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Kilbride Bay

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Kilbride Bay, 2005
Kilbride Bay
© Margot Manson

Kilbride Bay lies on the east shore of Loch Fyne, towards the southern part of the Cowal peninsula, and about 4 kilometres south of Portavadie. The bay is described as an attractive sandy beach, and an ideal destination for walking in the area.

World War II remains

Railway on Kilbride beach, 2008
Railway on Kilbride beach
© Colin Hoskins

Previously unreported or identified remains which appear to date from World War II have been described in Kilbride Bay.

A large house lay at the east end of the bay, believed to be Craigie Lodge or Craigie House (possibly Craig Lodge or Craig House, since Craig Lodge Farm remains nearby), now understood to be demolished after lying derelict for some years. Near the house a set of rails supported by concrete sleepers has been described, leading across the beach and into the sea. On the shore, at the beginning of the railway, a winch with attached cable has been described.

Located behind the house was a slightly elevated tennis court, sited over a large concrete bunker, which has been described as having sloping blast walls.

Although the house has gone, the bunker and rails are reported to remain on the site as of 2008.

The visible part of this structure appears to be very similar to another concrete bunker described to the west of Otter Ferry, and which is known to have been the store for a boom defence which was deployed across Loch Fyne during World War II. This site also had a rail system leading into the water to help with deployment of the boom.[1]

At the time of writing, the photographs which accompanied this record have been taken off line, so cannot be referred to for confirmantion

No information has been found on this installation, and any further details would be most welcome.

Exercise Primrose

Exercise Primrose was a World War II exercise referred to in the National Archives, and described as a test to evaluate the effectiveness of Canal Defence Lights (CDL) which was carried out at Kilbride Bay during 1943. CDL were bright, carbon-arc lights, mounted on specially modified tanks turrets and intended to dazzle enemy troops. By deploying these lights against the enemy, the intention was to hide activities behind the glare of lights, so that the enemy may well have been aware that something was happening, they would not be able to identify what was actually happening. Similar secret tests were also carried at sites in England.

The CDL could not be shot out easily by small arms fire, as it was mounted within the turret, and behind slots, producing a light of several million candlepower.

Further reading on the CDL has shown that the concept actually dates from World War I, and was more than a simple high-power searchlight pointed at the enemy. The lamps were shuttered, with the shutters arranged to open and close at such a rate as to temporarily night-blind anyone looking in their direction. By timing the light and dark periods correctly, the viewers' pupils would be dilated during a period of darkness, causing them to be dazzled when the bright light was exposed to their open pupil. By shutting the light off before the pupil contracted, it would begin to dilate again, and the eye would never adjust to the darkness. The aim had been to try and break the stalemate in the trenches by allowing troops to move forward unseen, but the idea was never implemented.[2]

The name was unrelated to the actual application, and was selected for reasons of security and misdirection, as the project was shrouded in secrecy. That noted, the name may have been inspired by similar dazzle projects which were used for canal defence, particularly against bombers, and applied to the Suez Canal at least two years before the tank mounted lights were tested.


1 Site Record for Otter Ferry, Loch Fyne Anti-Submarine Boom Anti-Submarine Boom Defence; Details Retrieved April 03, 2013.

2 Jasper Maskelyne, Suez 1 Retrieved October 23, 2010.

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