Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Today is Smoke and Mirrors Day

29 March is Smoke and Mirrors Day.

Deceit, deception, illusion, even fraudulent cunning and those we’d better not mention, plus all other types of trickery are celebrated in the festival of Smoke And Mirrors Day.

The phrase “It’s all smoke and mirrors” refers to the way magicians use distraction to make sure their audience fails to see what’s really going on. The more complex the illusion, the more successfully the magician.

The technique played its part in World War II, with many examples, the simplest being inflatable vehicles. A Boeing aircraft factory in America was concealed beneath a decoy town laid over the top, the D-Day invasion was hidden behind false radio messages from a few trucks driving around (some in Scotland! to keep the enemy from discounting the west coast as an invasion departure point), the forces to be deployed were transported under cover so the build-up would not be observed, and in more technical efforts CDL (canal defence lights) were tanks fitted with strobe lights operating around 6 Hz which confused enemy observers. Famous magician Jasper Maskelyne tested a system of rotating mirrors and lights intended to be deployed to protect the Suez Canal, but it seems that only a prototype was ever completed, and it was not used. Most of these now have more detailed accounts given online.

But it’s not just magicians that have learned and perfected this art, as we see with ‘legalese’’ an incredibly convoluted language that lawyers use to make sure that no-one else understands what’s going on.

Some say… it’s even been rumoured that politicians do the same.

One of my favourite examples of Smoke and Mirrors can be seen in the vintage TV series – Mission: Impossible, which ran from 1966 to 1973.

Trying to pick just one? Nope.

This montage is a better reminder.

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March 29, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, World War II | , | 4 Comments

James Keith Gorrie – ‘the nicest man in Glasgow’

There’s a lot of pics of items which can be found in Kelvingrove, but the vast majority are of the same subjects.

While I wouldn’t suggest there’s anything wrong with that, it is also true to say that there are many items I’ve never seen anyone take, or share, a picture of.

Case in point, the display pictured below.

James Keith Gorrie Kelvingrove

James Keith Gorrie Kelvingrove

March 17, 2018 Posted by | military, Naval, photography, World War II | | Leave a comment

Inverness bunker sold

Back in November (2017) I noted the offer for sale of the Highland Emergency Centre (Raigmore) in inverness.

See that previous post for details.

I had no idea if it would or wouldn’t sell, or how long it would take if it did, or even what it was worth (prices vary, sometimes wildly).

The offer closed in December, and now the news is that it was sold, so I’ve missed another one.

So far, no details of price, buyer, or use it may be put to.

Past sales have led to clubs, or secure storage facilities.

Via Offer accepted for Highland Council’s Inverness bunker

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Cold War, council, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

Unexploded bombs – an article worth a read

Bomb

Bomb

Unexploded bombs, here mainly referring to ordnance left over and undiscovered since the end of the World Wars, feature in the news for various reasons.

Here, they tend to feature as coastal or sea find, as many thousands of unused munitions were dumped some way off the Scottish coast, intended to be ‘lost’ in deep water and sea trenches – but sea currents are fickle things, with their own minds, so some of these reappear from time to time. And it has been noted that not all dumps were necessarily made accurately, so there’s bound to be material that didn’t go down as intended. It’s also been admitted that some dumps were made early, as the crews were less than comfortable sailing in boats loaded with explosives.

Thankfully, most of these are small, and possibly not viable, but that doesn’t mean they might not be, so should be avoided and reported if seen. Many also contain chemicals that can burn, so even touching them is a ‘Bad Idea’ if they are leaking, and being incendiary devices, even if they don’t explode, if they do go off when disturbed, can do a lot of damage to a person.

As described in the article though, only about 90% of the bombs dropped actually went off, meaning that the of the remainder, those that hit the ground hard, and were able to bury themselves, went deep, and are generally only found when deep foundations are being dug for new buildings.

Small ones are dangerous of course, but nowhere near as dangerous as the largest, which can lead to the evacuation of large areas while they are dealt with.

The MoD told BBC Reality Check that around 10% of the bombs dropped over the UK during World War Two did not explode.

The typical German World War Two bomb was either 50kg or 250kg.

Larger bombs (500kg or 1,000kg) become more frequent towards the end of the war.

London City Airport is the site of the fourth 500kg bomb the MoD has dealt with in the last 15 months.

The others were: Bath (May 2016), Portsmouth (September 2016) and London (March 2017).

Via Unexploded bombs: How common are they?

February 16, 2018 Posted by | Lost, military, World War I, World War II | , | Leave a comment

George Square memorial lions in profile, as promised

I did promise to include these fine carvings in profile, after an attempt to capture them looking down their noses at everyone failed to come off as expected.

The loss of perspective and flattening of their full 3D glory was completely lost in the static image, even though I managed to take if from the desired location.

Looking back at the lions in that post, it actually looks better than I thought, maybe because I still had the ‘real’ view fresh in my head.

Whatever, here is that promised profile view, with the pair looking at one another (never going to happen in the real world) and can be clicked for a larger version.

Memorial Lions Profile

Memorial Lions Profile (Click for bigger)

January 23, 2018 Posted by | council, photography, World War I, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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