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Balure Range

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WW2 lookout tower, 2006
Balure Range, Rhunahaorine Point
Quadrant Tower (D on map)
© Johnny Durnan

The Balure Range was a World War II live bombing and firing range located on the western coast of the Kintyre peninsula. The ranges were used for training squadrons posted to HMS Landrail (RAF Machrihanish), and operated both day and night exercises. This contrasts with the Skipness Bombing Range on the eastern coast, which was used for practice runs without live ordnance. Another bombing range has also been described to the south, at Killocraw.

Range targets

Sgor Cainnteach, 2007
Sgor Cainnteach, offshore target
© derek lockhart

The range was equipped with both land and sea targets.

The land targets were sited on Rhunahaorine Point, which extends from Achandriane in the north, now the site of a fish farm, down to Point Sands in the south, now the site of a caravan park. The target area lay within land which bordered Balure Farm, from which the range took its official name.

The sea target was a steel and concrete structure attached to the summit of Sgor Cainnteach, a rocky islet lying approximately half a mile out to sea. Sgor Cainnteach remains offshore, although the target structure has been lost.

The range gained an additional sea target on January 5, 1942, when the former steamship Moncousu was scuttled in the Sound of Gigha. Lloyds War Losses' list the steamship as an ammunition storage ship which suffered damaged from a German air attack on April 29, 1941, and sank the following day. Later refloated, and towed to Kintyre for use as a bombing target.

Supplementing the static land and sea targets were towed targets. Offshore target vessels were towed to the range from a base at West Tarbert pier to the north. Airborne drones were towed to the range by Blackburn Skua aircraft, used as target tugs after being withdrawn from front line duties in 1941, and assigned training duties.

Range facilities

The range was overseen by four brick and concrete quadrant towers, or observation posts, aligned with the land and sea targets. The towers were built to a standard pattern, most likley by Sunleys, the English firm responsible for building the airfield at Machrihanish. Observers, RN or WREN range recorders, from HMS Landrail would record aircraft movements, which they would report to the main bunker on the range. This is described as a concrete and steel structure which had a clear view of all the targets, and lay in line with them. Its reinforced construction was required to ensure the safety of the occupants, as aircraft such as the Fairey Swordfish could be carrying out live fire using machine guns, 20 mm cannon, and 4-inch air-to-surface anti-submarine rockets. Personnel in the main bunker would have collated the movement reports from the quadrant tower observers, calculated speeds and angles of approach, and plotted the progress of exercises on a master chart.

For reference purposes, the observation towers have been identified from northeast to southwest, using the letters A to D. All the quadrant towers appear to have survived, with Tower D pictured. Aerial imagery available from 2005 also appears to show all the towers surviving.

Tower A and target indicator

Tower A (adjacent to the fish farm) was the main range co-ordinator, being in contact with both the aircraft and the other range towers, and would have been responsible for controlling aircraft approaches, which would have been from east, inland of the land based targets.

The tower is a two storey brick and concrete structure west of the A83, 650 metres southwest of Tighnadrochit farm. RAF aerial photography taken in 1947 refers to an adjacent arrow shaped target indicator, south of the tower, but there is no evidence of this in modern aerial imagery.

Tower B

From the modern aerial imagery now available online, there appears to be an unreported quadrant tower visible on the site, lying on a curved track which leads to, and ends, at Tower B. The square outline is clearly defined in the image, close to the shore and facing Sgor Cainnteach. This tower may also have marked the extent of a small bombing range, in conjunction with Tower C, and is mentioned briefly in the report for that tower.

Tower C and target indicator

Tower C is reported as a possible small bombinmg range with target indicator, and is connected to Tower B by a curving path. RAF aerial photography taken in 1947 refers to a target indicator adjacent to Tower C, but there is no evidence of this in modern aerial imagery.

Tower D

Tower D is reported as an observation tower, visible in RAF aerial photography taken in 1947, and approximately 350 metres southeast of Rhunahaorine Point.

Target indicators

Target indicators are referred to on the ground adjacent to Towers A and B. Neither appears to be visible, or reported as surviving, and would be expected to be seen in online aerial views, similar to the indicator which is clearly visible at Skipness).

Control bunker

No information has been found regarding the fate, or precise location, of the steel and concrete control bunker, and there is no obvious evidence of its position on the site.[1]

References

1 The Myth of the Dummy Airfield and other Military Matters, Duncan McIsaac

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-


Aerial views


Map

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