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Forth Defences, Middle, Braefoot Point Battery

Coastal Battery (First World War)

Site Name Forth Defences, Middle, Braefoot Point Battery

Classification Coastal Battery (First World War)

Alternative Name(s) Forth Defences; World War I

Canmore ID 50887

Site Number NT18SE 25

NGR NT 17888 83433

NGR Description Centred NT 17888 83433

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Dalgety
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District Dunfermline
  • Former County Fife

World War One Audit of Surviving Remains (14 August 2013)

According to the history of the defences of the Forth during the First World War (on Fort Record Book for Inchcolm (The National Archives WO 192/108) approval had been given 'some considerable time before the war' for the construction of a battery of 9.2-inch guns (a large-calibre gun intended to tackle the largest enemy ships likely to attack the British coast) at Braefoot. Approval was given in July 1914 for the guns, carriages and other equipment to be ordered, and the pedestals for the guns arrived at Aberdour Station in January 1915. They did not reach the battery until April and May. The two guns were mounted on 28 May and 6 July 1915. When the defences of the Forth were restructured it was advocated that the guns be removed to an new battery at Kinghorn, but permission for this was not given. It was ordered, however, in October 1917 that the guns be dismounted and stored ready for despatch - one gun was sent to Portsmouth in December.

The coast guns were such an important part of the defence of the country that considerable efforts were made to protect them from landings of enemy troops that might put them out of action. Not only are there blockhouses within the battery, but a map of 1916 (The National Archives WO 78/4396) shows a ring of six blockhouses inland and along the shore.

Information from HS/RCAHMS World War One Audit Project (GJB) 13 August 2013.

Archaeology Notes

NT18SE 25.00 centred 17888 83433

NT18SE 25.01 NT 17877 83404 and NT 17905 83439 Gun-emplacements

NT18SE 25.02 NT 17914 83482 Observation post (Battery)

NT18SE 25.03 NT 17878 83493 Magazine;Tramway

NT18SE 25.04 NT 17929 83523 Observation post

NT18SE 25.05 NT 17935 83543 Building

NT18SE 25.06 NT 17799 83466 Barracks; Workshops

NT18SE 25.07 NT 17997 83487 and NT 17855 83305 Searchlight Battery (possible)

NT18SE 25.08 NT 17710 83128 Pier

Camp (disused) [NAT] (at NT 1790 8345)

OS 1:10,000 map, 1984.

Armed May 1915; 2 x 9.2" guns. Disarmed 1917.

N H Clark 1986.

This World War One battery lies in Braefoot plantation on the headland to the W of Braefoot Bay. Built of concrete and brick, the complex consists of two 9.2-inch gun emplacements with many of the support buildings such as workshops, observation post, magazines and a pier. Many of the buildings are in good condition.

J Guy 1994; NMRS MS 810/3.

This large coast battery consists of two concrete and brick gun-emplacements (NT 17877 83405 and NT 17904 83439) and several buildings all situated within Braefoot Plantation. The stone built battery observation posts, magazine and four blockhouses, workshops, stores, the dining room, guardroom and a pier are all extant.

Buildings have been noted at NT 17935 83543, NT 17797 83464, NT 17863 83418 and the magazine is at NT 17878 83493. Further buildings are situated at NT 17855 83305 and NT 17997 83487 and the pier at NT 17710 83128.

All the buildings have their windows and doors blocked with breeze blocks.

The battery is visible on RAF vertical air photographs (106G/Scot/UK 12, Pt.1, 6078-6079, flown 15 April 1946) which shows the two emplacements and all the ancilliary buildings.

Though the battery is of First World War date, there is evidence on the photographs to show occupation of the site during the Second World War. Two Nissen huts are visible immediately to the rear of the gun emplacements.

The battery and constituents is connected to the public road system by a metalled track.

Visited by RCAHMS (DE), March 2005; J Guy 1994; NMRS MS 810/3, 90


Project (March 2013 - September 2013)

A project to characterise the quantity and quality of the Scottish resource of known surviving remains of the First World War. Carried out in partnership between Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.

Field Visit (9 August 2022)

The history of the First World War gun battery at Braefoot Point and the role it played as part of the defence of the River Forth are adequately detailed elsewhere (see refs). The 2022 HES survey concentrated on the physical remains of the battery, in particular paying attention to features that had not previously been noted. These include: the perimeter fence and its relationship to the inner ring of pillboxes; buildings that are not mentioned in earlier reports and dug features which probably date later than the First World War. 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. Nor were there measured drawings undertaken of those buildings where the modern blocking of their openings prevented the recording of internal arrangements and other crucial details such as the thickness of walls.

The survey has consolidated the NRHE record for the site by bringing together what were previously several disparate and incomplete records and enhanced them through the use of measured survey and photography. The site is large and contains numerous elements therefore the existing sub-numbering of the site has been expanded 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-numbers are not appropriate.

Perimeter Fence

A contemporary plan (Ordnance Survey 1918) of the gun battery shows that its core was defined by a palisade that linked a series of pillboxes, the position of the latter being such that they could provide fields of fire along the outside of the perimeter. A main gate on the N (NT 17860 83538) provided vehicular access to the battery and the steel drop-bolt socket that marked the middle of what must have been a set of double gates can still be seen. The main battery road continued through the site on its way towards the pier (NT18SE 25.08), passing through the palisade on the SW immediately S of the barrack block (NT18SE 25.06). The SE side of this gate is indicated by the stump of a metal post. In addition to the main gates the palisade also contained two ‘Wickets’ that allowed pedestrians to pass through the palisade. One wicket (NT 17996 83489), of which no trace is now visible, was situated close to the NE corner of the inner battery and its purpose was probably to allow access to it by the occupants of the ‘Camp’ (NT18SE 25.27) which lay outside the palisade immediately to the NE. The second wicket (NT 17832 83346) is situated on the SW side of the battery 45m NW of pillbox 1 on the Inner Ring (NT18SE 25.10). The purpose of this gate, which is defined by a 1.2m wide gap in the concrete footing on each side of which is the stump of a metal post, was probably to allow an alternative access to the battery from the Officers’ Quarters and Cookhouse (NT18SE 25.23) on the slope below, some 37m to the W.

The palisade was a fence that was 3m (10ft) high and it ran around the whole circuit except for the stretch between pillboxes 1 and 2 on the SE, where the steep, in places vertical, natural slopes prevented easy access. The base of the fence comprised a low concrete wall 0.25m thick by up to 0.5m in height. It had a chamfered outer edge to its top into which have been sunk steel V-sectioned railings at intervals of 0.15m (6in) between the centres. All these railings have been removed, leaving only those parts embedded in the concrete, but the low foundation wall is visible around much of the circuit. At several points the truncated remains of metal stanchions set 0.9m (3ft) behind the fence are visible.

On the SE side of the battery, between pillbox 2 (NT18SE 25.11) and pillbox 3 (NT18SE 25.07), it is very clear that a great deal of preparation was undertaken prior to the fence being erected. Here, it does not run along the top of the natural escarpment as might have been expected but instead on an artificial terrace (up to 3m broad) that has been excavated into the slope below the crest. The creation of this terrace appears to have been necessary in order for there to have been a clear line of sight to the SW from pillbox 3. At a distance of 65m from that pillbox, where there is a change in angle of the fence, the terrace sits some 3m below the crest of the slope. Beyond this point the terrace continues to descend in the direction of pillbox 2, some 80m to the SW. The 1918 Ordnance Survey plan shows the fence terminating some 9.3m short of the pillbox, at a point where the artificial terrace lay at least 6m below the ground level of the pillbox. That 9.3m wide gap is likely to have been filled with some form of barrier but any traces of it have been swept away by subsequent landslips.

A considerable amount of effort has also been also expelled in creating a good line of sight to the NW of Pillbox 3 – not to pillbox 4 (NT18SE 25.05) some 77m away, but to the point where there was a change in the angle of the palisade at a distance of only 22m from the pillbox. The problem appears to have been that the natural crest of the escarpment obstructed the view to the NW. The answer was to remove the crest by excavating an area of ground measuring up to 9m in breadth and 2m in depth at its wider SW end, thus creating a sloping ramp upon which the palisade could be sited.

Another point regarding the palisade that is worthy of note is that all of the locations where the palisade joined the pillboxes has been confirmed either by the presence of truncated brackets on the outside face of the pillbox or the drilled sockets for the bolts that once secured the brackets. What has not been confirmed, though it is likely to have been the case, is whether the palisade was carried over the flat roofs of the pillboxes. Further, there is a stretch of the palisade W of pillbox 4 (NT18SE 25.05) where the concrete footing of the fence has been buttressed on its N side by an additional deposit of concrete measuring some 0.6m (2ft) thick. It is possible that here, where the palisade runs very close to the southern edge of a large, almost certainly contemporaneous, quarry (NT18SE 25.30), there was some danger that the fence as first constructed might start falling or slipping down the slope.

Pits and other excavations

Throughout the area of the battery, but especially within the area defined by the palisade, 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. Perhaps the most obvious of these are those that are the result of the extensive system of mountain bike (MTB) trails that extends throughout the whole of the area of Braehead Plantation. Details of these trails, including their names, lengths and locations, can be found on-line at Some of the fourteen documented trails are innocuous enough but others have bitten deep into the subsoil and are now devoid of both topsoil and vegetation. Other trails have incorporated jumps and where these have been created there is usually a pit nearby from which the material to construct the ramps has been gained. Other material used in the construction of parts of the trails includes concrete blocks the original use of which was to block openings in the redundant military buildings.

A number of other areas of disturbance that are not obviously of First World War date or associated with any of the mountain bike trails have been recorded. Two pits are especially worthy of note because of their shared characteristics and their possible relationship to nearby pillboxes. One of these pits is situated 27m NNE of pillbox 3 on the inner ring of defence (NT18SE 25.07), where it has been dug into an E-facing slope. Subrectangular on plan, it measures 3.6m from E to W by 2.4m transversely and up to 1m in depth at the W (uphill) end. There is upcast on N and E sides, but it is most evident on the S, the side facing the pillbox. The second pit has been dug into a W-facing slope 33m NNW of pillbox 1 on the inner ring of defence (NT18SE 25.10). It, too, is subrectangular on plan, but smaller, measuring 2.3m from N to S by 1.9m transversely and up to 0.7 in depth at the S end. Upcast from the pit is most on the S, the side facing the pillbox. The growth of mature trees on the edge of both pits indicates that neither is likely to date any later than 1970-1980, and they could be a lot earlier. Given their similar respective positions in relation to a pillbox it seems likely that they were dug as part of an exercise by a military or quasi-military group. This interpretation is supported by the presence of numerous other, but shallower, excavations some of which have the appearance of being bivouac sites or shell scrapes, the latter being shallow excavations designed to shelter an individual from direct or indirect gunfire.

Roads and paths

The main road through the battery entered Braehead Plantation close to its N end, some 60m SW of Pillbox No.6 on the Outer Ring (NT18SE 25.15). It had reached that point by virtue of another length of road that had been built by the military E from a pre-existing track that linked Barns Farm with the shore at the ruins of the St Bridget’s Church (NT18SE 2), a distance of about 850m. Within the northern section of the woodland the military appear to have followed, where possible, an existing track that is depicted on the OS 6-inch map (Fife 1856, Sheet 40). However, it is most unlikely that this track would have been in a fit enough state to transport all the material required to build the battery. More specifically, a roadway able to support extremely heavy and bulky loads would have been required for the delivery and installation of the two 9.2-inch guns. Today, the track that was effectively turned into a road by the military remains in good condition. It has been well engineered, measuring up to 5m across in places with a metalled surface at least 3m broad. Where necessary, the carriageway has been set into the rocky natural slope on the E and carried on an embankment on the W. The length of the section of road that runs from the N end of the woodland to the rear of the gun emplacements is about 440m but there appears to have been little or no requirement for heavy vehicles to proceed beyond this point. The track does continue, however, but it is narrower as it heads towards the barracks (NT18SE 25.06), negotiating a tight switch-back on the way, and ultimately the pier (NT18SE 25.08). This section is barely more than 3m in width, though for much of its length it has had to be terraced into the steep W-facing slope.

NT18SE 25.01 NT 17877 83404 and NT 17905 83439 Gun-emplacements

NT18SE 25.02 NT 17914 83482 Observation post (Battery)

NT18SE 25.03 NT 17880 83496 Magazine; Tramway

NT18SE 25.04 NT 17928 83528 Observation post

NT18SE 25.05 NT 17935 83543 Pillbox

NT18SE 25.06 NT 17799 83466 Barracks; Stores; Pillboxes

NT18SE 25.07 NT 17996 83491 Pillbox NT 17855 83305

NT18SE 25.08 NT 17709 83127 Pier

NT18SE 25.09 NT 17769 83161 Pillbox, Latrine

NT18SE 25.10 NT 17855 83309 Pillbox

NT18SE 25.11 NT 17899 83376 Pillbox, Latrine

NT18SE 25.12 NT 17641 83590 Pillbox, Latrine

NT18SE 25.13 NT 18289 83709 Pillbox, Latrine

NT18SE 25.14 NT 18379 83844 Pillbox, Latrine

NT18SE 25.15 NT 17809 83888 Pillbox, Latrine

NT18SE 25.16 NT 17816 83410 Telephone Exchange

NT18SE 25.17 NT 17936 83587 Latrine

NT18SE 25.18 NT 17734 83411 Latrine

NT18SE 25.19 NT 17777 83278 Latrine

NT18SE 25.20 NT 17896 83521 Water Storage Tank

NT18SE 25.21 NT 17866 83509 Warrant Officers’ Quarters

NT18SE 25.22 NT 17767 83402 Store, Office

NT18SE 25.23 NT 17783 83330 Officers’ Quarters, Kitchen

NT18SE 25.24 NT 17866 83489 Lamp Room

NT18SE 25.25 NT 17863 83429 Store, Graffiti

NT18SE 25.26 NT 17862 83419 Workshop

NT18SE 25.27 NT 17985 83553 Huts

NT18SE 25.28 NT 17791 83390 Huts

NT18SE 25.29 NT 17862 83845 Military Building

NT18SE 25.30 NT 17911 83552 Quarry

NT18SE 25.31 NT 17683 83327 Sewer

Visited by HES Archaeological Survey (J. Sherriff, A. McCaig), 9 August 2022.


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