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Glen Douglas Munitions Depot

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Road and MoD boundary fence, 2007
Road and MoD boundary fence
© Eddie Mackinnon

Glen Douglas Munitions Depot is located within Glen Douglas, which lies in the hills between Loch Lomond and Loch Long, and connects the two bodies of water by a largely single track road through the glen. The depot is a major installation, reported to be the largest weapons storage base in Western Europe operated by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

Although classed as a NATO asset, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is the sole user of the depot, which is a substantial facility occupying some 650 acres of land and employing 120 people. Some 56 storerooms are built into the hillside, together with a number of processing and engineering workshops. The depot's main function is the storage of high volumes of conventional weapons such as bombs, explosives, pyrotechnics, and ammunition, rather than the more sophisticated weapons stored and produced at depots such as Beith. Glen Douglas has the capacity to store almost 40,000 cubic metres of munitions, transported by rail and sea, with Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels docking at Glenmallan on Loch Long. Transport between the loch and the depot is by private road, constructed for the purpose, and not shared with the public. The depot also supports a large fleet of lorries, which travel up to 400,000 miles a year, transporting munitions to bases throughout the UK.

The facility is regularly used by the British Armed Forces to stock up on munitions before the start of any conflict. In January 2003, the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal berthed at Glenmallan to collect munitions from the depot before heading for the Gulf and the war in Iraq. Two train drivers based in Motherwell were reported in the news when they refused to drive a freight train from Glasgow to Glen Douglas, forcing the MoD to transport the cargo by road.

Following the completion of Operation Telic (Iraq), Glen Douglas was used to store unused munitions from the campaign. Some 15,000 tonnes of munitions in 1,400 shipping containers passed through Glenmallan and Glen Douglas, and later by road and rail to munitions depots at Longtown near Carlisle, and Kineton in Warwickshire.

DSDA Glen Douglas provides responsive and efficient munitions storage, maintenance and distribution support to UK Armed Forces. Logistic activity covers a wide range of conventional munitions in support of mainly the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force by way of repairs to the HM Ships and in the refurbishment of aircraft bombs and bomb tails. Additionally, the site operates a deep-water explosive handling depot, which is linked to an extensive road and MoD rail facility.

© 2007 Crown Copyright DSDA web site August 2007

Anti-Gulf War action

In 2003, two Scottish train drivers employed at the Motherwell freight depot made the news on January 11, when The Guardian reported their refusal to move a freight train carrying munitions to the Glen Douglas depot, the shipment being destined for British troops deployed in the Gulf. Reporting a total of 15 similar actions by drivers, the paper noted that the two drivers were the only depot staff trained to operate the Glen Douglas route, therefore the MoD had to consider the use of road transport for the movement.

This was the first such action by Scottish or British workers for many decades, and officials of the driver's union, ASLEF, were pressured by both the Government and rail management to end the action. However this was ineffective, and The Guardian of January 9 had already noted that the union had declared itself to be against the (Gulf) war. The situation deteriorated further when the switch to road transport was said to arise from faults in the train, and consideration of prevailing weather conditions.

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