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Essential maintenance

HES is currently undertaking essential maintenance on our web services. This will limit access to services in the following ways:

- Subscription access for HES online services will be unavailable (Scran, NCAP)

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Tentsmuir Forest, Quadrant Tower

Observation Post (20th Century)

Site Name Tentsmuir Forest, Quadrant Tower

Classification Observation Post (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Bombing Range; Tentsmuir Sands; Tentsmuir Coast Defences

Canmore ID 84180

Site Number NO52SW 1

NGR NO 5007 2485

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

Archaeology Notes

NO52SW 1 4007 2485

Formerly entered as NO42SE 58: see running list under NO42SE.

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

NO42NE 71-3, 117 and 127

NO42SE 56-7, 77-9 and 81, and

NO52NW 1-8.

An observation tower is situated some 700m NNE of the car park picnic area in Tentsmuir Forest. Built of concrete on brick legs the 'quadrant tower' was used in conjunction with the bombing range on Tentsmuir Sands.

J Guy 1994; NMRS MS 810/3, 139

Site recorded by Maritime Fife during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, Fife Ness to Newburgh 1996

(Recorded as NO52SW58)

Site recorded by Headland Archaeology Ltd 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 5008 2485 WWII observation post (NMRS NO42SE 58)..

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Fife Council, Forest Enterprise

S Carter 1997.

NO 4007 2485 This site, a World War 2 observation post, 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 conclusions of this report are slightly different from those of J Guy's (above). Rather than use in conjunction with a bombing range, the team thinks that the observation tower formed part of the coastal defences of Tentsmuir. These were built mainly between 1940 and 1942 when the threat of a sea borne attack were at their greatest. The defences were thought necessary due to Tentsmuir's low sandy coastline being suitable for attack and also the nearby Leuchars airfield needing protection.

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.).

The observation (quadrant) towers along the Tentsmuir coast were built to observe the fall of bombs on Tentsmuir Sands, used as a bombing range during World War II. Most are quadrant towers or variants of, and are spaced along the coast to allow observation of the fall of bombs from aircraft.

In addition, records show that Tentsmuir Sands was used regularly by aircraft from Leuchars and other airfields for bombing practice. Photographic evidence of such use can be found in a concrete aiming arrow at c. NO 503 255, a built circular target area at c. NO 504 260, along with at least one bomb crater all visible on RAF vertical air photographs (106G/Scot/UK 33, 3072-3073, flown 25 April 1946), suggesting that the towers are connected with this activity rather than any anti-invasion purpose.

Information from Guy (J Guy, via e-mail, February 2005) also confirms that the towers main purpose was for observation connected to training on the bombing range.

Examples of similar structures can be found all over the country (e.g. see NH87SW 45 - Nigg Bombing range, ND35SW 52, Ackergill and NX96SE 17 and NX96SE 18 ), all being used for the same purpose and this type of tower is also found on inland bombing ranges.

Other observation or command posts can be found on Tentsmuir Sands, but they are not of the quadrant tower type.

Information from RCAHMS (DE), February 2005.


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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