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Hoy, Walls, Wee Fea Naval Communications And Operational Centre

Naval Signal Station (20th Century)

Site Name Hoy, Walls, Wee Fea Naval Communications And Operational Centre

Classification Naval Signal Station (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Hms Proserpine; Royal Naval Signal Station; Scapa Flow

Canmore ID 81770

Site Number ND29SE 2

NGR ND 29399 94456

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Walls And Flotta
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

ND29SE 2.00 29399 94456

ND29SE 2.01 ND 2961 9449 Buildings; Water Tanks

ND29SE 2.02 centred ND 2923 9430 Water tanks; Buildings

A large two storey brick and concrete building situated on the E-facing slope of Wee Fea. It measures about 42m by 16.5m overall and stands to approximately 14m in height on the SE side.

The walls are pierced by several openings including a series of eight oval vents or windows shaped like ships portholes. Two larger windows with shutters open from the SE elevation whilst another two oval 'portholes' can be seen on the NW. Several openings for pipes and cables are also visible on the building.

The roof is flat apart from a small brick and concrete extension part of which has viewing slits in the SW elevation. A metal signal lamp mounting survives on the SE side of the roof.

The interior has been cleared of all movable and most non-movable items, leaving a large second storey area, presumably the main signals room. A few wall fixings survive as do the wall marks of shelving and other items of non permanent furniture.

The building was the main Base HQ and Communications Centre for Scapa Flow under Naval Command and named HMS Proserpine. It became operational in 1943 and housed up to 230 Woman's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) staff to handle signals via telephone, teleprinter and radio including from ships moored at buoys in Scapa Flow. HMS Proserpine at Hoy was linked to 'Proserpine Thurso' the radio station at Bower, (ND26NE 28 and ND26SW 61.00) and the radar station near Cape Wrath, (Sango NC46NW 22.00).

Site Management (5 March 2014)

Large concrete, rectangular-plan World War II communications and signal station. Built into bank to NW with ditch between building and hill to NW and SW.NW ELEVATION: entrance door to left (missing timber forestair). Porthole opening to right flank; 2 more to right. Door set back to far left; stairs lead up to door. SW ELEVATION: small square window. External piping below.SE ELEVATION: numerous porthole openings; window to far left; ventilation slits. Advanced 3-sided section to right; windows in each face; ventilation slits. Window to far right.NE ELEVATION: 3 windows. Forestair to far right leading to door in right return.Flat roof; remains of signal mounting on roof, brick water tank and concrete structures.INTERIOR: stripped interior apart from one boiler.

During the World Wars, Lyness was strategically important due to its position at the entrance to Scapa Flow. Lyness formed the hub of the Royal Navy's base in Scapa Flow. The centre was very important in the success of the defence of Scapa Flow. According to Hewison; 'The Communications Centre was the culminating point in this vital sphere of wartime activity at Scapa', enabling direct communication by telephone and by radio telephone to all defence sectors in the Scapa perimeter. Using Morse code, light signalling, wireless and telecommunications, the Centre, with Stanger Head (also run by the Navy), controlled the shipping at Scapa. All main fleet buoys in the anchorage were connected by underwater cable to the Centre and then to the outside world. In connection with the nautical theme, the windows are shaped like portholes. Hewison illustrates how active this Centre was; staff numbers rose from 80 in November 1939 to 270 in 1944, 230 of them WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service), who handled 8,800 phone calls a day in 1943 and 1944. The Wee Fea Centre is a rare survival and a conspicuous landmark. (Historic Scotland)


Orkney Smr Note

This large impressive concrete structure on the hillside above Lyness was the control centre during WWII, from 1943, for the whole of naval operations in Scapa Flow. The signalling bridge and signal lamp mountings are still on the roof. Some of the windows are ship portholes.

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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