HMS Osprey was a World War II anti-submarine training base specialising in ASDIC (Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee) courses, and was established within the requisitioned buildings of the West of Scotland Convalescent Homes in Dunoon. The base was transferred from its original home in Portland during 1941, when the original site was considered to be too vulnerable to aerial observation and attack by the Luftwaffe.
In 1942, Sir Max Horton, Commander in Chief of Western Approaches, decreed that each escort ship accompanying the Atlantic convoys should carry two officers, not including the captain, who had been trained to use ASDIC equipment. This basic training was provided for both commissioned and non-commissioned officers at HMS Osprey, which was responsible for training several thousand other seamen who operated and maintained much of this equipment during the war.
The course was in two parts. The first part of the course dealt with theory, and lasted for 12 days at HMS Osprey in Dunoon. The second part dealt with the practical aspect of operating the equipment, and took place at HMS Nimrod, which was based in Campbeltown. Practical work was carried out on board the training ship HMS Nemesis, based in Campbeltown harbour.
HMS Osprey carried a relatively large staff, including a Captain in Charge, a Commander (in charge of training), four junior RNVR officers (on technical duties), 18 members of the schoolmasters branch (teaching theory), and 62 Petty Officer (submarine detector instructors). The base has been described as having adhered strictly to RN protocols, with the White Ensign being raised formally in the morning, and lowered in the evening with a traditional sunset ceremony with bugle. Sailors would speak of taking the liberty boat when going out for a night on the town.
Officers were accommodated in the nearby Glenmorag Hotel, which had also been requisitioned. Rugs and carpets within the hotel are said to have been retained, which is unusual, since these were generally removed and stored for the duration when such properties were requisitioned.
WRNS officers were accommodated at the nearby Catherine Mary Home, a former Nunnery to the north of the hotel. Dunoon's Castle House Museum holds a photograph showing a groups of WRNS officers outside the the main entrance to home, which no longer exists, having been demolished to make way for the later Dunoon police station in Argyll Road.
Petty Officers and other ranks were accommodated within the building of the former convalescent home where they were being trained. They are said to have enjoyed a reasonably comfortable existence for the duration of their stay, with local facilities including a putting green, bowling greens, and a bar known as "Ye Olde Seagull's Nest". Compared to Dunoon, accommodation at Campbeltown was considered to be relatively basic.
The convalescent homes were made up of a collection of Victorian buildings, along the lines of a children's village. As of 2009, most of the area had been redeveloped, and only one the original buildings remains on the site, having served for some years as council office, and latterly as Dolphin House, when the Manse Avenue facility was taken over by the Argyll Community Housing Association Limited (ACHA) in 2006, when the association took over the council's stock of 5,400 houses - £48 million of housing debt was written off, and a 30 year funding package of £260 million received.
- In Which They Served by Brian Lavery
- Local memory
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