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Skipness Bombing Range

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Bombing Range Approach Arrow, 2004
Bombing Range Approach Arrow
© J M Briscoe

Skipness Bombing Range was a World War II bombing range located at Skipness on the east coast of the Kintyre peninsula. The approach to the range passed over the waters of Skipness Bay, and was marked by a large concrete arrow set into the ground adjacent to the east wall of the graveyard next to the remains of Skipness Chapel.

The arrow indicated the correct approach to the range, which was overlooked by observation posts crewed by observers who would report the result of each crew's run (using dummy, or practice, weapons), allowing them to adjust accordingly on subsequent runs. The range was primarily used by aircraft from HMS Landrail (RNAS Machrihanish), and for both bombing and torpedo practice. There were no targets on land. One of the two towers still stands at the entrance to the village by the cattle-grid. The other - demolished - is supposed to have stood on the point by the cemetery, where can still be seen the large concrete directional arrow in the field between there and the cemetery.

Undocumented second arrow

A second (apparently undocumented) concrete arrow was discovered to the south, near the site of one of the observation posts described below, and has been added to the location map.

Observation Posts

The remains of an observation post, about 25 feet square and 40 feet high, lie immediately to the west of the B8001 road, at the entrance to the village and near cattle-grid. Constructed from brick and concrete, access steps and entrance face north, with windows on the remaining three sides.

An English company, Sunley's, had been contracted to build the new Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm facilities at RAF Machrihanish, and were also given the job of constructing a number of observation posts in the area. These were all built using a particularly recognisable type of red brick, a type not normally used in Kintyre.

The location of a second observation post is reported at NR912575, on Skipness Point, which places it just east of the arrow, and on the point by the cemetery, demolished. The Seventh Series OS inch-to-the mile maps (year unknown) are said to refer to the post, possibly incorrectly, as an Automatic Radar Station.

Postwar

After World War II, a navigation beacon was installed in one of the observation posts, probably for the benefit of USAF aircraft en route from Iceland to Prestwick. Following an air navigation incident involving a group of military aircraft, which required a local farmer to manually activate the beacon, its operation was automated, permitting approaching aircraft to activate it remotely, and determine their true position without external assistance.

We have been told of the existence of a Skipness VHF (Very High Frequency) Omni-directional Radio-range beacon (VOR), separate from the USAF installation, and not actually near Skipness, described as "visible from the A83 to the north of the village of Clachan". The only installation we have been able to identify from aviation records is the MAC VOR at Machrihanish, shown on the page for Campbeltown Airfield. If anyone has information to confirm (or deny) the existence of a Skipness VOR (or whatever else it may have been), we would be most grateful for an update.

The area remains in use, operated by QinetiQ as part of its Instrumental Range Services, which uses the former range for Electronic Warfare Calibration (EWC) services for vessels operating in the Clyde area.

Crossaig Range

A few miles further along the coast to the south lies the site of the Crossaig Bombing Range.

External links

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

 

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Aerial views


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