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Coastal Battery Ardhallow

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Observation post from east, 2008, Fox
Observation post from east

Ardhallow Coastal Battery was sited on the western side of the Clyde coast, above the A815 road between Dunoon and Innellan, and formed part of the Clyde defences during both World War I and World War II.

The fort, or fortification, originally dates from 1901, and is listed by the Palmerston Forts Society as predating World War I by some 13 years.[1]

A report from 2001 detailed three emplacements mounting one 9.2-inch gun and two 6-inch guns, a concrete observation post and an engine room, all located on the hillside above the road. A separate engine room was provided at road level, for two searchlights, and was reported to have been converted into a garage, but has since been reported to have been demolished in 2006, to make way for housing. One searchlight base remains in place, although it is hard to locate as it is heavily overgrown with ivy. The second was demolished some years ago, when the A815 coastal road was widened.

According to public records, the 9.2-inch gun and the 6-inch guns (numbered 1340 and 3607) were installed in October 1905. The 9.2-inch gun was removed in 1911, but the two 6-inch guns remained in place until December 1956. This would suggest they were left in place until the country's GDA (gun defended area) were finally declared obsolete and dismantled. Until then, aerial batteries were being installed as part of the country's defences, but were becoming obsolete and ineffective even as they were being built, overtaken by missiles and other developments.

An article from The Times of January 21, 1901, confirms the original date of not only the fort at Ardhallow, but also that of the Coastal Battery Portkil, with its reference to a fort at Kilcreggan:

The Aitkenhead Builders, Greenock, received an intimation on Saturday from the Government that their offer to erect a new fort at Ardhallow, Dunoon, on the Clyde, has been accepted, the price being £16,000. The same firm are at present erecting a fort at Kilcreggan, also on the Clyde.

A question was recorded in Hansard, July 22, 1909, regarding inconvenience to the public from practice firing of the guns:

Gun Practice at Ardhallow Battery, Firth of Clyde.

Mr. WATT asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the notice in the public Press that gun practice at Ardhallow Battery, Firth of Clyde, will take place between sunrise and sunset from 19th to 23rd July 616 current, that boating parties are advised to keep out of the are of fire from the battery to three and a-half miles south and south-east, and that carriage hirers are advised to avoid the main road along the shore at that point; whether he is aware that the days chosen, for this practice are the five most crowded days of the year on the Firth, being the Glasgow holidays, that it is impossible for the heavy traffic-to avoid the are of fire, and that consequently there is danger and inconvenience to the travelling public; and whether in future it will be possible to choose days for practice when the traffic on the river is abnormally light instead of abnormally heavy?

Mr. HALDANE Two companies of the Territorial Royal Garrison Artillery train at Ardhallow from the 15th to 24th July. These dates are chosen so as to permit as many men as possible to attend training and gun practice without interfering with their civil occupations. I would point out to my hon. Friend the importance of taking advantage of all those local conditions, which undoubtedly increase the efficiency of the Firth of Clyde coast defences, although this may interfere to some extent with the unrestricted relaxations of the travelling public.

- Section citation: HC Deb 22 July 1909 vol 8 cc615-6.[2]

Gun movement

We are grateful to Mike Reeve, who provided us with a photograph taken during a gun move at Ardhallow in 1931. The move was carried out by his grandfather, Captain Richard Shrive, who was also responsible for the movement and refurbishment of many UK heavy gun batteries at various places between the wars, and some on Gibraltar in the 1930s. He is mentioned in respect of Inchkeith and is also known to have been at Broughty Ferry Castle in 1934 when that was decommissioned. He served in World War I, in France and Belgium, with the RGA (Royal Garrison Artillery), and from 1915 with the 91st Siege Battery RGA, and ended up as a Major. The knowledge and skills he developed during this time made him something of an expert in his field.

Ardhallow Clyde
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A1 Shield - showing
ramp used to clear
railway & magazine
Dec 31
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Ardhallow camp

Information received from a former resident of the military camp at Ardhallow recall the years spent there between 1953 and 1963. Their father was responsible for the camp, and test firing of the guns, which they were allowed to watch. When the guns were removed, they were able to play in the old emplacements and underground bunkers {presumably these were the former magazines which were later infilled). The searchlight buildings were still complete at that time, although the lights had been removed. The camp was later used as an officers' club and storage by US Navy personnel from Site One , the Polaris submarine refit facility based on the Holy Loch from 1961.

An article in No 59 of The Victorian magazine, which was "The Journal of the Queen Victoria School", Dunblane, dated July 1958, and which was also the Golden Jubilee Number, made a brief reference to Ardhallow as follows: "Arrangements are well in hand for the annual camp, the location being Ardhallow Camp, Dunoon, a small, compact camp, which we are to have to ourselves".[3]

Site visit

A site visit was carried out during December 2008. The lower part of the site was found to have been largely obliterated by new housing, while the upper part has a bungalow and large garage, both of which may be modified World War II or even World War I buildings. A corrugated iron building stands at the start of the road to the upper part of the site, and may have been a garage. The observation post is relatively intact and appears to have been modified at the north end by the addition of a further room, possibly during World War II, and is assumed to have served also as the battery command post. This is a relatively complex building for its size, having three floors, with the upper storeys being provided with observation windows, and a concrete column which would have carried measuring instruments used by the observers.

Sections of what appears to be an original iron fence still exist in various stages of decay, just above the command post, and run the full length of the site. Above the fence are several apparently brick built bases which are assumed to be World War II additions to the original site. One of the bases may have supported a water tank.

Local accounts of the site reveal the existence of underground magazines, but these known to have been lost many years ago when the council ordered them to be filled with sand and rubble. The area thought to be the site of the gun emplacements has been subject to much dumping (by the landowner), to the extent that there can no longer be any certainty as to their precise location.

One of the two original searchlight bases survives, now minus its upper walls and roof, and heavily overgrown with ivy. The second base was demolished during the 1970s, when the nearby road was widened.

Photographs

Corrugated iron building, 2008, Fox
Corrugated iron building
Searchlight base, 2008, Fox
Searchlight base
Possible early emplacement, 2008, Fox
Possible early emplacement
Alcove, 2008, Fox
Alcove


Observation post

View from south, 2008, Fox
View from south
View from southwest, 2008, Fox
View from southwest
Lower room, 2008, Fox
Lower floor
Middle floor, 2008, Fox
Middle floor
Middle floor, 2008, Fox
Middle floor
Upper floor, 2008, Fox
Upper floor


References

1 Palmerston Forts Society data

2 Hansard July 22. 1909

3 The Victorian, No 50, 1958

External links

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

 

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Aerial views


Map

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