Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Intriguing report of World War II graffiti/sign found during building works

This sort of stuff has been found before, but more usually in building that were used for some war related purpose during World War II, if they had perhaps been requisitioned.

There’s no mention of anything like that in the story.

The writing was uncovered when wall panelling was removed, and offers advice on remaining safe during an air raid, reading…

“In the event of an air raid stay where you are, steps have been made to make this place safe from splinters and glass.”

There’s no hint at what the drawings represent, but they look a bit like workmen, so might have been done by the workers putting up the panelling referred to, and passed some time during a break.

World War II sketches like this tended to parody Hitler, or his more well-known and recognisable deputies, if they were being done by military personnel posted to an active building.

Glasgow nightclub uncovers fascinating piece of World War II history behind walls

Nice that it was noticed, caught, and recorded before being lost to the renovations.

Image: The Garage / facebook

Image: The Garage / facebook

(Sorry for mentioning facecrook, but I have to acknowledge the pic source.)


Jan 16, 2019 Posted by | World War II | | Leave a comment

Skylark IX – The Little Ship that survived will become a floating museum on the Clyde

It’s a pity the place I had some long discussion over various wartime relics found in Scotland isn’t really available now, since the original find and recovery of this ‘Little Ship’ was quite extended.

The good news is that it is to be restored and turned into a floating museum.

It had been used for cruises on Loch Lomond, for something like 30 years, but eventually fell into disrepair, and sank.

A few years ago, it was raised by the Royal Navy after a campaign to rescue/recover it, by veterans supporting the Skylark IX Recovery Trust, and was moved to the Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine.

A Dunkirk Little Ship, which rescued 600 Allied troops during World War Two, is to be restored and turned into a floating museum on the River Clyde.

Skylark IX will be saved thanks to £404,000 of funding from The National Lottery.

The work will be carried out by a specialist boatbuilding team working with recovering drug addicts.

The boat, built as a passenger cruiser in 1927, become part of the Dunkirk Little Ships fleet of 850 boats.

Dunkirk Little Ship to be floating museum on River Clyde

See also:

The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships

As seen back in 2012. Not long after being raised

Skylark IX

Skylark IX

Dec 6, 2018 Posted by | Maritime, Transport, World War II | , , , , , | 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 | , , | 1 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

This is kind of sad, as Bletchley Park secrets will be lost

While I understand the mental process of someone who was actually there at the time, I also have to say that there comes a time when the principles no longer apply, and (I have to add, provided it’s legal) stories should be told – while they still CAN be told.

It’s taken a long time for much of the material surrounding the work at Bletchley Park to be uncovered, and the stories of some of the most secret development there to be told.

I’m thinking of the work of, for example, someone such as Tommy Flowers, and his work on Colossus.

I still shudder when I think of Churchill’s order to smash everything after World War II ended, to make sure the next enemy could not get their hands on any of the technology.

Then we learn that not only was Colossus not smashed, but half a dozen of them survived and were secretly in use during the Cold War.

World War II ended in 1945, that as a long time ago, and those who contributed to its ending need proper recognition, not just the lucky famous few who have been credited to the birth of computing and programming so far.

I’m afraid I have to say this ‘silence’ is just no longer appropriate, and far from doing a service to anyone, will be doing a disservice to many.

A 95-year-old veteran who worked as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park in World War Two has said she will take her secrets to the grave.

Margaret Wilson, who was part of a team that recorded German radio transmissions, said she did not tell her family about her work until recently.

Mrs Wilson, from Shirebrook in Derbyshire, said her great regret was not telling her late husband.

Codebreaker, 95, still keeping Bletchley Park secrets

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

Nov 15, 2018 Posted by | Lost, World War II | , | Leave a comment

Have metal thieves just become vandals?

It seems to be some time since I’ve been fed any stories of scum stealing any type of metal from memorials.

At one time it felt as if such stories were popping up almost weekly in the media, but I can’t recall coming across any recently.

I know various laws were being introduced, together with other tweaks to make trading in scrap metal more accountable, and for legit traders at least, remove the cash-in-hand option.

There were some articles at the time, but nothing since, so I can’t say if these changes were effective, or circumvented.

However, one thing I do think has become more frequent is the appearance of stories regarding mindless attacks and vandalism of war memorials.

I may be doing something along the lines of adding two and two and getting five, but with the most recent report from Brechin, I was nudged into wondering if thwarted metal thieves were just having a go at places where they once found the stock of their illicit trade, or were maybe telling their kids what to do, and vandalise memorial sites, just to make themselves feel ‘better’, and spoil things for others.

“YOU spoiled things for us, so we’ll spoil things for you!”

No proof or otherwise that this is the case – just some idle rambling about a coincidence which has no basis in a causal link, just speculating. There are, unfortunately, many people who see memorials as an easy target for their deluded ideas.

Anger as Brechin WW1 commemorative artwork vandalised

Vandalised Brechin Memorial Art BBC Pic Credit Philip Ramshaw

Vandalised Brechin Memorial Art BBC Pic Credit Philip Ramshaw

Nov 15, 2018 Posted by | World War I, 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

This made me think of Largs

Like many other coastal facilities, Largs was home to a seaplane base during World War II.

Largs Seaplane Base

So far, I haven’t come across any archive footage showing this, or similar Scottish coastal bases, such as say Greenock, in operation.

So, when this popped up in one of my other alert streams, and I saw this new Chinese seaplane operating from the ramp, it made me think of the many ramps I’d found over the years at such bases along the Scottish coast, now mostly abandoned and decaying if some other option has not found a use for them, such as a sailing club.

Nov 2, 2018 Posted by | Aviation, Transport, World War II | , | 2 Comments

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

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 | , , | 5 Comments

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