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HMS Nimrod

(Redirected from Campbeltown Bombings)

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HMS Nimrod was a World War II anti-submarine training base located in Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula.

The facility was a specialised ASDIC training school, partnered with the main anti-submarine training base in Dunoon, HMS Osprey, which had formed there when the original base was relocated from Portland in 1941, when this site was deemed to be an easy target for the Luftwaffe, an vulnerable to both observation and bombing.

HMS Nimrod is believed to have been commissioned March 1, 1940, originally as a tender to HMS Osprey, but then as an independent command on May 10, 1940. It was finally paid off on February 28, 1946. In addition to these facilities, an experimental section was also located at Fairlie, Ayrshire.

Naval terminology may lead to some confusion, as a tender is normally a small ship that runs errands for other, but the term can also be applied to shore bases.


HMS Nimrod was located in the original Campbeltown Grammar School (now believed to be a further education centre), and extensive building took place in an area to the south of the existing buildings. The administration was located in Stronvaar House, adjacent to a disused railway cutting. In the 1940s, Stronvaar Avenue was only a muddy track behind the houses on Kilkerran Road. Council flats, which had not been completed at the beginning of the war, were used as accommodation blocks, and may have been known as HMS Nimrod B. WRNS personnel were accommodated in Ardnacraig House, on Limecraigs Road off Kilkerran Road, in Limecraigs House, and in a group of Nissen huts built on the Quarry Green at the Kilkerran Road end of the Limecraigs Road.

Note that there has been considerable development since 1945, and Limecraigs Road on present day maps is new, and not the Limecraigs Road of 1945, which led to the same general area from Kilkerran Road and now appears to be shown as Woodlands Drive. Limecraigs, in terms of the map, is the area where the present Campbeltown Grammar School lies, around the junction of Limecraigs Road and Woodlands Drive. Ardnacraig Drive now appears to lead to new housing on the site of Ardnacraig House, which was destroyed by fire in the late 1940s. The WRNS huts then would have been located on the shore side of the junction of Kilkerran Road and Woodlands Drive.

The Argyll Hotel and the White Hart Hotel were also requisitioned, and used as officers' messes.

The displacement of pupils and staff from the old Grammar School led to several church halls and other suitable buildings - Kirk Street Halls, Lorne Street Church hall, Dalaruan Hall - being pressed into temporary service for educational purposes.

The original Campbeltown Grammar School is now Castlehill Primary School and the Community Education Centre (Argyll College), with Campbeltown Grammar School now located on a larger site, a short distance to the south east.

HMS Nemesis

The base operated the training ship HMS Nemesis, located in Campbeltown harbour.

HMS Shemara

According to a Courier article of December 8, 1845, which told the story of HMS Nimrod, a 'palatial' yacht had been converted into and ASDIC training ship, HMS Shemara, which could be seen each day, sailing to and from the loch, accompanied by a small flotilla of training submarines.

Campbeltown bombing raids

Campbeltown Loch saw at least two German bombing attacks, with incendiary devices and mines being dropped, and machine-gunning of vessels in the harbour. It has been speculated that the area attracted the attention of such attacks due to the location of HMS Nimrod on land, and HMS Nemesis in the harbour, but as the harbour was also one of the first western approached from the Atlantic, it would not have escaped enemy attention, and was equipped with an observation post, minefield, and boom defence.

November 6 1940

On November 6, 1940, bombing resulted in serious damage to the town's Royal Hotel and Victoria Hall. Two casualties have been reported: Alexander Blue, a lorry driver, was killed in the raid, and Thomas Hunter, an agricultural adviser, died in hospital the following day.

Naval fatalities of the November 6 raid

Unreported at the time, it has been found by others that three ordinary seamen posted to HMS Nimrod also lost their lives during the Campbeltown raid:

  • Richard Howard Cookson
  • Michael Holmes
  • Harry Fitton

The journal of the medical officer recorded the circumstances of the men's deaths as follows:

These three rating were in company just outside the Victoria Hall on 6.11.1940 when a 500 lb aerial bomb was dropped close beside them from a low altitude. All were killed instantaneously. Their injuries were severe. one had most of his cranium blown away and the other two had both lower limbs blown off.
- In memory of Ordinary Seaman Richard Howard Cookson, research summary.[1]

This document list seven naval casualties on November 6 (or sometimes 7, as this was a night raid). Two deaths were recorded as instantaneous, with one death later from wounds received, while four survived their wounds.

February 9 1941

On February 9, 1941, a single bomb is reported to have missed the harbour, and landed on a house located on the adjacent hillside, causing the destruction of the house and the death of its sole occupant, identified as Archibald Stewart, the local Procurator Fiscal.

Speculation exists regarding the return of the Luftwaffe, and whether or not the second raid was a chance event, or if it was planned because the Germans were aware of the training facilities which had been relocated to Campbeltown.

A further account of the second bombing has been provided, describing a much more sustained and deliberate attack, probably intended to mine Campbeltown Loch, and the harbour. During this attack, two deaths are reported: Archibald Stewart and Frederick Pendle. Two mines are said to have exploded in the vicinity of Mr Stewart's House and a house at Trench Point, then occupied by the McCorkindale family, leaving it severely damaged and uninhabitable. A number of houses on the north shore of the Loch at Askomill were also reported to have suffered minor damage. After this raid, several Clyde steamers, converted to minesweepers, arrived and spent the next few days searching the loch for mines.

The four civilians who died are understood to be remembered on Campbeltown's war memorial, however, the military personnel are not.

Rifle Ranges

No longer shown on modern mapping, old maps c.1900 show two rifle ranges to the south. These can be seen using the People's Map option given in the Aerial links section below.

One is shown in the valley from Knockbay to Crosshill Loch, formed by a dam and, until the 1950s, the reservoir from which most of Campbeltown drew its water through a tunnel which ran parallel to the second range.

The second range is believed to have been in use until the 1940s, and would probably have been used by HMS Nimrod and other organisations. This range bordered a wood and ran uphill, with several butts being constructed on the line of the range. Postwar development has seen a small housing estate being developed on the site - Meadows Avenue, Crosshill Avenue, Range Road(!), Tomaig Road) - which effectively cut off access to the range, and also covered part of the track of the old Campbeltown and Machrihanish light railway.

The second range is believed to have fallen into disuse not only because of its proximity to the nearby housing, but also because a more isolated outdoor range was built at HMS Landrail, behind the sand dunes of Machrihanish Bay, in the vicinity of a building utilised for bomb disposal.

References

1 In memory of Ordinary Seaman Richard Howard Cookson, research summary.

External links


Aerial views


Map

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