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Archaeology InSites

Sheriff Muir, Hitler's Atlantic Wall Replica - Dunblane, Stirlingshire

Top secret

The end of the Nazis started here…... This top-secret research and training ground was used in the preparation for D-Day, one of the most important events in world history.

Following the Nazi’s occupation of Europe, Hitler ordered the construction of a massive series of defences along Europe’s coastline, often using slave labour. The key element of these was the infamous Atlantic Wall designed to repel tanks. They were constructed from reinforced concrete, at which the German’s excelled.

In order to determine how to breach these walls in 1943 the British formed the Anti-Concrete Committee. The plans for the Atlantic Wall were smuggled out of occupied Europe in a biscuit tin. In order to work out how to breach these defences the British constructed a series of replicas across Britain and the biggest and best preserved of these is at Sheriffmuir, Stirling. Sheriffmuir was chosen for both its relative isolation and its proximity to the major transport hub at Stirling.

The complex of reconstructions reflects both German offensive and defensive positions and recreates the ground conditions and distances from the landing craft in the sea all the way to the wall. The Atlantic Wall at Sherriff Muir, is a massive block of reinforced concrete 86 m long and about 3 m in height and up to 3m thick. As it was used for target practice it's covered with hundreds of missile impacts, if you close your eyes you can almost hear the explosions, feel the shocks and smell the gunpowder!

My favourite element is the Torbruk Shelter, which is to the immediate east of the wall and is based on the German tactic of burying tanks in sand, leaving only their main gun barrel exposed. The shelter develops this idea into two fixed gun positions and an underground shelter.

Training practice

There was a long history of military training at Sheriffmuir. Originally named 'The Sheriff Muir' it was used for medieval weaponshaws. In World War 1 the ground was laced with practice trenches which were constructed by the 52nd (Lowland) Division trained on the range before going to Gallipoli in 1915. Infamously many of these troops were killed in the Gretna Train Disaster on the 22nd May which resulted in the deaths of over 200 people and is still, to this day, Britain’s worst train crash.

Captain M. A. Philip (Brigade Signals Officer, 185 Bde 3 Div.) was involved in the Wall’s construction. He recollected:

“We began some Combined Operations exercises, pretty primitive at first, known as ‘dryshod-exercises’. A road or some other suitable landmark represented the coastline, and if you were on one side of it you were technically afloat and on the other side on land again. Men and vehicles were fed across the ‘coastline’ at specified intervals to represent landing craft discharging their contents.”

If you intend to visit the site, please note that it is on private ground, so please follow the Country Code. The ground is very uneven so watch your footing! Finally, there is a lot of broken and snapped iron rebar, so be very careful when you explore the remains.
Dr Murray Cook - Stirling Council Archaeologist
Please be aware that this site may be on private land. For more information regarding access please consult the Scottish Outdoor Access Code