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St Kilda Gun Emplacement

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1918 Gun emplacement, 2007
1918 Gun emplacement
© gajtalbot

The St Kilda gun emplacement was installed on the island of Hirta during World War I, in response to a U-Boat bombardment which had taken place earlier during 1918, against a Royal Navy signal station which had been constructed on the island.

U-Boat bombardment

World War I saw the arrival of the Royal Navy and the construction of a signal station on the island - the first time it had any regular communication with the mainland. On May 15, 1918, a German U-Boat arrived and carried out a bombardment of the island. 72 shells are reported to have been fired, clearly intended only for Admiralty property - the wireless station was destroyed, while only the island's manse, church, and jetty storehouse suffered any damage. A witness noted that one lamb was killed (the cattle ran off when the shelling began), and that the row of houses which formed the village could easily have been destroyed had that been the intention.[1]

The U-Boat involved is a yet unidentified, but a later account suggests that it was subsequently captured by an armed trawler.

The St Kilda web site contains guestbook entry which may relate to the same submarine, although it is not precise and does not cite any sources: The Ostend (Belgian) steam trawler o.170 was sunk by a German submarine on April 1918, about 16:00. Some sources give date as April 21, others as April 24. The crew of 15 was saved, and return to Fleetwood, the wartime home port of the o.170, where they arrived on April 25, from Glasgow.

It would be interesting to see if any similar accounts could be unearthed.

Gun emplacement

Artillery to defend Village Bay, 2002
1918 Gun emplacement
© Russel Wills

A few months after the U-Boat bombardment, a gun emplacement was installed to protect the village. Completed in October 1918, but never used, it comprised a steel and concrete emplacement provided with a sunken magazine, located some 200 metres southeast of the village and jetty in Village Bay. It appears to have been equipped a 4.7-inch QF gun (a naval gun common at the time) acquired from a World War I naval gunboat.

NTS (Nation Trust Scotland) work parties regularly paint the gun as part of their conservation works.


1 The Life and Death of St Kilda, Tom Steel (1988), London, Fontana ISBN 0006373402.

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



Aerial views



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