Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Find wartime bombing sites in Aberdeenshire

Two Google maps showing areas where raids were carried out during World War II have been created using records from the time.

One map shows areas where bombing raids caused damage and can be found here, and shows all the known attacks from 26 June 1940, until the last raid on 21 April 1943.

Some of the areas affected are quite small, so it’s best to zoom in on any area of interest as the marker may not be visible when he map is zoomed out to cover a wide area.

The other shows areas where enemy aircraft carried out attacks, and can be found here, and shows those recorded in the Aberdeen County Register of Air Raids and Alarms from 1940 – 1944.

Via: Map charts WW2 bombing of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

March 3, 2016 Posted by | council, military, World War II | , , , | 2 Comments

The last Vulcan display at Prestwick also had a hint of drama

I couldn’t make it to the display at Ayr, but it seems the real action took place at Prestwick, as I just learnt from this video I spotted.

The following description of events is quoted from the video owner:

On the 5th of September I went across to Prestwick to watch the Scottish Airshow 2015. Primarily I wanted to see the Vulcan one last time before she’s retired in the next month or so.
Having arrived at the airport we waited for the Vulcan XH558 with great anticipation.
Once we saw him over Ayr my excitement grew even more.
He called up Prestwick tower to do a flyover the airfield , then make a right hand turn to then land on runway 30.
However after he made that turn things seemed to go wrong. Rather than report final he then did a second flyover , and started entering orbits to the north of the airfield.
After it became clear he was having a nosewheel gear issue , a Spitfire of the BBMF called up and asked if there was anyway he could help by giving the vulcan an inspection from underneath the aircraft.
Once they had determined the Vulcans speed the spitfire confirmed that his nosewheel was not extended fully and that there was nothing blocking it from locking into place.
Following this the Vulcan entered into some very aggressive yawing , both left and right in an attempt to free whatever was holding the nosewheel back from extending and locking.
After some time they were successful and initiated a landing.
We were all waiting with bated breath, not knowing whether or not it had indeed fully locked into place.
Thankfully the landing went well, and as you can hear at the end of the video was great relief that everything had gone so well.
Praise must also go to the Spitfire pilot for taking the initiative in helping the crew of the Vulcan resolve the issue.

That brings back memories of the Prestwick Air Show (at the airport then) which had the drama of a World War II aircraft suffering a similar stuck undercarriage, which refused to be bumped loose, and eventually had to be ditched and lost in the sea off Turnberry, which was chosen as the beat way to ensure no other damage, and safe recovery of the pilot.

Thank goodness the Vulcan trip to Scotland did not end in similar fashion – although I suspect they might have ultimately dumped fuel and done a belly landing with the larger aircraft. This is the procedure I’ve seen in the past, on American aircraft of the same size in recent years.

It seems the crew would have been aware of the problem before arriving back at the airport.

Looking at this recording of the full display, it includes views of the usual lowering and raising of the undercarriage for some of the passes, and while I can’t be categoric of the full sequence having been captured, it is clear that the nosewheel is not fully forward in any of the shots:

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War, military | , , | 2 Comments

Anstruther exhibition honours fishermen killed in the First World War

submarine

World War I was not confined to the more well known venue of The Front, but also extended into the sea, with German submarines deployed in order to disrupt supplies – fishermen working off the coast were potential targets:

A new exhibition has been launched to honour the fishermen who died in service during the First World War.

Anstruther was one of the fishing communities affected when war broke out, as fishermen were called to fight.

Many men from Scotland’s fishing industry went to fight in the conflict, and fishing regions were highly affected by the injuries and casualties they suffered.

David Christie from Anstruther sank a German U-boat in 1918. His granddaughter Davina Knox has the casing of the shell and his medal.

She said: “They were on a drifter patrolling the Irish Channel and they only had one gun on board the ship and this U-boat must have come up and they had a wee battle seemingly and they fired a direct hit and they took the 36 men prisoner. There was no loss of life.”

David Christie’s story features in a new exhibition at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in the town.

via Anstruther exhibition honours fishermen killed in the First World War | Dundee & Tayside | News.

The First World War had both personal and collective impacts on those involved, whether they were away fighting or at home.  In this exhibition we explore the specific effects that the war had on those who made their living from the sea.  Using objects from our collections and individual stories of those affected we paint a national picture of the war in Scotland’s coastal communities.

At the beginning of the war many fishermen entered the services and swapped the familiar hazards of life at sea for the dangers of the trenches or naval work.  For those who stayed at home fishing became severely restricted.  Fishermen were left with very small areas left to fish in and many boats were requisitioned for the Navy.

Exhibition Dates:

28th June – 26th October

Entry : included in museum admission, accompanied children FREE

A Shared Experience · What’s on · Scottish Fisheries Museum

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, Transport, World War I | , | Leave a comment

Helensburgh submarine museum funding on council agenda

submarine

I’ve been watching out for mentions of the proposed submarine museum in Helensburgh, and waiting until something positive appears that suggests it is moving forward and will materialise one day.

I’ve jumped on earlier mentions of forthcoming project of a similar nature in the past, because I want information about their existence to be out there, as it might be spotted by somebody who matters, but so far, feel as if I am getting my fingers burnt, as they all seem to fizzle out.

I’m not going to mention any specific past project, in case I say something wrong, as I am not privy to any special knowledge, but on the other hand, do know that one or two of these projects are still being pursued, but perhaps by different people and/or in slightly different directions.

So, back to the submarine museum:

Funding to the tune of £140,000 is also expected to be released by councillors for the Scottish Submarine Trust specifically towards the development of The Submarine Museum in Helensburgh. The condition of the funding mean the cash must be split evenly and released in two instalments of £70,000 when the following milestones are achieved; proof of legal ownership of the building; and receipt of Listed Building Consent. The museum aims to tell the history of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service will be told using new media and immersive 3D projected imagery and exhibits.

A 39 tonne ‘X’ Craft – or mini submarine – will be displayed as the centrepiece to the museum, which will also house an interactive electronic memorial in Remembrance of the 5,329 submariners who have given their lives in the Royal Navy Submarine Service.

The project, which aims to attract 10,000 visitors to the Burgh, is spearheaded by Visit Helensburgh.

The museum will be within the hall of the former St Columba’s Church, and the company will take formal ownership of the property on March 28 of this year.

Via: Submarine museum on today’s council agenda | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser

May 14, 2014 Posted by | council, Maritime, military, Naval, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Web site dedicated to Bute at War returns to the Internet

Bute at War

Memorial web site returns

I was really pleased to see a media article which announced the return of a web site which had unfortunately evaporated due to unfortunate circumstances some years ago, and which I therefore thought had been lost forever, which would have been sad.

The site had been created as part of a much wider effort to mark the 60th anniversary of celebrations to mark V-Day on Bute. Considerable material was collected at the time, much of it not generally known, and a book was also published at the same time.

“Bute’s War”, a book by Jess Sandeman, who was a War veteran, former Chief WREN, and a long-time voluntary genealogist at the Bute Museum, was launched early in June 2005 to coincide with the island’s V-Day festivities. I was able to obtain a copy from the author, who ultimately passed away only a few years later, in August 2009.

Bute's War by Jess Sandeman 2005

Bute’s War

Circumstances, changes, and losses in the years following this event eventually saw the site disappear from the web, and my contacts were also lost, so I had no idea what happened to the content – fortunately, the person who actually organised it retained a copy, and the material is now back online.

There is a wealth of local information regarding the part the Isle of Bute played during the war – and it’s now so long since I saw the site I dare not try and summarise, rather just recommend it for a good trawl if you are at all interested in the area and its war time history:

Bute during World War II

See also: New website keeps Bute’s WW2 story alive – The Buteman

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, World War II | , , , , | 2 Comments

Bletchley Park is at war – and it’s not historic, it’s current

A few years ago, Bletchley Park was struggling for recognition and funds.

Now, it is has become quite well-known as having been Station X during World War II, the place when Britain’s codebreakers worked to successfully defeat various German methods of encryption, with Enigma probably being the most widely known, although many other system were defeated there.

Bletchley Memorial

Bletchley Memorial 2013 © Roger Davies via geograph
The memorial consists of two slabs of Caithness stone one with the wording ‘We also served’ and the other with a sculpted list of 25 of the some 300 outstations that existed across the globe

While the immediate risks to the various building that make up the site have possibly receded, and funding for maintaining the facility appears to be appearing from sources such as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), all is far from well.

It’s hard to know what’s going behind the closed doors of the various bodies and trusts which are involved, but there seem to be major problems coming with the funds and grants, and the people charged with looking after them.

As well as the people at the top, there is conflict on the site as well, as the site is home not only to the artefacts and stories of the World War II activities which took place there, but also the National Museum of Computing. This has ended up sharing the site, since so many development that played a part with Station X during the war would go on to find applications in computing. The two are intimately connected, as developments in one led to advances in the other.

But all is not well, and the two sites seem to be doomed to suffer as those who have their hands on control of the site and its resources seem unable to get along together.

I have my own thoughts on how they should be dealt with, suffice to say these people are not as important as the artefacts or memories they are supposed to be caring for, and they should be shown the door if they cannot find a way to work together. I wouldn’t normally support such a course (people in a job usually want to be there), but when something has dragged on for years, then someone has to step in and ‘bang heads together’, or operate a ‘new broom’ philosophy to save the situation.

People are already ‘jumping ship’ to get away, and probably just doing so in order to avoid ‘being pushed’.

This does the various museums, memorials, or organisations associated with the site (eg HLF) no good at all, and could end up tarring them with the same brush if bad management, personal interest, abuse of power/position, or whatever.

Here is some background reading – these item are in chronological order, as they appeared:

Elderly Bletchley Park volunteer sacked for showing Colossus exhibit to visitors • The Register

Bletchley Park’s bitter dispute over its future

Volunteers slam plans to turn Bletchley Park into ‘geeky Disneyland’ • The Register

Bletchley Park spat ‘halts work on rare German cipher machine’ • The Register

Veterans gather for Colossus 70th anniversary

Bletchley Park board member quits amid TNMOC split-off spat • The Register

Bletchley Park board member quits amid TNMOC split-off spat • The Register

Update

Since I was moved to mention this issue, things have continued to deteriorate:

Bletchley boffins go to battle again: You said WHAT about Colossus? • The Register

March 17, 2014 Posted by | military, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

Arctic Convoy naval hero leaves Bute for final journey

I was unaware of the presence of one of the recipients of the Arctic Star medal, who lived in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute until 2011, and passed his 100th birthday there.

Commander Ian Hamilton joined the Clyde division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) in August 1932, then served in the Royal Navy from 1936 until 1957.

During World War II, he saw service in the Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the battles of Taranto and Matapan, the D-Day landings, and took part in the Arctic Convoys which carried supplies to Russian ports between 1941 and 1945, described by Churchill as “‘the worst journey in the world.’

His Arctic Star medal was presented at Erskine in April 2013 following approval by the Queen of an award to recognise the service of Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel. Commander Hamilton’s campaign medals already included the Naval General Service Medal, the 1939-45 Star, the Italy Star, the Africa Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal, the Defence of Malta Medal and the Soviet Union’s Arctic Convoy Medal.

The body of Commander Ian Hamilton, who passed way in the Erskine home for former service personnel at Bishopton in Renfrewshire on February 9 at the age of 103, was piped on board MV Argyle, en route to his funeral at Greenock Crematorium.

Rothesay naval hero dies aged 103 – The Buteman

VIDEO: Lone piper gives Rothesay naval hero a fitting send-off – The Buteman

Seems this is another video source I can’t embed.

Fortunately, Zak was on hand to record the event (and I’m grateful for permission to use the occasional image):

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Maritime, military, Naval, World War II | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Last Nimrod named after the Duke of Edinburgh

After following the demise of the Nimrod replacement project, and then the withdrawal of the last operational Nimrod aircraft from their base in the north of Scotland, I thought all had been scrapped or disposed of in some less than desirable way.

I was, therefore, pleased to read that the last surviving Nimrod aircraft from RAF Kinloss – saved from the scrapheap after the fleet was withdrawn from service – had been formally named ‘Duke of Edinburgh’.

The XV244, which had flown out of the Scottish base since 1970 before the reconnaissance planes were disbanded in 2010, was purchased by a charitable organisation called Morayvia, set up to establish an aerospace centre in the north of Scotland.

A naming ceremony was hosted at Kinloss Barracks today and will now preserve a Royal connection to Moray’s aviation history.

Prince Philip, a supporter of a Scottish aviation museum, agreed to allow his name and heraldic standard to be displayed on the aircraft that Morayvia hopes will become the showpiece attraction in a future visitor centre.

The XV24 has a long and distinguished flying career, entering service with the RAF on November 6, 1970, as the eighth Nimrod to be delivered to the base. It was involved in numerous rescue operations, including the Piper Alpha disaster, and flew thousands of hours during its service.

Morayvia formed in July 2011 to save the last Nimrod in Moray from being scrapped when the Kinloss base was shut by the Ministry of Defence in 2010.

Granted charitable status by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in January 2012, the group

purchased XV244 from the Disposal Servces Agency in February.

Funds were raised from donations made by BAE Systems, Thales, Ultra, Rolls-Royce, and The Maritime Air Trust, as well as from individual Morayvia members.

The group also secured the front 40ft of Nimrod XV240, the former gate guardian, with a view to it forming a mobile exhibit to generate interest and income for its centre.

In 2013, the group were loaned 2 further cockpits, a Jet Provost T4 and Vampire T11, also on trailers and again attended a number of events to raise funds and awareness, venturing as far afield as RAF Waddington.

Via Last RAF Kinloss Nimrod named ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ – The Scotsman

The Nimrod was Britain’s maritime reconnaissance aircraft for some 40 years, but the aircraft flew for the last time almost four years ago, then plans to replace the type were scrapped under the UK Government’s strategic defence review, as were the aircraft being developed.

The Morayvia project is now hoping XV244 will take pride of place in its plans for a museum of flight in Moray. A temporary site has been leased from the council on the grounds of an old school, but the groups aim to secure a permanent site.

Morayvia charity given royal seal of approval in Nimrod ceremony | Aberdeen & North | News | STV

See also:

Homepage | morayvia.org.uk – Moray’s Aerospace Experience

I had a hunt for a royalty/copyright free image of the original, but came up empty, so this is an MR2 captured at Duxford in 2004. I have a liking for aircraft with their engines hidden in the wing root (as opposed to the more convenient pylon), and this version has more attractive inlets than the later MR4 variant, being elliptical rather than round.

January 15, 2014 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War, military, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Poppyscotland 2013

Looks like I have reverted to my old habit of giving Poppyscotland Home Page and Remembrance a late reminder – I think I’ll stop worrying about it.

However, and as usual, other things arose unexpectedly about a week a ago, and diverted my attention.

Poppyscotland

I’m crossing my fingers this year, as I have not been able to look at many news feeds recently, so hope that the usual stories seen in the past few years, telling of the sort of scum that steal collection boxes and money for the appeal, have actually not appeared, and not just been missed.

However, that does not mean that all is well, as we have seen a very bad year for thefts of metal from memorial and similar.

Sadly, while England has enacted new laws recently to make anonymous metal trading more difficult, Scotland is lagging behind, and has delayed moving on this, although we actually reported in last year’s article that “The Scottish Government proposed changes to the rules for scrap metal trading, removing the option of cash-in-hand payments in casual transactions“. Other than noting the deferral of this proposed deterrent, we have not noted any more positive actions against this growing theft.

Last year, we ended this with: Perhaps there will be something different to mention in a year’s time.

I’ll try something more imaginative his year…

Perhaps there will be something different to mention in a year’s time.

November 9, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Maritime, military, Naval, World War I, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

UAV flights in Scotland 2003-2013

I received an odd nudge to go look at Hansard for July 18, 2013, “You might see something interesting.”

Being a glutton for punishment, I duly trawled through a number of pages, fought off the urge to fall asleep, then came across a question on UAVs, which I guess was where I was supposed to look.

The question was asked of the UK, but this includes Scotland, so we got our little bit of info from the same pot:

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham of 15 May 2013, Official Report, column 221W, on unmanned aerial vehicles, on how many occasions flights of unmanned aerial vehicles have taken place in each of his Department’s reserved airspace areas within the UK in each of the last 10 years; what the purpose of each such flight was; and what type of unmanned aerial vehicle was flown on each such occasion. [R] [166283]

The reply was fairly comprehensive, as follows (I’ve highlighted the relevant line):

Mr Robathan: Available information on the number and location of flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), either on the military register or operating under a military flight test permit, in each of the last 10 years, is provided in the following table:

UAV type Number of flights Location Purpose
2003-06 Phoenix (1) (1) (1)
2004 Buster (2) Larkhill Trials
2006 Scan Eagle 22 Hebrides Range Capability Demonstration
2009 Desert Hawk III 126 Salisbury Plain Trials and Training
2010 Desert Hawk III 184 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training and conversion to Role
Watchkeeper 11 West Wales Airport Trials
2011 Desert Hawk III 564 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 83 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 3 Thorney Island Training
2012 Desert Hawk III 1,180 Salisbury Plain Training
Watchkeeper 129 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Tarantula-Hawk 11 Thorney Island Training
Scan Eagle 5 South Coast Exercise Area Trials
2013 Desert Hawk III 555 Salisbury Plain, Stanford, Otterburn Training
Watchkeeper 6 West Wales Airport French Army Training
Watchkeeper 77 West Wales Airport Trials and Training
Black Hornet (3)n/a Lydd Camp, Lossiemouth, Salisbury Plain(4) Training

(1) The Phoenix Unmanned Air System, which retired from service in 2006, was flown in UK airspace. Records of the number, location and purpose of Phoenix sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (2) Records of the number of Buster sorties are no longer centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. (3) Because of the way Black Hornet is used the number of sorties and flying hours are not recorded. (4) The locations identified are the primary areas in which Black Hornet has been operated. Because of the weight and size of the air vehicle and the height at which it operates, under Military Aviation Authority regulations there is no requirement to limit flights to segregated airspace.

Via House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 18 July 2013 (pt 0007)

Of 2,948 recorded flights (certain types were not recorded) , only 22 took place on the Hebrides Range, and those were class as Capability Demonstration flights.

ScanEagle

The UAV type is given as the Boeing ScanEagle (there is no space in the name, incorrectly shown in the Hansard table). The Royal Navy received its first unmanned ‘eye in the sky’ in a £30 million contract with Boeing to supply the ScanEagle reconnaissance aircraft. Built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing Defence UK Limited, the ScanEagle is the first maritime-specific unmanned air system capability to be delivered in support of naval operations. The pilotless plane has been used by the US Navy over the past decade and has been trialled by the Royal Navy, aboard frigate HMS Sutherland back in 2006.

ScanEagle has a wingspan of just over 3 metres (10 ft), a weight of 22 kg (48 lb), and is launched from a pneumatic catapult.

ScanEagle Launch

ScanEagle Launch – Boeing image via MoD web site

The UAV flies at about 60 knots and is piloted by a specialist team on board the ship who plan its missions, control its flights, and monitor and analyse the information it gathers using its sensors, which includes a video or infra-red camera. Data is transmitted to the team, including real-time high-resolution images, via a satellite link.

ScanEagle

ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

It can remain airborne some 15 to 18 hours at distances of more than 70 miles from the mother ship. Boeing information on their web site indicates that later designs will substantially increase these figures.

ScanEagle

ScanEagle – Boeing image via MoD web site

Once the mission has been completed, the UAV returns to the ship where it is captured by being flown into a cable hung vertically from an extendible arm, and is caught by hooks located at the end of each wing. It is then grappled by a recovery device and lifted on board.

ScanEagle Recovery

ScanEagle Recovery – Boeing image via MoD web site

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, military, Naval, Surveillance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

World War II is still lying around – in some places

It was nice to see our Commando and SOE (Special Operation Executive) training areas in the Highlands near Fort William get a mention in an article inspired by the occasions where old ordnance is still uncovered in unexpected places. Well, unexpected for those who haven’t been hunting the stuff for years.

In a fairly long article for the BBC, the idea of enjoying q nice wander in the countryside was tempered with:

But some of these idyllic spots hide potentially explosive secrets.

Every year, unsuspecting members of the public stumble upon dozens of undetonated shells and bombs, most dating back to World War II.

So what happened in these remote places during the war? And how much do we know about the people who lived and worked there?

Of the Scottish training, it said:

The D-Day landings of WWII were key to the liberation of German-occupied western Europe. Although bloody, brutal and chaotic, they had been rehearsed at length.

Training took place around the UK, including at Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands, where troops dodged live bullets as they practised beach assaults.

Commandos were based at Achnacarry, near Fort William, with Special Operations Executive (SOE) at Lochailort, near Mallaig.

Local coastguard Craig Burton said: “Camas an Lighe, more popularly known as Singing Sands, on the north coast bears witness to that history. The beaches and their dune system were used for live fire landings training prior to many operations, including D-Day. One in particular, known locally as number three beach, contains most of the evidence.”

He said: “Operations involved using fixed-height machine guns, fired above the troops as they landed. They returned fire as they advanced up the beach using rifles, machine guns, mortars, grenades and other ordnance.”

While most of the ordnance left over from those days has either been found or cleared, there’s still a chance that something might be uncovered, and remain hazardous, so anything found is best left alone and notified. High explosive is bad enough, but there have been mortar bombs with phosphorous, and they can be nasty if damaged.

Via On the trail of Britain’s WWII ‘explosive’ beauty spots

We have also looked at a number of these sites, and a number of SOE training schools are listed here:

Secret Scotland – Special Operations Executive

And for the Commandos:

Secret Scotland – Achnacarry House

The Commando monument at Spean Bridge now looks out over the area, in their memory.

July 2, 2013 Posted by | military, World War I, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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