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Edinburgh, Cramond Island, Cramond Battery

Coastal Battery (Second World War), Coastal Battery (First World War)

Site Name Edinburgh, Cramond Island, Cramond Battery

Classification Coastal Battery (Second World War), Coastal Battery (First World War)

Alternative Name(s) Forth Defences, Middle, Cramond Island

Canmore ID 50455

Site Number NT17NE 71

NGR NT 19763 78728

NGR Description Centred NT 19763 78728

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

World War One Audit of Surviving Remains (23 August 2013)

Cramond Island was fortified in 1915 as part of the Middle defences of the Firth of Forth and explicitly to cover the anti-submarine barrier that ran from Cramond to Braefoot, via Inchmickery and Inchcolm islands. The history of the defences of the Forth, as set out in the Fort Record Book of Inchcolm (The National Archives WO 192/108). Fourteen 12-pdr guns were supplied to the three islands on the line and of these two were emplaced at Cramond. The two emplacements were at NT 19722 78686 and NT 19739 78669. Whereas most of the 12-pdrs were replaced in 1916, when the defences of the Forth were reorganised, the two 12-pdrs on Cramond remained in place until the end of the war. They had been returned to the Navy by 1921.

The same 1915 map shows the location of a single Defence Electric Light emplacement at NT 19737 78749.

The island was re-armed at the beginning of the Second World War and two 12-pdrs were re-mounted on the original emplacements.

Information from HS/RCAHMS World War One Audit Project (GJB) 23 August 2013

Archaeology Notes

NT17NE 71.00 centred 19763 78728

NT17NE 71.01 NT 19694 78663 Engine House (No.1)

NT17NE 71.02 NT c. 1973 7868 Coast Battery (12-pounder battery)

NT17NE 71.03 NT 19771 78728 Gun-emplacement (Twin 6-pounder)

NT17NE 71.04 NT 19729 78733 Engine House (No.2)

NT17NE 71.05 NT 19748 78751, 19737 78764, 19724 78773, 19667 78776 and NT c. 1977 7863

Searchlight Battery (Emplacements Nos.1-5)

NT17NE 71.06 NT 19744 78734 Building

NT17NE 71.07 NT 1967 7875 Military camp

Armed by March 1915; 2 x 12 pdr guns in 1918.

N H Clark 1986

A coast battery situated on the extreme NE end of Cramond Island at the end of a metalled track which originates at the engine house (NT17NE 71.01, NT 1969 7866).

One gun emplacement is extant, though the canopy has been demolished and a further three searchlight platforms lie to the NW, one of which retains its curved metal focussing shutters. Further brick built buildings lie immediately W of the gun position.

Visited by RCAHMS (DE) August 1996

Gun emplacement, magazine, shelters and engine room (NT17NE 71.01) with three fixed beam searchlights. The director tower has been demolished. Cramond Island was fortified during World War One, but there is no record presently available of the armaments at that time. The site was re-acquired by the War Department in the summer of 1939 and by the autumn guns had been mounted on the Dalmeny Battery (NT17NE 71.02). The summer of 1940 saw the arming of Cramond Battery to mount one twin 6 pounder gun. All the defences on Cramond Island were anti-ship covering the channel between the island and Inchmickery and Cramond.

J A Guy 1997; NMRS 810/5,49, 54, 57-9; PRO WO 192/253.

The two gun batteries along with the associated accommodation camps, engine houses, searchlight platforms and ancillery buildings are visible on post-war RAF vertical air photographs (106G/Scot/UK 117, 5017-18, flown 29 May 1946).

Information from RCAHMS (DE), December 2001

Coastal battery, armed in 1915. Records from 1918 show that this battery was armed with two 12 pounder guns, which were intended as a defence against motor torpedo boats. Surviving structures: one circular gun emplacement with metal runners; three elongated D-plan concrete structures with small arms slits to seaward; one elongated D-plan concrete structure with metal shutters on runners facing seawards (coast artillery searchlight); one roofed concrete building 8 by 5 by 2 metres, with raised floor and internal trenches. The site has been vandalised. As these structures were roofed it is likely they were re-used in WW2, as most coastal batteries were retained after 1918. From 1939, batteries were strengthened against aerial bombardment by the addition of roofs. Coastal artillery batteries were abolished in 1956. Lowry 1995, 93-103.

Site recorded by GUARD during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, 'The Firth of Forth from Dunbar to the Coast of Fife' 10th March 1996.

Cramond Island was fortified in 1915 as stated, but not in the position of this battery. It mounted two 12 pounder guns in the 12 pdr battery positions shown in the plan of the fort (PRO - WO78/5164). These guns were removed shortly after the end of the First World War, but replaced in the summer of 1939 by two similar guns from Inchgarvie (not Coastguard Battery as BSM Potter recorded in the Fort Record Book). These guns were re-installed on the original First World War mounts. The emplacements are partially buried under earth mounds but the face of at least one of the concrete platforms is visible, to a height of about 1 metre, from the cliff top.

All surviving military structures date from the Second World war and include:- one circular gun emplacement with the metal runners for the shell trolleys; three elongated D plan reinforced concrete structures facing seaward, for wide beam searchlights; one elongated D plan reinforced concrete structure, with its associated metal shutters lying alongside, which housed a steerable concentrated beam searchlight; one roofed reinforced concrete building 8 metres by 5 metres by 2 metres, with raised floor and internal trenches; one roofed, reinforced concrete building. The site was partly demolished by the army when they relinquished their interest in the island in the 1950's and has suffered further recent vandalism.

Information via e-mail to RCAHMS from Mr J Dods (Cramond Heritage Society), April 2006.


Field Visit (31 August 2022)

The history of the First and Second World War gun batteries on Cramond Island and the role they played as part of the defence of the River Forth are adequately detailed elsewhere (see refs). The 2022 HES survey of the island concentrated on the physical remains of the battery, in particular paying attention to features that had not previously been noted. These include buildings that are not mentioned in earlier reports and dug features such as pits, the date and purpose of which are unknown. Measured surveys of a number of the buildings were undertaken but these were limited mainly to those structures for which there were no existing contemporary plans.

The survey has attempted to consolidate the NRHE for the remains which, prior to the survey, represented an agglomeration of piecemeal reports over many years. These did not provide an adequate account of the military remains. For instance, there was a single record (NT17NE 71.7) that covered the accommodation camps for both wars despite their being sited in different locations. The Second World War accommodation camp is now covered by a new record (NT17NE 71.13). New (sub-numbered) records have been created to allow Collection items such as survey drawings and digital photographs to be linked to individual structures or, where appropriate, a theme that is relevant for the whole site.

The following paragraphs provide information on aspects of the site for which sub-number are not appropriate.

Perimeter Fences

In both the First and Second World Wars various elements of the military presence on Cramond Island were enclosed by barbed wire fences. No trace of the barbed wire now remains but at several locations on the island, particularly on the N shore, there are visible either the rusting remains of iron fenceposts or the drilled sockets into which posts were once secured. These were not mapped by the 2022 HES survey.

Pits and other excavations

Throughout the island there are numerous areas of disturbance that cannot be directly attributed to the use of the site by the military during the First World War. However, two groups of rock-cut pits, which are described elsewhere (NT17NE 110 and 369), are, on balance, more likely to relate to the military occupation of the island than the civilian. That said, their purpose remains unknown. A little to the W of the northerly group of pits is what is almost certainly a small quarry measuring at least 6m in diameter (NT 19654 78699). Lidar imagery has revealed a number of locations where quarrying has taken place, but most of these are obscured by rank vegetation and the 2022 HES survey did not seek to record all of them. Most of them probably relate to the needs of the 19th century farmsteading (NT17NE 116), i.e. the construction of buildings, field walls and tracks.

Roads and paths

By the time the military left Cramond Island after the Second World War there was a road capable of supporting heavy traffic that ran from the beach at the S end of the island (NT 1956 7829), where there is a landing stage/ramp (NT17NE 368), through the island to the gun emplacement (NT17NE 71.03). The 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Edinburghshire 1853, Sheet 1) depicts the path of this road but at that time it ran only as far as the farmstead (NT17NE 116) in the middle of the island. At this time the road is unlikely to have been little more than a rough track capable of supporting a horse-pulled cart. The 6-inch OS map (Edinburghshire Sheet 1b.SE and SW), which was surveyed in 1938 but not published until 1947, demonstrates that the northern extension of the road was not constructed before the Second World War. This begs the question of how the building materials for the First World War engine house (NT17NE 71.8) in the NW corner of the island (and the heavy machinery contained within it) reached the site, the answer probably being that they must have been delivered to the stone jetty (NT17NE 119) a short distance to the SW. The same question may be asked in relation the gun emplacement (NT17NE 71.02) and ancillary structures in the NE corner of the island.

One of the features of the road through the island is the extent to which it has been engineered, where necessary being carried on a terrace that has either cut deeply into the natural slope or supported on an embankment, or, in places, both. Immediately to the SW of the 19th century farmstead the road runs on a rock-cut terrace excavated into the NW-facing slope to a depth of over 2m. To the S of this (at NT 1961 7848) the road continues through a cutting on both sides. As it makes a wide turn close to the guardhouse in the NW corner of the island the road contours across a NW-facing slope, its lower edge supported by a revetment wall. Though it is now difficult to discern because of the encroachment of soil and vegetation, it seems that the road, as constructed as part of the Second World War infrastructure, was, at least in some places, made of concrete.

An annotated copy of an OS map dated 30 July 1915 (WO78: 4417) depicts a couple of paths running between elements of the military presence in the NE corner of the island. These, however, are no longer visible. It is also certainly the case that there would have been a comprehensive series of paths linking all the varying parts of the Second World War battery. These, too, are barely recognisable having been either deliberately removed, eroded, or obscured by soil and vegetation.

Visited by HES Archaeological Survey (J. Sherriff, A. McCaig) 31 August 2022.

NT17NE 71.01 NT 19693 78664 Engine House

NT17NE 71.02 NT 1973 7866 Gun Emplacements, Building

NT17NE 71.03 NT 19771 78730 Gun Emplacement, Graffiti

NT17NE 71.04 NT 19724 78773 Searchlight Battery, Graffiti

NT17NE 71.05 NT 19738 78760 Engine House, Building, Graffiti

NT17NE 71.06 NT 19746 78736 Building, Graffiti

NT17NE 71.07 NT 1967 7865 Military Camp

NT17NE 71.08 NT 19577 78716 Engine House

NT17NE 71.09 NT 19735 78773 Winch House

NT17NE 71.10 NT 19738 78760 Searchlight Emplacement

NT17NE 71.11 NT 19707 78678 Building

NT17NE 71.12 NT 1972 7860 Gun Emplacement

NT17NE 71.13 NT 1962 7875 Military Camp

NT17NE 71.12 NT 1972 7860 Gun Emplacement

NT17NE 71.13 NT 1962 7875 Military Camp

NT17NE 71.14 NT 19652 78610 Workers Camp

NT17NE 71.15 NT 19655 78678 Magazine


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