Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

More info on yesterday’s QRA off Scotland (with scary supersonic Russian nuclear bombers)

Did I get enough keywords in the title to make it a worthy contender for media ‘Clickbait’.

I noticed a couple of items in the media last night, referring to a QRA (Quick Response Alert) by a couple of Typhoons from Lossiemouth.

I don’t usually bother with these non-events, they’re not rare, and generally blown out of all proportion by the media to sensationalise them.

There weren’t many details given, I think they just referred to ‘unidentified aircraft’.

The main stories with detail concentrated the first reported arming of Typhoons with the Meteor active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), which has a multi-shot capability against long-range manoeuvring targets in a heavy electronic countermeasures (ECM) environment, combine with range in excess of 100 km (62 miles).

I received a couple of links to coverage with better details than the attempts made by our lot.

RAF Typhoons Launch With Meteor BVR Air-to-Air Missiles For the First Time During QRA Mission

Which also noted.

QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) mission was sparked by Russian Tu-160 bombers activity off Scotland. But no intercept took place this time.

RAF Typhoons in QRA at RAF Lossiemouth, UK, “were scrambled today as a precautionary measure against unidentified aircraft approaching the UK area of interest. However, no intercept took place and the Typhoons subsequently recovered,” a UK MoD release states.

Indeed, two Russian Air Force Tu-160 bombers, tail numbers RF-94100 and RF-94108 based on their radio activity, skirted the British Isles, reportedly on their way to Venezuela.

There was also more on the Venezuelan aspect.

Two Russian Tupolev/ United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Tu-160M1 supersonic bombers, NATO codename “Blackjack”, arrived in Venezuela on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 amid speculation about rising tensions between Russia and the U.S. along with continued questions about the status of Venezuela’s government. It’s the third deployment after those in 2003 and 2008.

The two massive Tu-160 “White Swan” bombers arrived at Simón Bolívar International Airport outside Caracas on Monday following a 10,000-kilometer (6,200-mile) flight across the Atlantic from Engels 2 Air Base, 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) east of Saratov, Russia. The aircraft belong to Russia’s elite 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment, the only unit to operate the approximately 11 operational Tu-160 aircraft of 17 reported total airframes from 6950th Air Force Base.

Russian Air Force Tu-160 Bombers Deploy To Venezuela


Dec 11, 2018 Posted by | military, Transport | , , , , , | 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


Dec 9, 2018 Posted by | Maps, Cold War, military | , | Leave a comment

Scottish pilot’s secret Spitfire found in peat bog

A remarkable story regarding one of the ‘Pink Spitfires’ of the PRU (Photographic Reconnaissance Unit), and its Scottish pilot, appeared in the news.

The remains of a Spitfire shot down while on a mission to photograph the WW2 German battleship Tirpitz have been recovered from a Norwegian peat bog.

Auchterarder-born pilot, Flt Lt Alastair “Sandy” Gunn, had flown the aircraft out of RAF Wick in Caithness on 5 March 1942.

Gunn was captured, interrogated, imprisoned and later executed after the Stalag Luft III “Great Escape”.

His plane, Spitfire AA810, is to be restored and flown again.

Finding the aircraft, which crashed on a mountainside near the village of Surnadal, south west of Trondheim, has involved months of research and days of painstaking recovery work.

Mr Hoskins paid tribute to Flt Lt Gunn, who was 22 and had flown 32 operational missions when was shot down.

He said the Scot, along with other pilots of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, faced huge odds on their missions from Scotland to Norway to find and photograph the Tirpitz.

The pilots chances of survival were extremely low, flying in aircraft stripped of guns and armour to make them lighter and also to carry additional fuel.

Mr Hoskins said: “The pilots’ only defence was evade and escape using the speed and agility of the aircraft.

Scot’s secret mission Spitfire found in Norwegian peat bog

I learned of the PRU many years ago, when looking for old aerial images at the National Museum of Scotland (before Google Earth!).

Quite a unit, as noted the aircraft were unarmed and lightened, and pics they came back with from sorties sometimes show them being chased by enemy aircraft, with following weapons fire splashing into the sea behind them.

Sadly, after being shot down and captured:

The pilot, who refused to give details of his missions, was later moved to Stalag Luft III in Poland and was a key figure in the prisoner of wars’ escape tunnel digging.

Flt Lt Gunn was among those to escape the camp, but he was captured after two days on the run and shot. He was 24.

The recovery of the aircraft will also feature in BBC Four’s Digging for Britain.

This image of a PRU aircraft shows the light colour (intended to aid concealment against the sky) and lack of weapons.

PRU Spitfire

PRU Spitfire

Nov 24, 2018 Posted by | military, photography, Surveillance, Transport, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

I took an unusual pic of Glasgow’s Spitfire – then there was a coincidence!

Time for yet another spooky coincidence – they really do follow me around.

During one of my recent visits to Kelvingrove, I happened to look up as I walked through the gallery where Glasgow’s Spitfire (LA198) hangs from the roof. Like most, I probably spend more time looking at this exhibit from the upper gallery, where you are closer to, and looking down on the aircraft from slightly above.

It’s possibly a little less noticeable from the gallery below, as the colouring of its underside tends to blend with the roof space, I think.

But I noticed it this time, mainly because you get a better feel for just how close the fit of the wingspan is within the width of the gallery – it would not have taken a lot to make it just to wide to fit, and they’d have to have modelled it after version with the chopped wing tips! There really was such a mod, which altered the handling and stability.

The view from below is interesting, as the aircraft is posed with its undercarriage lowered.

I find there’s always a slightly disconcerting aspect to such views, from below – in war, if you were ‘the enemy’ and saw that view, you were in the wrong place. That thought first occurred to me at the opening of Cumbernauld Airport, marked by the arrival of a Harrier, which we were able to watch during its whole approach run, For some reason, as I watched it, I started thinking “If this approach was for real, I’d be dead soon, and probably couldn’t do anything about it, not against a Harrier”.

Forget that.

I took this shot specifically to catch that wing tip clearance.

It’s not really that close, but it’s still close.

Spitfire Wing tip clearance

Spitfire Wing tip clearance

So, where’s the coincidence?


I’ve gone back to having an automatic link to new Atlas Obscura entries, and just after I took this pic, what was featured in the atlas?


Glasgow’s Spitfire (LA198)

And, if you check the link, you’ll find they have some pics from below too!

I deliberately avoided the frontal view (for the reason given above), but they got a really good one.

I think I may have to go back and recreate that one soon.

Nov 19, 2018 Posted by | Aviation, military, photography, Transport, World War II | , | Leave a comment

Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum hidden tribute in Renfrew Street

I wonder how many have spotted this feature at the back door of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum in Renfrew Street?

I’ll certainly admit to never even looking here when I pass, being too busy with the unusual big head of Beethoven to be found atop the rear of the adjacent building (formerly Thomas Alfred Ewing’s piano warehouse facing onto Renfrew Street, by James Alexander Ewing, his brother).

But I was looking the other way, looking for the rear of the museum, and not expecting it to be easy to spot.

I was wrong.

These pics show what I found there.

RHF Museum Back Door

RHF Museum Back Door – Looking East


RHF Museum Back Door Looking West

RHF Museum Back Door Looking West

A closer look at each.

RHF Museum Back Door Mural

RHF Museum Back Door Mural


RHF Museum Back Door Mural

RHF Museum Back Door Mural

While I could wander along the top of a wall to get a decent view of one, I didn’t feel like climbing over the fence to get a better view of the other, but the application of a little ‘magic’ improved the skewed view.

RHF Museum Back Door Corrected

RHF Museum Back Door Corrected

Nov 11, 2018 Posted by | military, photography, World War I, World War II | , , , | 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.

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

Oh look! No HMS Tamar

Just for fun, after Oh look! BAE Systems, I thought I’d make a slight detour and revisit the view in that post, since I now know where this place is.

I’d read that one of the vessels had gone into the water recently, so was curious to see if was in the right place. As I noted in that original discovery post, making assumptions is not always a good idea, even if they seem obviously correct.

River Clyde BAE Systems HMS Tamar Gone

River Clyde BAE Systems HMS Tamar Gone

I didn’t look the ‘other’ way last time I was here, but I did this time, and looking in the windows of the flats on this riverside development was interesting.

It’s hardly being nosey, the side facing the river is largely glass so the rooms on that side is almost in plain sight if folk haven’t closed their curtains.

First thing I saw I liked – one of those cat hammocks held onto the window glass by four huge suckers, so the flat’s feline overlord can watch its empire below, and bask in the Sun. I hope the double-glazing it good though, or maybe even triple glazing.

The rest wasn’t so good, as my first passing glance (which may just have been in the wrong direction) appeared to show that the favourite decoration around those rooms was wine bottles.

Lots of wine bottles.

I had a look and was mildly surprised to see a flat (on the 4th floor) of the Glasgow Harbour development was only around £170 k.

I’ve looked at similar places nearby and seen prices close to £100 k higher than this – but in older and more historic properties (you probably don’t even want ask/know the price if they were by Thomson or Mackintosh, but there’s a surprising number of them around).

Interesting difference.

Oct 19, 2018 Posted by | military, Naval, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

AA Battery Blantyreferme – a quick (re)visit

Fortunate not to have been lost (like some) to redevelopment of the land, or some other major change, the Blantyreferme AA Battery was one that was handy for a visit some years ago, and also revisited by other who were kind enough to offer us their observations from visits made in later years.

You can read the notes made in those previous years here, in our main site.

It’s interesting to note that although our data was taken from public records, none of them seem to have referred to the name given to the restoration, The Whins Site. The alternatives in the records were Blantyre Ferme, Blantyre, or Uddingston.

AA Battery Blantyreferme

I suggest referring to this page while looking at the newer info.

Although I refer to ‘restoration’, be aware this refers only to the current remains, which have been cleaned up and made safe, and does not imply the battery has been restored to its wartime condition.

In fact, the battery site now lies within Redlees Park, a recent development dating from 2008, extended in 2012 to feature the remains as part of the park.

Signs posted at the entrances to the park show the area, and the location of the battery within the park.

Click for bigger – sorry for the reflections, but a protective sheet over the sign makes it hard to avoid.

Redlees Park Layout

Redlees Park Layout

Rather than waffling on, these signs from the restored site give an indication of the site’s structure.

They’re a bit grotty, but the originals are mounted at an angle for visitors to read, so I’ve had to edit them to correct for some hefty perspective distortion resulting from angle they were photographed at.

Click for slightly bigger.

The Whins Anti Aircraft Site

The Whins Anti Aircraft Site


The Whins Anti Aircraft Battery

The Whins Anti Aircraft Battery


The Whins Fixed Gun Emplacements

The Whins Fixed Gun Emplacements

The first sign is mounted on a viewing platform that overlooks the whole site, as seen in this stitched view.

Click to enlarge this view.

AA Battery stitch

AA Battery stitch

The original battery perimeter fence and gate remain largely intact.

While the original visits showed the local scum was smashing the battery’s remains for fun, they’ve decided to carry on vandalising it with slightly less destructive painting to decorate it to their taste, as seen from the nearby hill.

Battery Gate Entrance

Battery Gate Entrance

As seen from ground level.

AA Battery Site Entrance

AA Battery Site Entrance

There were a number of Tank Traps scattered around the area, and one has been made into a feature, in front of the main magazine building, and workshop to the right.

These traps were simply made, by pouring concrete into cylinder formed by some corrugated iron sheeting bent into circle.

The magazine building is covered with disgusting painted vandalism, which I’ve painted out as I will not give a public showing for the scum to point at say ‘I did that’.

Magazine Workshop Tank Trap

Magazine Workshop Tank Trap

Oct 2, 2018 Posted by | military, photography, World War II | | Leave a comment

Charles Frank 67 Saltmarket

I wrote a post a while ago, which seemed to get a bit of interest following the news that Maplin had folded, and was closing (everything).

That post had been about the earlier demise of electronics retailers in Glasgow, specifically RME in Stockwell Street.

Responses to those thoughts included mention of Charles Frank, an optical and scientific instrument maker who, together with his son Arthur, had shops in the city’s Saltmarket, and later, Ingram Street.

That venture came to an end in the 1970s, with the shops finally closing their doors for the last time in 1974.

In his time, Frank designed, sold, and repaired photographic and scientific apparatus from the Saltmarket premises, with Ingram Street being described as a more upmarket showroom for the sale of his scientific instruments.

While I was never aware of the Ingram Street venture, I was dragged along to his establishment in Saltmarket, which had become an outlet for various sort of surplus just before it closed. Seems it was fuelled by a flood of high quality ex-military optical and photographic equipment in the postwar years. Frank Ltd took advantage of this by buying at public auctions held by the military which had no use for the items, and then reselling them to the public.

I have (as a child at the time) some memories of the shop and stuff stacked in it. Some large reels of quarter-inch recording tape were bought, and maybe some assorted slide rules, but that’s all that stuck in my mind. I’d always imagined going there when I ‘Grew Up’ – but neither of those ever happened.

See the note at the end of this post – my useless memory had the wrong Saltmarket shop tagged as Frank’s.

I’m amazed at being so wrong for so long – when the dumb strikes, it strikes hard!

I just learnt of my mistake after noticing the ’30’ above its door – Frank’s shop was 67.

Time to start hunting for confirmation, and I did find this old B&W pic on a number of sites, credited to the Jewish Archive, but I couldn’t track down the original, they were all ‘re-use’.

CH Frank 67 Saltmarket Jewish Archive Pic

CH Frank 67 Saltmarket Jewish Archive Pic

That made the hunt a lot easier to complete, and we can see the same shop today.

It’s a slightly bigger image than usual, so you can click for bigger.

67 Saltmarket Gilt Edged

67 Saltmarket Gilt Edged

Intriguing changes – there are now FIVE assorted electrical/electronic control gear boxes planted on this short length of street; the low wall in St Andrews Street (on the left) has been considerably heightened; and the close entrance which sat in the middle of shop (to the right) has had its original width reduced, and is now considerably smaller than it used to be.

My mistake

As noted above, tiny memories are not always reliable memories, and I walked past a derelict Saltmarket shop for years, sadly thinking (wrongly) of it being the remains of Frank’s.

I always thought it was this one, just across from the long-established pet shop in Parnie Street.

(Just how long has that pet shop been there anyway?)

Not Former Charles Frank Shop Saltmarket

Not Former Charles Frank Shop Saltmarket

When this group of shops was ‘modernised’ some years ago, I was here regularly, and was sad to see a (presumably original) stained glass window above the door to number 30 was gone when the shutters came down to reveal the ‘improved’ premises. I’ve always wondered what happened to that panel, undamaged for as long I watched it. Skipped, or ‘liberated’ by some lucky builder or salvager?

Sep 17, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, military, photography, World War II | , , | 3 Comments

Russian mystery satellite? What mystery, it’s obvious

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the following story, and the portrayal of the Russian satellite’s behaviour as ‘mysterious’.

A mysterious Russian satellite displaying “very abnormal behaviour” has raised alarm in the US, according to a State Department official.

“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” said assistant secretary Yleem Poblete at a conference in Switzerland on 14 August.

She voiced fears that it was impossible to say if the object may be a weapon.

Russia has dismissed the comments as “unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions”.

The satellite in question was launched in October last year.

“[The satellite’s] behaviour on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,” Ms Poblete told the conference on disarmament in Switzerland.

Mystery Russian satellite’s behaviour raises alarm in US

Surely the solution to this supposed ‘mystery’ is obvious, and our American friend need only look to the north of Scotland to learn why the Russian satellite is moving to an odd position.

It’s angling to keep an eye on the upcoming…

Scottish spaceport

The fantasy view (as a vertical launch facility for microsatellites, it won’t look anything remotely like this fanciful artist’s impression).

Think more along the lines of a portacabin and a lump of concrete.

UK Space Agency Spaceport

UK Space Agency Spaceport

Aug 17, 2018 Posted by | Cold War, military, Surveillance, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Scot directs new film about Polish flyers in World War II

Having Polish roots, I came to learn of the Poles part in World War II after Hitler overran the country at the start of his ‘land grab’, and how Scotland came to figure in the lives of many Poles.

Many troops were based in Scotland after being displaced, stationed on the east coast, where there was always the possibility of a Nazi invasion routed via occupied Norway. Much of the coast was formed into a ‘Stop line’ to delay such an enemy incursion, which would allow time for troop movements to the area. Those on a Stop Line were almost certain to lose their lives, were it ever activated.

But their main active contribution was the part they played in the RAF, where their reputation as determined flyers became legendary.

Unfortunately (and note the use of ‘English’ in this quote):

These men were instrumental in winning the Battle of Britain yet in time-honoured English tradition, the majority of the population wanted them deported after the war – once they’d fulfilled their usefulness.

“Not unlike what we’re trying to do today with our catastrophic approach to immigration, the Windrush generation and so on.”

The source is a Scottish filmmaker has directed a new film about a squadron of Polish pilots who fought alongside the RAF at the Battle of Britain in World War II.

Hurricane is Johnstone-born David Blair’s first war feature.

Starring Iwan Rheon of Game of Thrones fame, the film is about fliers who fought Nazi Germany after escaping to Britain from occupied Poland.

Flying Hurricane fighters for the RAF, they became a key component in the story of The Few.

Blair, who now lives near Moniaive in Dumfriesshire, said that while making the film he was struck by the Poles’ self-sacrifice.

He said: “I knew there had been Poles – amongst others, from around the world – serving in the British armed forces during World War Two but that was about it.

“As I was growing up, there was little inclination in history lessons to point up the contribution made by ‘foreigners’ to our war effort.”

Directing Hurricane, Blair said he learned of the exploits of Poles and service personnel from other parts of the world in Britain’s war-time activities.

He said: “It’s one thing to fight for a cause in a far away land but to do so while all sorts of horrors are taking place back home – of which you have only scant information – made the story heart-breaking – but irresistible too.

“What was taking place in Poland no doubt acted as a spur and incentive for the men to keep going.”

Scot directs new film on WW2 Polish fighters

Hawker Hurricane Charles Daniels Photo Collection

Hawker Hurricane Charles Daniels Photo Collection

Jul 22, 2018 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

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