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Tentsmuir Forest

Military Camp (20th Century), Trench(S) (20th Century)

Site Name Tentsmuir Forest

Classification Military Camp (20th Century), Trench(S) (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Tenstmuir Coastal Defences; Tents Muir; Kinshaldy

Canmore ID 141482

Site Number NO42SE 77

NGR NO 4817 2385

NGR Description Centred NO 4817 2385

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Leuchars
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO42SE 77 centred 4817 2385

For other military command, training and defensive structures on Tentsmuir Sands, see also:

NO42NE 71-3, 117 and 127

NO42SE 56-7, 78-9 and 81

NO52NW 1-8, and NO52SW 1.

Site recorded by Headland Archaeology during an archaeological evaluation of Tentsmuir Forest in advance of felling proposals. The results of the evaluation are contained in two reports deposited with Fife SMR and the NMRS.

NO 481 239 WWII army camp

Camp, probably constructed in late 1940, for units of the Polish Army and occupied at least until the end of 1942. No contemporary plans have been located but vertical aerial photgraphs taken in 1947 (CPE/SCOT/215, 4061-4063, flown 1947) show the camp shortly after it was dismantled.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Fife Council, Forest Enterprise.

S Carter 1997

NO 481 239 This site, a World War 2 army camp, was recorded as part of an archaeological evaluation of Forestry Commission land in Tentsmuir, Fife carried out by Headland Archaeology Ltd. This evaluation was commissioned by Fife Council Planning Service in advance of Forest Enterprise felling proposals, the work was executed to a brief prepared by Peter Yeoman and Sarah Govan of Fife Council Archaeological Service. The report concludes that the camp was probably constructed in late 1940, for units of the Polish Army and was occupied until the end of 1942 at least. The team could not find any contemporary plans but it is visible on vertical air photographs flown in 1947 shortly after the camp was dismantled. These photographs have the codes CPE/SCOT/251, 4061-4063. They indicate that the camp comprised dispersed groups of accomodation blocks (probably Nissen huts), and there was a larger block of central facilities close to the road to Kinshaldy. By 1947 most of the buildings had been removed and only two roofless brick structures survive. There was also a concrete covered well which had the coat of arms of the Polish Army impressed into its outer concrete facing. All other buildings survive only as foundations. Other features visable on the photographs are slit trenches and other defensive earthworks on the E (seaward) side of the camp. The Polish Army garrison at the camp manned the numerous other defensive World War 2 sites in the Tentsmuir Forest and Coastal Area. This high level of defence was due to the low sandy coast line of Tenstmuir being thought of as a high risk area from a sea-borne invasion and also because the airfield at Leuchars required protection from sea-borne attack.

Sponsors: Fife Council with support from Historic Scotland and Forest Enterprise

NMRS MS/899/32 (May 1997 Headland Archaeology Ltd)

NO 4648 2633 This report gives an overview and synthesis of the archaeology of Tentsmuir, it should be read in conjunction with MS/899/32 which gives more detail on the archaeological evaluation Headland Archaeology Ltd conducted in the area. The report contains the sections 'The Scope and Aims of the report', 'The geomorphic evolution of Tentsmuir', 'History of archaeological investigation'. It then goes on to look at the archaeology of Tentsmuir, period by period : 'Mesolithic', 'Later prehistoric', 'Medieval and post Medieval', 'Agricultural improvement' amd finally 'World War Two'. Maps and plans for each period are also included.

Sponsors: Fife Council with support from Historic Scotland and Forest Enterprise.

NMRS MS/899/33 (May 1997 Headland Archaeology Ltd.)

A distant view of camp is visible on a RAF WW II oblique aerial photograph (no sortie no., no date, frame 16).

Information from RCAHMS (DE), November 2007.


Publication Account (2009)

The website text produced for Tentsmuir webpages on the Forest Heritage Scotland website (

Introduction: The Lion and the Eagle

Polish Forces, based in Scotland, constructed the World War II defences], whose remains are still evident on Tentsmuir beach and hidden within Tentsmuir forest.

The sandy beaches at Tentsmuir would have made an ideal landing location for German invasion troops in 1940. The coast needed defending.

Polish Forces and locals built a system of linear defences as part of the overall plan to protect Britain from enemy invasion. The defences ran north from Leuchars Airfield, also a prime target for attack, to Lundin Bridge.

They included lines of concrete anti-tank blocks, observation towers and pillboxes, all designed to slow down enemy movement inland.

Long, wooden poles stood upright along the coastline to prevent enemy gliders from easily landing behind defence lines. At low tide, some of these poles are still visible at Tentsmuir beach.

The Polish soldiers constructed and lived in a camp at Tentsmuir forest. Once they had constructed the defences, many remained to man the guns and patrol the area.

Today little remains of the dismantled camp where the Polish soldiers lived. Look closely, however, and impressed in the concrete wall of an old well you can find the coat of arms of the Polish Army, a lion and an eagle. This survives as a reminder of the Poles who defended the beaches of Fife.

People Story: Polish stories of World War II

Many Polish soldiers came to help defend the coast of Fife. Their stories tell a little of what life was like under the threat of enemy invasion.

Prior to the construction of the defences at Tentsmuir, Wieslaw Szczygiel's Polish Engineer unit came to Tentsmuir Forest to build a camp. Later, this served as a home for other Polish soldiers who would build and man the defences.

The rainy Scottish weather often delayed the construction of the camp. Wieslaw remembers long hours, under tent cover, chatting and smoking.

Wieslaw also recalls day trips to St Andrews' Tudor cafe for a traditional British fry up. Ration portions were small so they would have breakfast, go to the pub, and return to the cafe in the afternoon for a second helping.

Stationed at Tentsmuir to build the defences, Tadeusz Apfel-Czaszka remembers the importance of their task.

"Here our job was to guard against the expected German invasion which we firmly believed would come. We built blockhouses and concrete obstacles, defended the coast with our French machine guns and trained"

Captain Tadeusz Apfel-Czaszka in Henderson's(2001) "The Lion and the Eagle"

Both these men share a similar story to many Poles. They escaped from Poland and fought elsewhere in Europe before arriving in Scotland. After the war ended, they settled in Scotland.

Thanks to the Scots at War Trust for collecting these wartime accounts.

Evidence Story: Examining the evidence: anti-tank blocks

The construction of the defences along the east coast of Scotland was a major task.

Personal accounts from Polish soldiers provide some detail about building the anti-tank blocks.

Dr Kazimierz Piotr Durkacz was a third year medical student in Poland when Germany invaded in 1939. He joined the Polish Forces and ended up in Scotland. Durkacz worked north of Tentsmuir on the coastal defences from Broughty Ferry to Arbroath. He describes building the anti-tank blocks.

"At first we used wood to make the mould for the large concrete blocks and then a combination of corrugated iron and wood. I can remember mixing the concrete with a shovel."

Dr Kazimierz Piotr Durkacz in Henderson's(2001) "The Lion and the Eagle"

Once the concrete set, they removed the wooden mould.

The soldiers worked in squads of ten men. Their squad leader would tell them where to place the double rows of blocks. Each squad had a target of blocks to complete in a week.

The soldiers built the anti-tank blocks either in situ or transported to a location. One sign of the latter would be an iron ring on the top. The blocks were heavy and a winch lifted them into place.

Some blocks had pebbles set into the concrete while they were still wet, this provided camouflage on a pebble beach. Others have the initials of the person who made them drawn into the concrete.


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