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Admiralty Hydro-Ballistic Research Establishment

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Glen Fruin entrance.jpg, 2010
Glen Fruin entrance
© Steven Brown

The Admiralty Hydro-Ballistic Research Establishment (AHBRE) was formed in 1948 by the amalgamation of two testing stations that had been established during World War II by the Air Ministry and the Admiralty.

The Air Ministry had established a full-size testing facility at Coulport, to investigate the effects of water on bombs and torpedoes dropped from the air. Meanwhile, at Glen Fruin, the Admiralty had developed a scaled-down version of the water entry test facilities.

The joint establishment was subsequently absorbed by the Admiralty Research Laboratory (ARL).[1][2]

Glen Fruin is sometimes referred to as a World War II torpedo testing station, but this description is inaccurate since this was not the stated purpose of the facility. Torpedo testing was actually carried out at another Admiralty facility in Loch Long, where full-size (unarmed) torpedoes were test fired at the Loch Long Torpedo Range.

The establishment has been closed and left largely derelict and abandoned for some years, and the entrance now belongs to the Strone Training Camp, which the empty buildings now serve.

Postwar development

The AHBRE later became the Admiralty Research Establishment Glen Fruin, and remains in operation, with the site housing a number of test tanks, including one which extends to 150 feet and holds 250,000 gallons of water, together with supporting services and other buildings. The facility lies on the south side of the A817 road leading east from Faslane, on the southern edge of the Garelochead military training area which extends to the north.

The Admiralty Research Establishment (ARE) at Glen Fruin was a test and development facility located to the east of Faslane on the Gare Loch.

The ARE was formerly the Admiralty Research Laboratory (ARL), where tests were conducted on bombs and torpedoes during World War II, to evaluate water entry characteristics in its various tanks, one of which holds some 250,000 gallons of water and is 150 feet in length. Its facilities were further developed as the Admiralty Hydro-Ballistic Research Establishment (AHBRE).

It would appear to have been used for the underwater testing of ejection seat systems during the 1960s, work given extra importance when a Scimitar pilot was lost after his aircraft sank and he could not escape.

In 1986, a report was issued with the abstract: The conversion of an experimental tank at Glen Fruin into one of the world's largest stratified test facilities is described. The stages of development and the commissioning tests are reported. The tank is shown to offer a stable environment for research on buoyancy influenced flows with relatively weak density gradients and a relatively large cross section.

The facility continued to operate for a time, and passed from the MoD to the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), and then to QinetiQ as of June 2001, when much of DERA was privatised - the remainder of the organisation becoming the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), an agency of the UK Ministry of Defence.

The establishment now (as of information received in 2010) lies abandoned, although the actual date of this event is unknown, the rundown of the facility dates back to the 1980s.

The site is understood to remain as an asset, and it has been suggested (by ex-staff) that is is used on an occasional basis by members of the special forces, who also use the adjacent Garelochhead Training Area, as a mock detention and interrogation base, and for other discreet operations.[3]

Helensburgh Heritage talk

The Admiralty Hydro-Ballistic Research Establishment at Glen Fruin was the subject of an evening talk held in Helensburgh on September 29, 2010, and the words behind the talk, and some photographs, were later published on the Helensburgh-Heritage web site. [4]


1 National Archives, ADM 204

2 Admiralty Hydro-Ballistic Research Establishment Glen Fruin - Forces War Records Retrieved April 02, 2013.

3 Royal Marinesí X-men master the art of urban combat | Royal Navy Retrieved April 02, 2013.

4 Glen Fruin's Little Secret Retrieved 12 March 12, 2011.

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