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Oban Minefield Control Tower

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Minefield Control Tower, 1980
Minefield Control Tower
© Peter Moran

Oban Minefield Control Tower overlooks the Sound of Kerrera at Gallenach, and controlled a World War II submarine minefield which was installed across the sound. The building is located on a hillside south of the Gallanachmore Caravan Site, and appears to be one of only two such structures remaining from the war, the other being at Burnham on Crouch in Essex.

It seems there is also an example to be found near Landguard Point, just south of Felixstowe.[1]

The Extended Defence Officers Post (XDO) is situated about 50 metres southeast of Gallanachmore Cottage within the caravan and camp site to the north. The post can be found on OS maps, marked as a Lookout Tower, and consists of a large concrete tower having a pointed top containing the observation windows, atop an electrical contactor room. The contactor room still has some of the original equipment in situ and within the tower, part of the 'basket', where the duty officer would once have stood, is still there. The former engine room is now in use as a toilet.

The XDO (also referred to as EDO) was a naval officer in command of the extended defences of the approach, and was responsible for making sure friendly shipping was able to safely enter while enemy vessels were detected and dealt with. The XDO would pass naval intelligence information to the fire commander advising of the presence of friendly vessels. The XDO was responsible for controlling the examination service whereby ships were challenged and examined to ensure they were friend and not foe, and was in overall control of the various submarine indicator loops and minesweeping operations in the protected area.

The minefield was controlled by the operator who could enable or disable the mines by means of electrical switches. The mines did not simply detonate on contact, but signalled contacts to a panel monitored by the operator who could then verify the contact and was able to manually trigger the the mines, disable them, or trigger others in the minefield if. If required, the mines could also be set to detonate directly on contact.

We are grateful to our friends at Subterranea Britannica for permission to reproduce the following report:

Minefield Control Tower, 2003
Minefield Control Tower
© Nick Catford

Site Name: Oban - Minefield Control Tower

Oban, Argyll
OS Grid Ref: NM828273

Sub Brit site visit 2nd August 2003
[Source: Nick Catford]

There is a minefield control tower at Gallanach overlooking the Sound of Kerrera; it lies on the hillside on the south side of a caravan park.

Minefield Control Tower at Burnham on Crouch, pd?
Minefield Control Tower at
Burnham on Crouch

This is an unusual building with only one other example still extant at Burnham on Crouch in Essex.

The building is a circular concrete structure with three stories. The bottom floor has two level loopholes and internally resembles a pillbox with two small rooms in the centre. There is a ladder up to the next floor which also has loopholes. There is a roof dome above with observation slits which is reached by a second ladder up to a steel landing, most of which has fallen away.

Externally the building is in good condition although internally it is covered in graffiti, presumably from residents of the adjacent caravan park.

There is a small rectangular brick building in the bushes alongside. This building is empty.

Brick building alongside the Minefield Control Tower, 2003
Brick building adjacent to tower
© Nick Catford
The observation platform, 2003
The observation platform
© Nick Catford
The lower level, 2003
The lower level
© Nick Catford

© Subterranea Britannica [2]


1 The XDO blockhouse at Landguard (C) Adrian S Pye :: Geograph Britain and Ireland Retrieved September 25, 2014.

2 Subterranea Britannica entry

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



Aerial views



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