West coast Naval defences

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West coast Naval defences

Postby Peekay » Sun Nov 05, 2006 1:02 am

I know this isn't exactly Glasgow related but it's kinda near so i'll ask anyway. If the big chief heejins want to move somewhere else you have my permission. Anyhoo, to my question;

I'm trying to find records of Naval defences around about Loch Fyne during WW1 + 2. For obvious reasons this stuff is/was slightly secretive. Does anyone on the boards know anything about this or have access to this type of record. I was given a wee tip from an old trawlerman about something and need to start checking it out. While that's an immediate weak point being an old trawlerman, some of what he said made sense. Loch Fyne was used as a holding area for convoys so must have had some kind of defence. It's what and where these were I need to know.

Sorry to be all mysterious and enigmatic but i'd rather give out more of my information (i.e. what I think might be there) through PM. The walls have ears!

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Postby Apollo » Sun Nov 05, 2006 2:41 pm

There were coastal batteries installed to protect the approaches to the Clyde, and there was am Inspection Point at the boom defence from Cloch Point to Dunoon, overseen by heavy guns at each end.

Loch Fyne had an anti-submarine boom defence extending from Otter Ferry to the opposite bank, in the area of Port Ann, but not identified precisely.

Coastal batteries tended to be World War I, but a number of sites were re-used in World War II as HAA (Heavy Anti Aircraft) sites. The later guns being lighter, and able to elevate, unlike their larger predecessors.

Loch Fyne isn't an area I've looked at in any detail, but other than the Boom Defence, haven't tripped over anything else from the period. I'll need to try taking a closer look soon.
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Postby Peekay » Tue Nov 07, 2006 12:30 pm

Anyone know any more about this place? Not a lot on the web that Ican find!

http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/mbriscoe/PAGES/Otter.htm

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Postby Peekay » Wed Nov 22, 2006 8:28 pm

Christ I near s&&t myself when this was on the news tonight. All I heard was "Two U-boats have been discovered in Scottish waters". I thought someone had beat me to it. I'd be interested to know what depth these little babies are in though!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/north_east/6172692.stm

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Postby Apollo » Wed Nov 22, 2006 8:37 pm

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Postby Peekay » Wed Nov 22, 2006 8:58 pm

That's not that deep. It's an entry level technical dive really. Some of the guys I know reguarly do 100+.

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West Coast naval defences

Postby Dugald » Tue Nov 28, 2006 1:30 am

Peekay, I have just come across your post of Sun Nov 05, 2006 dealing with "West coast Naval defences ". I was very familiar with the area around Loch Fyne during the war, and travelled around it on many occasions. The village of Inveraray was the centre for commando training for Allied forces and at the height of its use had up to 15,000 service personnel in training there. There were many landing craft in use and also, a couple at the most, of ships for carrying landing craft. I saw many thousands of soldiers storming ashore from landing craft on the beaches around Inverary.

The above info is all very well, but it doesn't really have anything to do with your question about "West coast Naval defences ", other than to give an idea of what was available, although the forces here were involved with training, not defending. I might mention that in Campbeltown, at the tip of the Mull of Kintyre, there was also an asdic training school, HMS Nimrod, and a Fleet Air Arm drome at Machrihanish. Again, there were lots of naval personnel in the vicinity of Loch Fyne, but again, more concerned with training than defence.

I see on an earlier post by Apollo that Loch Fyne had an anti-submarine boom defence extending from Otter Ferry to the opposite bank, in the area of Port Ann. I visited Otter Ferry in early 1945 and don't recall seeing a boom defence, but it could well be that it had been discontinued by then or that i just hadn't noticed it. The steamer use to sail round the Kyles to Tarbert from Wemyss Bay, and there was never apparent defences around there... yes, i know, the 'defences' would not be expected to be noticed by the public.

I'd have said there were no naval defences around Loch Fyne; and the only boom I knew of for defence in the Firth of Clyde was the one at the Cloch Lighhouse. I recall small naval patrol boats stationed at Tarbert, and submarines and air-sea rescue launches stationed at Campbeltown. Oh there were AA batteries and at a number of locations around Kintyre, especially around Campbeltown, because of the submarines in use here with the asdic school (Campbeltown was in fact bombed in 1940, and four people killed), but i don't think they are the defences you were asking about. Rothesay was home to the submarine depot ship HMS Cyclops, and she always had a swarm of subs alongside her. There would likely have been AA guns somewhere on Bute.

I would doubt very much that Loch Fyne was ever used as a holding area for convoys. Convoys originating from the Clyde assembled north of the Cloch boom, generally spread all around the Tail o' the Bank... and there were lots of convoys assembled here!

So there's some information for you Peekay, I hope it is of some help to you. Cheers dugald.
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Postby Apollo » Tue Nov 28, 2006 2:31 am

Hi Dugald, I can flesh out the Loch Fyne boom history a bit more:

This concrete structure is situated at the top of the beach some 350m W of the Otter Ferry Inn. The building is probably the engine house to supply electrical power for the Boom Defence across Loch Fyne. The building measures about 4m by 4.6m with a large opening facing the beach. Leading into the water are at least seven small blocks which may have supported rails which held the landward (E) end of the anti-submarine boom. A pile of rails still survive alongside the structure.
Information from Defence of Britain Project recording form, North Clyde DoB Group, Mr and Mrs Locock, 1997


And there's Martin's recent pics too, as noted above.

Port Bannatyne was home to the submarine depot ships such as HMS Cyclops, and also HMS Varbel (Kyles Hydropathic hotel), where some 90% of the Navy's submariners are said to have been trained.

Bute never had any AA defences, or at least there are none identified in any of the Clyde HAA defence listings, but there was an Observer Post overlooking Port Bannatyne, and a decoy fire site located at the northern end of the island.

A memorial (web) site was set up for the island and opened on V-day, 2005, containing many pictures and stories related to the wartime period, and details of a small book written by Jess Sandeman, an ex-Chief Wren during World War 2 with personal experience of working on the submarine depot ships HMS Cyclops and HMS Forth, reveals the incredible wartime activity on the small Clyde island of Bute, in her recently published book "Bute's War" , which is an excellent read.

I'd also like to add my appreciation for the recollection you have posted.
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West Coast naval defences

Postby Dugald » Tue Nov 28, 2006 12:30 pm

Apollo, thanks for the information about the Otter Ferry boom. Thank's also for Martin's pictures; very convincing, I hadn't known about this boom at all... not surprising, I was never really into booms. ( Incidentally, I commented about the Cloch boom on the "Bothy" thread). When I visited Otter Ferry on a bicycle back in '45, it was a ferry I was looking for... never did find it ( I guess it belonged to the same Ferry Line as the Broughty-Ferry !). When one thinks about the great hive of naval activity that went on in Loch Fyne it's not surprising a boom was required. I'm sure you know Inveraray, hardly a bustling burg, so can you imagine 15000 wild commandos being stationed in and around here? One thing I recall in particular that caught my fancy as a boy was men dressed in khaki soldiers' uniforms but wearing sailor hats... I'd guess they manned the landing-craft, but it's just a guess.

Thank you for 'memorial (web) site' and ' details of a small book', I found them very interesting. I stayed in a B&B in Port Bannatyne in the early 90's, and i thought about how this was once a lovely wee bustling village and I found it quite sad to see the old derlict pier and recall how it once catered to all the coming and going of the Cyclops' boats, not to mention the coming and going of all the Glaswegian holiday makers... I don't doubt all these young sailors would have been a great attraction. I hadn't heard of HMS Varbel.

I find it interesting that we have a Wren, Jess Sandeman, writing about her Bute experience. In 1946 while cycling by road to Campbeltown I stopped off at a little tea-room just south of Inveraray for a cuppa. The tea-room was run by two ex-Wrens who had been stationed at Inveraray, and they were writing a book about their experiences there during the war. Wonder if they ever did. Anyway, all I recall of the conversation was them telling me that a Wren had been murdered at Inveraray and they had never found the culprit.

Thanks again Apollo, and cheers, dugald.
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Postby Apollo » Tue Nov 28, 2006 2:28 pm

Inveraray's a nice we jaunt from Glasgow, and I used to go fairly often, so the Commando side of things was soon discovered. Sometime in the early 1990s I discovered the Combined Operation Museum in a building hidden in the grounds of Inveraray Castle. The curator was very knowledgeable, and the collection contained many original artefacts from the time.

Sadly, when I went back for a refresher and a chat in 2000 I found I was a year too late, and the museum itself was history, but am pleased to say it is remembered on this page, where the tourist leaflet can also be seen.

The Cloch/Dunoon boom was preceded by an 'Examination Anchorage', covered by the HAA guns and searchlight batteries which also served as a Coastal Battery at Toward Point. I've currently identified almost 50 HAA gun emplacements which formed the Clyde AA Defences (and am still hunting today).

The Gaelic word for a shingle bank or sand bank is 'oitir', hence the name, and there really was a ferry across the Loch many years ago and even a steamer pier in the 19th century.
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Postby Dugald » Fri Dec 01, 2006 1:25 am

Apollo, I have just come across your post of Nov 28th with regard to Loch Fyne. How did I come across it? I'd forgotten on which site we'd been speaking about this topic, so I looked at your personal fact sheet and scrolled through all the posts you had written (I'm learning, I'm learning!) Anyway, I found it and it is very interesting.

I knew nothing about the guns at Toward Point nor the 'Examination Anchorage'. That's quite a collection of HAA gun emplacements you've come up with. I don't recall ever seeing such a site anywhere around Glasgow; heard them often enough , but never set eyes on one. In fact the only AA sites I have seen were at Campbeltown and Machrihanish, both of which appeared to be in use as pig sties by farmers.

I also had a look at your site about the Combined Operation Museum on the grounds of Inveraray Castle. I had never visited this museum. Actually I never liked postwar Inveraray. It had once been a genuine Scottish highland village, but through the postwar years it became a plastic highland village, bent only on serving tourists. When one looks at Inveraray today it's hard to believe their fishermen once sold their Loch Fyne herring in Govan!

Thanks for the origin of the name 'Otter'. Yes, I found out from a local that there really had been a ferry at Otter Ferry. ( I still feel they should have changed the name of the village when the ferry stopped running!) We were always on the lookout for a means of cutting off the long ride down Loch Fyne when cycling to Campbeltown...eventually found out about the Cloanaig ferry from Lochranza. While in Lochranza I also found out about the submarine "Varmit" that sank in Loch Fyne with all hands towards the end of the war.

Cheers, dugald.
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Postby Peekay » Fri Dec 01, 2006 1:57 am

Dugald wrote:. While in Lochranza I also found out about the submarine "Varmit" that sank in Loch Fyne with all hands towards the end of the war.
Cheers, dugald.


Do you not mean the HMS Vandal?
http://www.deepimage.co.uk/wrecks/vandal/vandal_pages/vandal-mainpage.htm

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HMS Vandal

Postby Dugald » Fri Dec 01, 2006 12:04 pm

Do you not mean the HMS Vandal?


Yes Peekay, I meant HMS Vandal, and thank you for pointing out my error. Thanks also for the site you recommended; i visited it and found it very interesting. The first I ever knew about this submarine was from reading the monument at the head of the old pier in Lochranza.
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Postby Peekay » Sat Dec 02, 2006 9:36 am

Hi dugald,
Ran across this;
http://www.shipwreckfilms.co.uk/page25.html
There's a video of the wreck today and a wee memorial at Lochranza. This was the last time anyone will see her (without a damn good reason and a fistfull of permits!) as she's now classified as a controlled wreck.

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HMS Vandal

Postby Dugald » Sat Dec 02, 2006 12:46 pm

Thank you very much PK, for the videos, both of which I found very interesting.

She was thought to have sunk North of Inchmarnock, Isle of Arran in deep water

As a result of the above quote from one of the videos, I had a bit of trouble finding "Inchmarnock, Isle of Arran." on my map. Inchmarnock is, as I'm sure you are aware, a small island lying off the southern tip of Bute, somewhat removed from Arran.

I was also interested to note in one video that Lochranza has a new pier. Last time I was there the old one was falling apart. Looks much better now!

Thanks again PK. Cheers, dugald.
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