Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

More fun for the mindless – ‘Heritage Crime’ is added to their list of hobbies

I’ve been watching the slow but steady increase in reports relating to crimes against historic sites and artefacts over the years.

I’ve been able to see this for myself as sites relating to World War II and the Cold war are vandalised and burnt-out, while anything more recent (such as memorials) has become a handy resource for metal thieves, who don’t like the idea of dying if they steal wiring from high voltage substations and train lines.

I’ve revisited some sites (which I might add are in isolated locations and can be hard to find) which were complete, intact, and well-preserved at my first visit, only to find they’ve been broken into, vandalised, and stripped, even if the contents have no real value. It’s enough gratification for the morons involved just to destroy them.

This increase has become noticeable, and is now in the news.

A campaign has been launched to raise awareness of “heritage crime” in Scotland.

It follows a series of vandalism attacks on ancient monuments such as St Anthony’s chapel in Edinburgh.

The Crimestoppers charity said such incidents were on the rise and that the cost to the public purse was thought to be “significant”.

It is now calling on people to report offences like graffiti, metal theft and fire-raising anonymously.

What is heritage crime?

Crimestoppers said heritage crime was when historic buildings, monuments and shipwrecks are criminally damaged. This can include:


•Anti-social behaviour

•Theft, including metal theft

•Metal detecting on scheduled monuments

•Recovery of objects from protected shipwrecks

•Undeclared treasure trove or salvage

•Illicit trade in antiquities

Fresh bid to tackle growing ‘heritage crime’

An example

The level of violence vandals will employ to destroy something, or gain access to a closed space is not limited, and even robust sites will be attacked.

Take this example I came across a while ago.

Compare my first pic taken in around 2001 with the second taken by another visitor to the same site some years later, in 2007.

Hatch 01

Hatch 01

Six years later.

Hatch 07

Hatch 07


18/04/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Cold War, photography | , | Leave a comment

The Cold War – probably a better legacy than Glasgow 2014

The Cold War is always a handy fallback for politicians to get their names in ‘print’, and this week some of them decided to don their ‘Outraged’ hats and dig up some old stuff, and make it look as if they were ‘Doing Something’.

It’s always nice if you can kick a ‘Soft Target’ you know can’t fight back, and I’d say that’s the case here, as some politicians decided to resurrect the rather old story of the UK’s stored fleet of nuclear submarines, as if they had just discovered something ‘New’, and should be praised for being so diligent and caring.

In reality, they win either way, running the story they did, and jumping up and down while whining about the ageing boats being stored, or alternatively (had the MoD embarked on decommissioning them years ago, when there was little experience or practical expertise to draw on), they could today be throwing stones at the MoD for not carrying out the decommissioning properly.

MoD under fire over fate of 20 retired nuclear submarines

Gets better…

SNP demands public inquiry on failure to scrap decommissioned nuclear submarines

Still, these politicians are probably right to stick the boot into the MoD now, as I suspect the decommissioning work currently being carried out at Dounreay will provide previously unavailable tech to make decommission the nuclear boats practical in the near future, and they will lose their chance to score more ‘Free Brownie Points’ when that eventually happens.

More interestingly, and probably more use than the endless whining of politicians, the National Archives has started its season: Britain’s Cold War Revealed.

Launching on the 4 April with the opening of our brand new exhibition, our Cold War season explores the impact of the Cold War on Britain, in the corridors of power, in hidden government bunkers, and on daily life in the home. Discover the real evidence of what happened during this turbulent era of secrets and paranoia. Immerse yourself in the shadowy world of espionage, learn how menacing the Cold War became, and witness the experiences of the generations that lived through it.

More here: Britain’s Cold War Revealed

They also run other current events related to this, which can be found in this listing

This is when I miss the days I got to work down in London every few months, and could take the time to catch various attraction down there.

I just can’t afford to do that trip myself now, just for fun.

05/04/2019 Posted by | Cold War | , | Leave a comment

Today is Chocolate Mousse Day

03 April is Chocolate Mousse Day.

I don’t know how many ‘chocolate days’ we’ve had already, but apart from having to stop to write a post… I’m not complaining (I’m just enjoying).

Deeply rich, a thick creamy substance of that most decadent of flavours, chocolate.

In French, ‘mousse’ means ‘foam’, and that’s a pretty good description for this dessert, light and frothy, or creamy and thick, depending on how you prepare it. The origins of this delicacy are largely unknown, although it is known to have been a popular dish in 18th century in France. But the first written record of its appearance is said to have been found in an exposition in New York City in 1892.

I’d only say one thing…

Keep it simple!

Too often I’ve had chocolate mousse wasted by having to many ‘extras’ added, or things with rough textures.

More chocolate never goes amiss, but it has to be a chocolate cream, or very soft melt-in-the-mouth chocolate flakes.

Fresh cream or a really smooth custard usually doesn’t go wrong either.

Simple Chocolate Mouse

Simple Chocolate Mouse

03/04/2019 Posted by | Cold War | | Leave a comment

Today is Black Forest Cake Day

28 March is Black Forest Cake Day.

Rich layers of chocolate sponge cake held together with a whipped cream filling and an assortment of cherries, then coated and topped with more of the same.

Thank goodness we can refer to it as Black Forest Cake (or gateaux) rather than its formal name of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte – people would probably die, or suffer terrible injuries, if we had to wrap our tongues around that before getting to our treat.

It seems a true Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is made using a rich liquor that comes from the region for which it’s named Schwarzwälder Kirsch(wasser). There a variety of tart cherries which gives the spirit its unique flavour is grown, and this, in turn, provides a notable and local flavour to the Black Forest Cherry-Torte.

This cake is said to have first appeared in Schwarzwälder (The Black Forest) in 1915 – at least according to Josef Keller, who told this until his death in 1981. Accurate or not, it seems the cake was linked with Berlin by 1931, from where it spread throughout the world to become the famous and recognizable treat known today.

There is also a simpler Swedish variation, consisting  of layers of rich chocolate and whipped cream. This Schwarzwaldtårta is completed by being decorated with rich slivers or plates of chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder to make another delicious treat.

It may not have any relation to the cherry-torte, but who cares?

Those recipes were made to be enjoyed, not argued about.

Black Forest Treat

Black Forest Treat

For what it’s worth, as far as I’m concerned this cake should be soft, sloppy, and messy, to be at its best.

I’ve had this presented as very expensive slices of gâteaux in posh restaurants, where the sponge was like cardboard, the cream was like wax, and the fruit was really fresh – so fresh it would have been nice if they had left it to ripen for a few more weeks!

28/03/2019 Posted by | Cold War | | Leave a comment

Albanian bunkers of the Cold War

Apart from any other irritating diversions I’ve enjoyed recently, I ended up with too much spare time, and too little paint to watch drying.

This let me reflect on the gradual disappearance of items related to the Cold War, said to have ended in 1989 (but I think really just changed to something else (unfortunately MUCH less obvious and observable, but just as dangerous), together with many of the people I used to be able to exchange comments and observation with on the subject.

That process was so gradual I didn’t really notice it happening, but have realised that all those people seem to have disappeared completely – no contact responses, plus their emails and nearly all their related web sites have gone, or gone dormant (no changes for years, if they are still online/visible).

One aspect that came up in the past was how some countries really embraced nuclear bunkers.

Not the type we would recognise in the UK, or perhaps the US, Russia, or even Canada, and related to government or mass population, but smaller structures, more associated with individuals, or families.

I’d all but forgotten about them, and how pervasive they were where they appeared, and it was nice to see this article about a book of photographs showing what happened to those in one country.

Photographer Robert Hackman has created a photo book that documents the many bunkers that were built in Albania between 1975 and 1989 amid fears of the Cold War.

Estimated to number up to 500,000, some bunkers are in states of dereliction or have been converted into cafes, homes, restaurants, swimming pools, barns, bridges and water tanks.

The Albanian bunkers built in the midst of the Cold War

I’m not a great traveller (and I certainly don’t have the funds to support this sort of fun), but I’d kind of like to be able to go look for stuff like this today, just to see what survives.

Hopefully this sample pic will give you an idea of the size of these things.

Albanian Bunkers Pic Credit Robert Hackman

Albanian Bunkers Pic Credit Robert Hackman

Britain’s remains from World War I

This reminded me of an article run just after the turn of the year, which reminded me of an explore I actually almost managed to make some years ago.

I’d been making quite a few work-based trips down to London, which had to be completed by car as I was ‘hand-carrying’ some fairly sensitive electronic gear which could not be entrusted to a carrier, or even someone not technically competent in handling the kit.

As I had to do this at least twice per annum, and each trip was double (I had to take the stuff down there, then go collect it a few weeks later), so I always organised it for the end of the week, so didn’t have to return immediately.

While I managed to visit a few interesting places on the south coast (of England) I never quite managed to create an effective route to the south west coast, which is surprisingly further away from the Glasgow-London route than it looks.

Unfortunately, while working on the best route for this trip, that particular piece of work came to an end – killed by ‘modern’ electronics and the retiral of the old precision gear we used to use.

Denge Sound Mirrors

Denge Sound Mirrors

They’ve appeared on some TV programmes, but not recently, and seem to be forgotten again.

I’d liked to have seen them up close.

It’s also a shame they were rendered obsolete by RADAR, so never benefited from any development work.

They weren’t particularly successful or effective (apparently), but didn’t benefit from any electronics (at least not as far as I’m aware), being dependent on stethoscopes and tubes to carry the sound to an observer.

Being made of concrete didn’t help either, as it would have been hard to build many prototypes quickly, to determine the best design to develop.

That said, later pics can be found of portable devices (at least if you had a trailer) which were intended for use in the field, and had huge trumpets which were pointed skyward to listen for aircraft.

Maybe it’s just as well RADAR came along!

24/02/2019 Posted by | Cold War, photography | | Leave a comment

The Doomsday Clock is stuck at two minutes to midnight – If you have anything left on your bucket list, do it now, because the world is close to annihilation

If you have anything left on your bucket list, do it now, because the world is close to annihilation. That’s according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Check the current Doomsday Clock here.

I can’t believe I see this as ‘Good News’, but with the Orange Moron still somehow in power in the US, we can only be thankful that the clock has not moved CLOSER to midnight.

As one who ‘came through’ the Cold War and has been to various nuclear bunkers that were active during their lifetime, it’s one of the saddest things to see that this clock spent most of that period so far from midnight, yet has now moved so close.

Perhaps there is some truth or wisdom from those who said the Cold War was actually a ‘Good Thing’, as it kept minds focussed on a common cause (to somehow end it), and that its demise was not, in fact, the great thing many hailed it as.

Little point in me wasting time rewriting this, a quote is all that is needed…

The “new abnormal” the world is facing from risks like nuclear war and climate change has led the symbolic Doomsday Clock to be frozen at the closest it has ever been to midnight.

The clock, created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) in 1947, intends to warn of impending disasters.

Its 2019 setting was announced on Thursday – staying in the same perilous position it was set at last year.

The BAS has warned we are “normalising a very dangerous world”.

It marks only the third year the clock has been so close to midnight – first reaching the position in 1953 after the US and the Soviet Union tested highly destructive hydrogen bombs.

Why has it stayed the same?

In Thursday’s announcement in Washington, representatives from the Bulletin said the clock’s maintained position was “bad news indeed”.

Doomsday Clock frozen at two minutes to apocalypse

2019 Doomsday Clock

2019 Doomsday Clock

Comments on the ‘time’…

“Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world,” BAS President and CEO, Rachel Bronson, said.

“This new abnormal is simply too volatile and too dangerous to accept,” Ms Bronson warned at the unveiling.

Former California governor Jerry Brown, who serves as BAS executive chair, also cautioned: “We’re playing Russian roulette with humanity.”

The group cites nuclear weapons and climate change as the two major ongoing threats to mankind – and warned their risks were being “exacerbated” by the “increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world”.

Herb Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security from Stanford University, spoke about the particular risks from “fake news” at Thursday’s announcement.

“It’s a terrible world in which rage and fantasy replace truth,” he cautioned.

I think of my own observation, where those who spread the worst ‘rage and fantasy’ do so under the guise of ‘Free Speech’, which they claim as a ‘right’, and avoid all references to ‘responsibility’, as that aspect does not suit them.

See the disgusting Alex Jones and his toxic Infowars project to get an idea of what I have in mind.

Can’t wait for next year’s number – if we’re still here.

24/01/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Cold War, military | | Leave a comment

Aberdeen joins Glasgow as ‘special’ Soviet era target

Striking me as slightly pointless if we are/were to believe the anti-nuclear loonies, Glasgow was mapped in detail by the Soviets back in the days of the Cold War.

Purpose unclear, since the anti-nuclear brigade was assuring everyone that Glasgow would be amongst the first places to be wiped off the face of the Earth, because… Holy Loch nuclear sub base!

Had they not turned it into a big hole, they might have moved their dachas here, we are on the same latitude as Moscow.

Now it seems that Aberdeen was treated to a similar mapping exercise.

A Soviet map of Aberdeen compiled by undercover operatives in 1981 showing strategic locations for invasion has come to light after cash-starved employees sought revenge against their former paymasters after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The map is revealed in a new book examining 500 years of military mapping in Scotland.

The detailed map of Aberdeen, a city which suffered severe bombing during the Second World War, gives precise measurements of many features, including the widths and lengths of the Victoria Bridge and Wellington Suspension Bridge over the River Dee.

The mapmakers colour-coded buildings by function – green for military, purple for civil administration, black for industrial and brown for residential. This is accompanied by a ‘spravka’ essay of more than 1,800 words focusing on 58 important objects, which notes the coastal area north of the city is “suitable for amphibious landing” and the impressive “harbour dockage facilities can provide complete overhaul of vessels, including destroyers”.

The spravka included details such as the land around the city being “dissected by deep river valleys that are the major obstacles for non-road mobile machinery”, that its quarries could be used for shelters and that “Aberdeen seaport is the major maintenance base for oil deposits in the North Sea”.

Scotland: Defending The Nation – Mapping A Military Landscape by Carolyn Anderson and Christopher Fleet includes military maps from the 15th century.

Revealed – Soviet spies’ secret map of Aberdeen, a city ripe for invasion

Maybe somebody realised they’d made a mistake by mapping Glasgow, that it would become a smoking, glowing, wasteland after the few minutes it would take for World War III to be completed, and that they’d better have a nice wee bolthole for their masters to retire to, before they ‘disappeared’.

It’s a long time since those Glasgow maps were revealed, and unless my memory is really bad (possible) there was some amusement to be had by the media back then, as the tired old hacks tried to raise a laugh by pointing out mistakes or misunderstandings on the Russian map.

I don’t see anything similar in the Aberdeen article – maybe the workers that made those mistakes… ‘disappeared’.


Viewing Russian maps

I’m not sure if there are other resources (online), but since the first Russian maps of Glasgow appeared many years ago, I have relied on Old-Maps for my regular viewing of the material.

For my purposes, all the material is free. (there are some conditions, but not usually relevant).

I had a quick look, and confirmed that they also have Russian maps of Aberdeen available.

Find them here…


Serious Cat

Serious Cat


09/12/2018 Posted by | Cold War, Maps, military | , | Leave a comment

Nice! Nuclear archive wins Scotland’s best building award

I’ve no idea how many people have even heard of the Nuclear Archive, or if anybody has.

Sadly, it’s not the sort of place that has ever received any media attention, or publicity, and I only know about it because of my electrical engineering interests (which inevitably means nuclear power), and following the tale of Dounreay, and its decommissioning (which does feature regularly in the news – from the BBC at least).

A national archive for the civil nuclear industry has won a top Scottish architecture prize.

Nucleus in Wick has been constructed to hold more than 70 years’ worth of information and up to 30 million digital records.

It has won the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award for 2018.

Nucleus, built at a cost of £21m, was chosen from a shortlist of a total of 12 designs.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority had the facility constructed at a former RAF site. The archive was opened last year.

Many of the documents, photographs and technical drawings it will hold relate to Dounreay, an experimental nuclear power complex 30 miles (48km) away from Wick.

Papers, photographs and plans are also being sent for storage from nuclear sites at Harwell in Oxfordshire, Trawsfynydd in Snowdonia and Sellafield in Cumbria.

Nucleus will also store local archives dating back to the 16th Century.

Nuclear archive wins Scotland’s best building award

It was interesting to see this facility being conceived some years ago, in light of problems I saw being revealed in the US.

Although the ‘Nuclear Naysayers’ (the hairy folk that run around shouting “It’s nuclear, it’s nuclear, we’re all going to DIE!”) don’t like to acknowledge the fact, many nuclear facilities have been closed over the years, and one of the unanticipated effects of these closures is that the people and knowledge they contained has, simply been lost.

Nobody thought of the future.

Nuclear is not, in itself, evil. It’s just a thing. But some people (cough cough Trump cough) might be.

It seems that now, when we need to do things like maintenance, a lot of the original information has been lost, together with the facilities needed to back them up.

Worse, simple old age means that many of the experienced people who worked on such things are dead, making it hard to ask for their advice, or use their experience.

Maybe the National nuclear archive will help prevent us doing something similarly silly, or even having a small, preventable disaster one day.

National Nuclear Archive Pic Via BBC Credit Tricia Malley/Ross Gillespie

National Nuclear Archive Pic Via BBC Credit Tricia Malley/Ross Gillespie

16/11/2018 Posted by | Civilian, Cold War | , , | Leave a comment

Two stories that unfortunately coincided yesterday

I thought it was sad to see a story about Orange Moron taking us closer to disaster on the same day we heard of the death of a real hero who saved us from going down that road.


Donald Trump: US will build up nuclear arsenal


Joachim Ronneberg: Norwegian who thwarted Nazi nuclear plan dies


I’m not generally at a loss for words to express my feelings about many subjects, but this Orange Moron does quite a good job of bringing this about.


Maybe this reminder of the current time shown by the Doomsday Clock for 2018 is appropriate.


2018 Doomsday Clock 2 Minutes To Midnight


The last time it got down to 2 minutes was 1953!


The best it has been was 1991, when The United States and Soviet Union signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), and the Soviet Union dissolved on December 26.



2018 Doomsday Clock Statement, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

23/10/2018 Posted by | Cold War, military, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

RAF100 to visit the Glasgow Science Centre with five aircraft

Hopefully this won’t change after I mention it, but I spotted an interesting (free) event which is set to arrive at the Glasgow Science Centre this weekend (Friday to Sunday, 31 August to 2 September),  specifically…

Open on Friday 9am to 5.30pm – Last admittance is at 5pm.

Open on Saturday and Sunday 9am to 6pm – Last admittance is at 5.30pm.

On show:

  • Sopwith Snipe Biplane
  • Supermarine Spitfire MkVb
  • Harrier GR3 – (first VSTOL production aircraft)
  • Typhoon Full Scale Replica
  • F35 (LII) Full Scale Replica

Iconic fighter planes from past 100 years to go on display in Glasgow this summer as part of RAF100 Aircraft Tour

RAF100 Aircraft Tour Glasgow

RAF100 Aircraft Tour


RAF100 Publcity Image

RAF100 Publicity Image


Red Arrows cancel Glasgow flypast for RAF centenary

27/08/2018 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War, photography, Transport, World War I, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

Another ROC post in the news – Cabrach

Another nuclear monitoring post of the Royal Observer Corps has appeared in the media.

A bunker constructed 20ft (6m) underground in the Cabrach hills of Moray has been opened to the public for the first time.

Post 32, a caravan-sized facility, was part of a network of hundreds of sites staffed by volunteers of the Royal Observer Corps during the Cold War.

It was built in the 1960s to monitor fallout from any future nuclear weapons attack.

The bunker, along with the other sites, were closed in the early 1990s.

Nuclear war bunker in Moray opened to public for first time

Funny thing…

The posts that make it into the news generally seem to be sites I didn’t make it to when I was dashing around the country ‘collecting’ them some years ago.

But thank to my friends at Subterranea Britannica, I can at least share a pic.

Cabrach Post Courtesy Nick Catford Subterranea Britannica

Cabrach Post Courtesy Nick Catford Subterranea Britannica

Follow this link for the original record.

The Cabrach Trust has a couple of items relating to the post.

I’d dispute the title of the first, and am surprised ROC post personal let it go – the posts were nothing to do with the concept of a ‘Nuclear Deterrent’, were not military, and were crewed by civilian volunteers.

How the Cabrach became a nuclear deterrent.


Join us on August 18th for our Open Day

19/08/2018 Posted by | Cold War | , | Leave a comment

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