Fairlie Boom Depot
Fairlie boom depot was located at Fairlie, on the Ayrshire coast, during the 1960s. Prior to this time, the depot is understood to have been located at Customs House Quay, Greenock.
The depot is more fully described as a NATO Boom Defence Depot, sited in an area which was once designated as a former NATO pier and moorings, and said to have been referred to as a salvage depot by the MoD. This agrees with information to the effect that the facility was later described as a Boom, Mooring and Salvage Depot.
An unconfirmed account suggests that the sheds would have been used to house emergency rations and equipment in the event of a large scale disaster.
The Fairlie depot is said to have been the first project to be announced for the NATO Clyde Complex, which included the Campbeltown Loch POL Depot, the Loch Striven POL Depot, the Glen Douglas Munitions Depot, and extensive modernisation of RAF Machrihanish.
Further information received has indicated that press releases made before construction began referred to "shallow water obstructions", to protect the approaches to the Clyde anchorage - along with a 40 foot pier - clearly a reference to the depth of water at the end of the pier. Once the depot was constructed, a line of piles covered the extensive areas of sand exposed at low water, immediately south of Fairlie.
Two quotations provide further confirmation:
And, from a different section of the same web site:
The other project was the construction of a NATO Boom Defence base, right next to Fairlie Pier. This, I think, was to be a base to provide a defence against any future enemy underwater boats from gaining access up the Firth of Clyde. The place was fully equipped to cope with an emergency, living quarters for permanent staff was provided for such an occasion. All the Boom Defence equipment was stored and maintained there, huge chain-link nets, outsize anchors, mooring buoys etc. and had new pier built to accommodate the Boom Defence vessels. The depot was built on land on which at one time were the engine sheds and sidings, as the Pier station had been the terminus for several years before the line was extended to Largs.
The boom across the Clyde estuary was in two parts: from the end of the row of piles described above (which were removed to construct the Hunterston coal/ore terminal) to the Great Cumbrae just north of Keppel Pier where the terminal concrete block can still be seen on shore, and from the north west of Cumbrae to a platform just below Mount Stuart house on Bute. This platform still exists, but the adjoining jetty to the shore has been recently (2010) demolished. The concrete block on Cumbrae is still there.
- A Very Ordinary Story, Chapter 9, From East to West – 1960-1979.
The site was acquired by Holt Leisure Limited in June 2003, and subsequently became Fairlie Quay Marina, which has been developed as a light industrial park, and facility for the storage and repair of yachts and motor boats.
Description of the depot
The following account of the depot was uploaded to the site (and has been edited for site style):
The anti-submarine nets, composed of 18-inch wire rings interwoven with a stout wire top and bottom, were stored in bundles to the east of the depot. When the vast hole was quarried at Kishorn for the Ninian Central platform base, the surrounding rock face was stabilized and workers protected from rockfalls by some military surplus anti-submarine netting - sourced from the Fairlie NATO base. It is still there, still working.
The pier itself at Fairlie is the subject of a more sinister, clandestine rumour these days, following its release to the private sector. The USS John F Kennedy nuclear powered aircraft carrier was commissioned in 1961, and at a displacement of 94,000 tons and a draught of 39 feet, had few options of ports for service and repair in Europe. The construction of such a facility at Fairlie was visionary at the remote outer margins of Europe, and close to the servicing expertise and facilities already in place at Holy Loch. The depth at the facility is closer to 60 feet than the 40 feet mentioned, and as such the jetty was the only facility in Europe able to accommodate all then existing NATO warships. Even nuclear submarines had a draft close to 30 feet in those days, closer to 40 feet today.
Another feature of Fairlie NATO pier was a railway which runs from the pierhead via a marshalling yard with two branches into the oversize sheds. The purpose of this was to treat victims of nuclear warship contamination accidents. There were apparently special carriages that would have taken the victims from the pier into the shed, where they would pass through a decontamination suite and then onto a train on the other side of the suite for onward travel to a specialist unit Naval Hospital. I can only speculate that this would have been Haslar in Gosport.
Zooming into an aerial view such as Google Earth illustrates the railway layout nicely. The extension to the south run of the pier leads to a steel ramp that was used to launch and recover the large mooring buoys that were used around the Clyde to moor large surface ships, or acted as parts of the suspended anti-submarine netting. Prior to the construction of the iron ore, now coal, jetty at Hunterston, a line of steel piles ran across Hunterston Sands forming the inshore, shallow water end of what would have been anti-submarine defences on the inside Cumbrae Channel.
- Uploaded contribution.
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