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In recognition of the essential restrictions and measures imposed by the Scottish and UK Governments, we have closed all sites, depots and offices, including the HES Archives and Library, with immediate effect. Read our latest statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Field Visit

Date 2009 - 2010

Event ID 630007

Category Recording

Type Field Visit


During World War II both Scalpsie Bay and Ettrick Bay were thought to be possible sites for landings by German forces, and they were protected by gun emplacements overlooking the bays and by a system of wire support posts, designed to frustrate any attempt at landing by gliders or other aircraft. Substantial wooden posts, set into concrete bases, were arranged in a grid pattern extending well beyond the low water mark. The Ettrick Bay posts are no longer there but a considerable number still survive at Scalpsie. Our survey plan records the defences which were visible in February


The following notes are by Ian Marshall, who with Gerry Hearns and the late Bruce Henry carried out the EDM survey:

As with other bays in Bute, Scalpsie Bay appears to have been used for a variety of military purposes in WWII, of which the main visible evidence is the remains of 24 anti-glider wire support posts which can be seen at low tide, set out in a grid in the intertidal zone. It is likely that all these posts are set in concrete bases, but only four are now readily visible.

These standard features consisted of wooden posts, embedded in concrete bases and originally 5-6m in height, which supported a grid of wires designed to disrupt and immobilise attempted beach seizures by paratroops delivered by gliders. These defences would probably have been supplemented by barbed wire, pillboxes and machine gun sites.

The ACFA survey indicates what many be the dumped evidence, or perhaps the site, of now destroyed pill boxes (see Feature 49 below).

There is evidence that like Ettrick Bay to the north, Scalpsie was used for D-Day training beach landings for opposed landing craft assaults, so perhaps the installations were designed as much for training purposes as serious defences.

Further information on Bute in WWII and in the Cold War can be found at (Gorra, no date)

Jess Sandeman’s book Bute’s War (Sandeman 2000) gives an interesting account of wartime on Bute and refers to Ettrick Bay, Scalpsie and Dunagoil beaches being ‘festooned with barbed wire and booby traps’ (p.41)

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