Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

There goes another Cold War bunker (I didn’t buy)

One of the sad things about the 10+ years that have passed since I was talked into starting ‘something’ regarding the secret side of Scotland is the slow disappearance of most of the resources which fuelled the early days.

Then, ‘secret’ was meant to encompass what the media has come to rely on as Urban Exploration or UrbEx, and use as a clickbait term to attract outrage at this supposedly deadly hobby which puts lives at risk, and encourages lawbreaking through trespass (although it generally neglects the subtle difference between trespass law in Scotland, compared to England). Most cases cited or decried as ‘trespass’ here probably aren’t – and if you think I’m going to tell you why, forget it! I’m not giving away the research I did years ago for free. This was back in the days just prior to the completion and issue of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, when much of the background material was then placed online, but has slowly evaporated over the years (so I can no longer refer to the legal sources that were then made available).

Most of the references for ‘secret’ places, sites, installations, facilities, operations, etc that were to be found online some ten years ago have largely evaporated from the Internet. If you want evidence of this, just try looking up some of the more ‘interesting’ pages in SeSco’s Wiki. I used to update the reference links with the added text ‘Dead link‘ (to show, at least, where the original info had come from), but after a while decided this had  become a waste of time, as I was finding more and more had died and gone over the years.

Sad to say, I probably couldn’t create many of the Wiki pages if I was starting today (at least not via online research).

But that doesn’t stop the odd place, such as a former Cold War bunker at Raigmore, Inverness. However, it was not built for that purpose, and dates from World War II, when it was used as a centre which handled reports from outlying radar stations, as a Sector Operation Centre.

After the war it was used by the RAF for training, then from 1958 to 1968 by the Civil Defence Corps, and finally (from the 1980s) as an emergency centre for Highland Regional Council (as it was then), to be used in the event of a nuclear attack.

Sad to say I never visited this site, like many that were easy to get to, I just never made the time.

There’s a proper account here, from our old friends at Sub-Brit:

Site Name: Inverness – Highland Emergency Centre (Raigmore)

Highland Council is now divesting itself of the site and its responsibility for the abandoned facility.

A bunker built to survive a direct hit from World War Two’s most powerful bombs has been offered for sale.

The subterranean property in the Raigmore area of Inverness was upgraded in the 1980s during the Cold War.

The enhancements included a capability to protect those inside from a nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

Highland Council, which owns the site, has offered bids for the bunker. Viewing of the property is “strictly by prior appointment”.

A closing date on 6 December has been set for offers for the property, which is close to Inverness city centre.

Via Highland Council selling Inverness’ bunker

This view of the former mounded filter room with the (then) current emergency planning admin block to the left – image courtesy of our friends at Subterranea Britannica.

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

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November 21, 2017 Posted by | Cold War, council, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking down their noses and judging us since… forever! (You know who)

I was going to use these pics later in the week, but since it’s National Cat Day I suppose I should move a little faster.

‘Judgemental cat’ seems to appear more often in shared images these days, and while I was sitting in George Square recently, I noticed I was in line with one of the lions, and it was looking down on me, did not seem to be particularly impressed.

I wandered over and grabbed a pic of the pair, but the flattened perspective of images loses the effect when these are seen from a similar perspective for real, in normal 3D. Their long noses and downward gaze are just lost in the flattened perspective of a 2D image.

I suspect something similar happens with the ‘new’ Rolls Royce. For me, at least, this car makes a terrible model, and ever since the current body style and nose appeared, I’ve thought it looks terrible in pics. Seen for real, again to me, it’s almost a completely different car/shape as the shape takes on its proper 3D view. I find the effect somewhat unsettling, but it has taught me to be careful.

The long noses and gaze of the lions don’t make it through the 2D conversion in a flat pic.

Pity, this aspect looked a lot more impressive in the flesh… er… stone.

I guess some sort of off-centre view which catches their profile as well is what is needed, so I will have to revisit this view one day.

Until then…

George Square North Lion

George Square North Lion

 

George Square South Lion

George Square South Lion

Maybe it’s just me, but Judgemental (black) Cat from the Interwebs seems to look alarmingly similar.

Judgemental Cat

Judgemental Cat

October 29, 2017 Posted by | council, photography, World War I, World War II | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Barnton Quarry may open to the public in 2019

A favourite of those with an interest in the history of the Cold War (and Edinburgh’s vandals), the bunker located in Barnton Quarry is moving closer to completion of its restoration and refurbishment, with a broad date of 2019 being given as its opening date as an attraction.

There may, of course, have been stories we’ve missed, but the last time we spotted something newsworthy was back in 2013: Barnton Quarry bunker to be developed as partner to Scotland’s Secret Bunker at Anstruther.

We won’t go over the story again, you can read this article about the bunker’s history.

An article published by The Scotsman in July 2017 repeated the story, adding that the bunker is expected to open to the public in 2019.

Edinburgh’s secret nuclear bunker prepares to open its doors

There’s possibly a bit of ‘journalistic leeway’ in The Scotsman’s use of ‘prepares to open its doors’, which might tend to suggest someone is about to open them in a few days, or maybe weeks – but TWO YEARS is perhaps stretching this use of the description.

Barnton Quarry

Barnton Quarry – Courtesy of Subterranea Britannica

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Cold War, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

One for the Spitfire fans as another is saved

For such a small aviation museum run by volunteers, the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum punches above its weight, and is an impressive performer.

It’s a long time since I’ve been there, but I have watched its steady progress online.

Slightly irritatingly, I learned that before I made my visit I had regularly spent days within sight of the museum, but did not realise it was there. This was in the days when I used to (try to) fly RC helicopters, and attended annual fly-ins held on the old airfield runway.

Oh well…

The museum’s most recent success is the restoration of a World War II Spitfire that saw service in the Battle of Britain, but crashed during a training flight from Ayr in 1941, killing the Czech pilot.

The plane was finally salvaged from of Loch Doon in 1982, following a four-year search by divers after the museum’s founders commissioned the salvage project in 1977, not long after the museum opened.

This article covers the recovery operation: The Loch Doon Spitfire is Found

Since then, it has taken 35 years of work to restore the aircraft’s bodywork – although an expert (from Yorkshire) was able to restore the fuselage, it seems ill-health prevented further work, but the museum was able to raise fund to buy wings, and allow this part of the work to be completed.

However, there remains much to be done – while the exterior has been largely completed, the interior remains as the next stage of restoration.

Via: Loch Doon Spitfire goes on display in Dumfries

Longer story appeared later: Spitfire recovered from Loch Doon put on display

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540 – Pic via BBC News

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

The Tizard Mission followed a visit to MAEE at RAF Helensburgh

The Tizard Mission has come to be regarded as one of the most significant events of World War II.

In summary, the mission saw a group of British military officers and scientists headed by Sir Henry Tizard secretly travel to the US and Canada in September 1940, beginning one of the least known but potentially most important missions of World War II in an unparalleled collaboration in science and technology.

Their goal was to convey a number of technical innovations to the US in order to secure assistance in maintaining the war effort.

The collection of ideas, blueprints, and prototypes they carried was probably some of the most valuable material ever taken to American, inside a briefcase (almost lost in a London taxi at the start of the journey – the driver apparently left without his passenger). In particular, the cavity magnetron was not only instrumental in the Allied victory, but also became the foundation of an enduring scientific relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.

The briefcase contained all Britain’s military secrets, with blueprints and circuit diagrams for rockets, explosives, superchargers, gyroscopic gunsights, submarine detection devices, self-sealing fuel tanks, and information that would lead to the jet engine and the atomic bomb.

Research into the secret MAEE (Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment) at RAF Helensburgh has discovered the visit there by Tizard and other involved in the mission, as told by our friend Eye on Millig.

The story begins:

A VISIT to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at RAF Helensburgh in 1940 by Sir Henry Tizard was a prelude to what is said by historians to be the most important secret mission of World War Two.

A team of six headed by Sir Henry went to America with a black box of secrets. With him were two of the world’s experts in radar, Dr Robert Watson-Watt and 24 year-old genius Edward Taffy Bowen.

Tizard was a former military pilot and chair of the Aeronautical Research Council, and previously headed a Government air defence committee to explore the possibility of a death ray.

He enlisted Watson-Watt, who did not favour the concept but instead developed radar as a way of detecting approaching enemy aircraft, and was responsible for the chain of radar stations that played such an important role during the Battle of Britain.

The Tizard Mission took secret documents to the USA for safe keeping following the fall of France and possible invasion. The contents were to be shared with the Americans.

Tizard invited Watson-Watt and Bowen to form part of the delegation because of his earlier work with the two scientists. Bowen was made personally responsible for the box during its journey to Washington.

Retired Merseyside newspaper editor Robin Bird — author of two books about MAEE — tells me: “Now it can be revealed that Sir Henry, Watson-Watt and Bowen were at RAF Helensburgh shortly before the Tizard Mission.

“They are listed among eight VIP visitors at the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment regarding developments in ‘experimental warfare’.

“In hindsight this was a significant visit. MAEE was involved with trials of the new ASV long range air to surface radar, Bowen having conducted the first trial using ASV radar to detect submarines in December 1939.

“MAEE adapted it for use by Coastal Command Sunderlands and lend-lease Catalinas, and airborne ASV radar proved to be a major weapon in the ultimate defeat of Germany’s U-Boats.

“What exactly the meeting at Helensburgh was about we will never know. No doubt ASV radar was on the agenda — and possibly developments in anti-submarine warfare.

“The fact that we know Tizard, Watson-Watt and Bowen were at Helensburgh is down to a contemporary report on MAEE at the National Archives in Kew, London.

“It merely states the names of official visitors to RAF Helensburgh for discussions about possible developments in war requirements. I recently had the opportunity to inspect it.”

Via: Eye on Millig: The top-secret mission that began at RAF Helensburgh

The full story of the visit to Helensburgh can be read at the link given above.

MAEE Badge

MAEE Badge

May 30, 2017 Posted by | World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

Military Museum Scotland has arrived

It’s almost exactly a year since I first heard of Military Museum Scotland, a project hoping to deliver a permanent museum to all aspect of Scottish military history.

The project came from Mobile Military Museum, which visited schools and events with its displays, but saw the need for a more permanent facility.

That has now arrived, and been in existence for some 11 weeks now, and reported to be progressing well.

It is a hands on museum where visitors get to handle most of the artefacts (they are not locked away in glass cases) and has both indoor and outdoor displays, a café, gift shop, and wheelchair access.

Military Museum Scotland’s aims are primarily education, covering Scottish military history from World War I to the present day. 95% of the displays are open, so most artefacts can be handled.

Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 – 16.00 (Mondays are reserved for booked school visits). The museum is also available for private evening bookings, and offers a drop in centre for military veterans.

More info at the following links:

Military Museum Scotland – VisitScotland

Mobile Military Museum – Twitter

Ex-soldier inspired by father’s wartime bravery launches Military Museum Scotland – Sunday Post

Military museum opened in West Lothian by son of war hero – Daily Record

They don’t have a web site, but are on Facebook – you’ll have to look for them there.

And here’s their pic of the sign at the door:

Military Museum Scotland Sign

Military Museum Scotland Sign

Details

Legion Hall, Louis Braille Avenue,
Linburn Centre,
Wilkieston,
West Lothian,
EH27 8EJ

Tel: 07799565243

email: milmussco@aol.co.uk

May 21, 2017 Posted by | military, World War I, World War II | , | Leave a comment

Dolly bird Barbie was a spy who even had her own little Enigma machine

I chanced across this little gem about Barbie and her typewriter, and thought was something that was probably little known, and worth sharing with those who like secrets.

Barbie was first given a purely mechanical typewriter, but was later upgraded to an electronic version manufactured in Slovenia (by Methano) and supplied by Mattel. But the E-118 (preceded by the E-115, E-116, and E-117) had a secret, a built-in cryptographic capability which allowed secret messages to be encrypted and decrypted, and used an alphabetic substitution cipher.

All used a simple daisy wheel printer made of plastic parts, with two solenoids and a motor. A small PCB contained the electronic at the centre of the unit, with a microcontroller bonded directly to the PCB to save money. Although this was redesigned over time, the crypto feature seems to be common to all.

There were actually 4 built-in cipher modes, each activated by entering a special key sequence on the keyboard, explained only in the original documentation. Access was by pressing SHIFT and LOCK in combination with specific keys. While keyboard layouts vary between countries, and therefore the characters on the keys, the physical position or location of the keys on the keyboard which needed to be pressed did not change.

In use, the user simply activates one of the 4 secret modes, types in their message, and the encrypted message is printed on the paper.

To decode the message, the recipient activates the corresponding decoding mode, and when they type in the encrypted message as received, the plain text message should be printed on the paper.

The encryption method is a simple character substitution, where a given character is always replaced by the same substitute character from a table. The 4 modes are provided through the inclusion of 4 different substitution tables within the typewriter’s programming.

A number of different versions of these typewriters were made, so it could be sold worldwide.  English, German and French keyboard layouts are known. It seems that text written on the French version cannot be decoded on a British version suggestion different versions are not compatible. Perhaps they use different sets of substitution tables.

For more details and examples of this intriguing toy, see the entry at:

Crypto Museum

Below is an E-117 (found on Pinterest, with no attribution).

Barbie E-117 encrypted typewriter

Barbie E-117 encrypted typewriter

My apologies to those who appreciate the difference between encoding and encryption.

While I try to make the distinction, when working from source material that uses the terms interchangeably, it simply takes too long to revise everything and correct it while keeping things consistent.

At its simplest:

  • encoding only requires an algorithm, and is typically done to allow data transmission
  • encryption requires an algorithm and a key, and is done for privacy

While both may make a message unreadable, the former can be recovered as the method will be public, so there is no secrecy.

The latter can only be recovered by the holder of the key.

The difference probably doesn’t matter to anyone not involved, and can be traced back to things like references to the codebreakers of places such as Bletchley Park, when such distinctions were not made.

March 1, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Cold War, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

How I was (not) totally ignored by The Telegraph and Twitter

TelegraphWW2

TelegraphWW2 Twitter account

I’m suffering a double dose of disappointment at the moment.

I usually find most web sites I drop a note advising of problems with their content at least offer the courtesy of an acknowledgement, and even the odd ‘Thank You for bothering’. But complete ignorance is unusual.

I used to look forward to seeing archive material from The Telegraph, tweeted to their account as depicted in the attached graphic, but a while ago I realised I was getting nothing more than a daily dose of trash news via dozens of daily tweets from this account.

I’ve spent the past week trying to do the ‘Right Thing’, and replied to every tweet they sent, asking then to explain the connection between current daily news trivia and World War II.

No response or acknowledgement whatsoever – not even ‘Get Lost!’

At the same time, I’ve used Twitter’s own ‘Report’ option to alert them to the fact that The Telegraph is tweeting material unrelated to the account, and is also spamming (by repeating most of the tweets at least once).

Twitter doesn’t offer any feedback for reported material, but the account is still present and continuing the same abuse almost 2 weeks after I started reporting it.

I’ve also emailed The Telegraph’s digital services department a number of times, with each email creating a unique automated case – none of which have yet produced the courtesy of a reply from the department.

Ah well… shame.

At least I know I tried.

Two weeks of trying is enough – I don’t care now.

Update

After I started blogging about this in more public arenas, I suddenly got an email response (after almost 2 weeks), and the modern day news trivia being tweeted under the guise of WW2 archive material also stopped at the same time.

There have been no more of these modern tweets for more than 24 hours

The email said the digital folk at he Telegraph were aware of an issue, did not know how to fix it, but were working on it.

May 20, 2016 Posted by | World War II | , , | Leave a comment

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

Dogs which helped derail Nazi nuclear weapons operations remembered

Be sure to watch the video included with the full report on this item (link is at the end), as it reveals that the dogs which were so carefully trained for the mission were ultimately destroyed after it was completed, ‘for security reasons’:

A team of 40 dogs which helped derail Nazi nuclear weapons operations have been remembered in a special ceremony.

The dogs were taken from America to train with troops on a Highlands country estate, for a mission which saw the Allies sabotage Nazi heavy water operations in Norway.

Sisters Nola Grant and Maureen Clark carried out a poignant ceremony at Glenfeshie Estate in Badenoch in tribute to the team.

In 1942 the sisters’ father Murray Clark was just sixteen when he trained with the dogs in Scotland.

Nola said: “He knew that it was a top secret mission. In leaving home, he could not tell anyone about it.”

The Norwegian operation was hailed as the most successful of its kind during the war and was immortalised in the 1965 movie The Heroes of Telemark.

Dogs which helped derail Nazi nuclear weapons operations remembered | Aberdeen & North | News.

Vemork Hydroelectric Plant 1935 by Anders Beer Wilse - Galleri Nor Tilvekstnummer

Vemork Hydroelectric Plant 1935 by Anders Beer Wilse – Galleri Nor Tilvekstnummer

Vemork Hydroelectric Plant at Rjukan, Norway in 1935 is seen above. In the front building, the Norsk Hydro hydrogen production plant, a Norwegian Special Operations Executive (SOE) team (Operation Gunnerside) blew up heavy water production cells on the night of 27/28 February 1943 in order to sabotage the efforts of the German nuclear energy project.

28th February 1943: Operation Gunnerside – the Telemark Raid

BBC Radio 4 also has a programme available online, which was made to mark the 60th anniversary of the raid:

BBC – Radio 4 – Telemark Heroes

March 24, 2015 Posted by | World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

New book tells the story of a World War II gunner

Those interested in World War II gun sites and batteries may be interested to know of a new publication we are aware of (having had an enquiry from the author some time back).

Far be it for me to try and better the description on the publisher’s site:

Armageddon Fed Up With This
A Gunner’s Tale
by Derek Nudd

In 1940 Eric Nudd, like millions of others, found himself unexpectedly in uniform – a raw conscript in a heavy anti-aircraft regiment. He grew over the next five years into a seasoned professional with the Normandy and North West European campaigns under his belt.

A previously unsuspected talent for maths took him from heaving shells to fire-control and then radar, giving him a ringside view of the manic wartime technology race. As a Fleet Street journalist, prolific letter-writer and occasional poet Eric published improvised news sheets from a succession of gun sites and dugouts.

Armageddon Fed Up With This – A Gunner’s Tale is told by a ‘civilian-in-uniform’ who was an acute observer and literate recorder of what he saw. His wry, sometimes scathing observations on the humour and idiocy of army life, and the military, political and cultural events of the time are set against the global cataclysm going on around him. The author, Derek Nudd, colours in the background for those of us lucky enough to have missed it.

Inspired by authors such as Cyril Demarne and Spike Milligan, Armageddon Fed Up With This provides a new perspective – from underneath – on the anti-aircraft forces who, for a while after the fall of France, were the only part of the army shooting back. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy historical and military biographies, and provide new insights for students of the period. The title was a contemporary joke.

Armageddon Fed Up With This – A Gunner’s Tale – Matador Non-Fiction – Derek Nudd

The book is now with the printer, and the publisher’s web site is taking advance orders with the offer of a 20% discount.

The book includes a first-hand account of gunsite life at Gourock, Airdrie and Kilcreggan over the winter of 1941-42.

Transcripts of the regiment’s war diary for that period can be freely downloaded from the author’s web site:

Derek Nudd – Author – Home

Armageddon Fed Up With This

Armageddon Fed Up With This
A Gunner’s Tale
by Derek Nudd

January 1, 2015 Posted by | World War II | , , | 2 Comments

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