can be panned and zoomed to show more of the village, or you can zoom out of it to see the aerial view, or map of the area.

<iframe width=”550″ height=”350″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ src=”http://maps.google.co.uk/?ie=UTF8&layer=c&cbll=56.222088,-2.697859&panoid=HOLSLZBRIcR70v76oEo0ww&cbp=13,10.9,,1,4.55&ll=56.222121,-2.698517&spn=0,0.047121&z=14&source=embed&output=svembed”>
View Larger Map

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Grenade found in Edinburgh University building basement

Hand grenadeMay seems to be a busy month for munitions finds, as the third to catch my eye has appeared in Edinburgh, in the university no less.

The scene was the university’s careers office in the city’s Buccleuch Place, which is undergoing renovation.

The device, described as a grenade, was discovered by workmen who found the device in the basement of the building, stopped work just before lunchtime, evacuated the building and contacted bomb disposal. Police also closed the street and cordoned off the area.

It’s not clear exactly what the explosive ordnance team removed, but it was later suggested in the news that the device was not thought to be live, and had been removed for destruction.

An odd place to find a grenade, be it a live or a practice device.

In an unusual error for the BBC, their story described the team as ‘ordinance’, rather than ordnance, in a quote from a police spokesman. A common error they should be aware of: ordinance is a legal term, while ordnance… isn’t.

See the last line of BBC News – Road closed after university grenade found, until they perhaps spot and fix it one day.

May 19, 2010 Posted by | military | , , , | Leave a comment

Blank cartridges found near Ardentinny

Blank cartridgeAfter noting the dredging up of an old item of ordnance (described as a missile) from World War II near Campbeltown harbour at the start of the month, a slightly newer find was made a few days later, when a plastic bag containing a number of blank cartridges, or training rounds, was discovered near Ardentinny.

The discovery was made by a walker on the path connecting the village with Carrick Castle, which lies opposite the armaments depot of RNAD Coulport on the opposite shore of Loch Long. 120 blank 5.56 mm cartridges packaged in six cardboard boxes were found sealed in a dark green plastic bag marked BAE systems. Military police are reported to be investigating the find, after it was made known to Dunoon Police who collected the cartridges, which have been described as being of the type used by soldiers in training exercises using the SA80 rifle.

Each box was marked: RORG 24-04-07 20CARTS 5.56mm BLANK L18A1

A spokesman for HM Naval Base Clyde, at Faslane, said the cartridges
were around 10 years old.

Notably, one web site that claims to represent the Argyll area has already solved the mystery, and referred to the “careless” military, stated that out of date ordnance is often used for training purposes, suggested by implication that there may be more to be found, that children are at risk, that locals are worried, and that Argyll should not be allowed to become a playground for the military.

Not bad for one find, which is presumably all there has been since there is no listing available, or history provided to suggest this is regular occurrence.

It also ignores any other possibilities, for example, that the blanks were stolen, and discarded in what the thieves thought was a reasonably remote area where they would not be discovered. This is not to suggest that they were (stolen), merely that any responsible web site would wait until an investigation was carried out, and findings reported, before presenting an alarmist report, rather than just sticking to the facts.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | military | , , , | Leave a comment

Memorial to Islay Sunderland flying-boat tragedy

It seems to be the week for memorials, with mention of a third being received during the week.

During World War II, 246 Squadron of Coastal Command was stationed at Bowmore, operating Sunderland flying boats from Loch Indaal.

On the evening of Sunday, January 24, 1943, Sunderland flying boat MK111 DV was returning to base, low on fuel, and in less than ideal weather. After circling the loch a number of times, the aircraft made its approach, but appears to have struck the ground on its final approach, possibly due to the prevailing winds, and crashed on he beach, just short of the loch.

Tragically, although most of the crew escaped the initial crash, they returned to the wreckage to free the rear gunner, trapped in the wreckage – just at the moment the depth charges aboard exploded, killing all nine present. Only the captain and two comrades survived, having sustained injuries in the crash, they had made their way to the slopes below the beach.

Alan Deller was Squadron Leader of 246, and has written about his experiences flying Sunderlands. During a visit to the island, he returned to the site where nine of his comrades were lost, and suggested that a memorial to the men be erected there, to mark Islay’s worst World War II tragedy,

The plan is nearing completion, with a stone cairn to be erected on a grassy knoll that overlooks both the site where the crashed aircraft came to rest, and also Loch Indaal, where the Squadron was stationed. A granite slab with an inscription will be set into the cairn. A simple ceremony will mark the occasion of the cairn’s completion.

The site was previously marked by a simple wooden plaque erected by Margaret Reid, a friend of Sergeant Navigator Walter Heath, one of those lost in the tragedy. This plaque will remain in place, and is to be restored as part of the project.

A detailed account of the accident, and further related links and news, can be found on the Islay Info web site: Islay Worldwar II Tragedy Blackrock Loch Indaal with Sunderland Flying Boat

Blackrock Islay

North shore of Loch Indaal near Blackrock © J M Briscoe

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

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