The Ness Battery, Hoy Sound, Orkney

Orkney is well known for prehistoric archaeology and indeed maritime remains from both world wars. Perhaps less well known are the WWI and WWII heritage sites that still exist on land.

Situated on Hoy Sound, Ness Battery guarded the western entrance to the naval base of Scapa Flow, Orkney. The site itself comprised several gun emplacements, searchlight positions, AA gun positions and a huge command centre which had the task of halting any hostile move through the Hoy Sound.


The impressive Ness Battery was the subject of a visit by our students last week. Guided through the complex by Andy Hollinrake, the students were given the full history of the site including stories of the personnel that worked to guard the Royal Navy warships anchored in Scapa Flow.

Andy related how each ship that appeared on the western approaches to Hoy Sound were signalled and ordered to stop and await inspection before sailing into the naval base. On one occasion the ferry from the Scottish mainland failed to stop when hailed and so was treated to a salvo of fire from the guns in the battery. The skipper soon heeded the signal, turned round and headed back to the mainland. Andy further elaborated on the story by saying that the gun loaders were so well trained that they could fire at such a rate that 3 or 4 shells could be in the air at once!

IMG_3896The huge, concrete protected gun positions were impressive in themselves, but in a way, the surviving huts (the only surviving examples of coast battery huts present in Britain) were even more impressive as they allowed us to glimpse into the lives of the men who operated this site. The Mess Hall was extraordinary as its walls were covered with an amazing mural depicting English rural life-complete with a windmill, half-timbered houses, wooded lanes and even a gypsy encampment.

A brilliant field visit and our thanks go to Andy Hollinrake for his on-site lecture and tour!

For more information on the Ness battery see

Dr Iain MacInnes: Scotland’s Forgotten War of Independence (1332-1357)?

A Blog post detailing the new book by Dr Iain MacInnes: Scotland’s Forgotten War of Independence (1332-1357). From our friends at the University of the Highlands and Islands Centre for History.

Scottish History Network

Perhaps ‘forgotten’ is the wrong word. Several historians have, after all, dealt with the period in question in some depth. But there can be little doubt that the war that commenced in 1332 – only three years after the death of King Robert I (‘Robert the Bruce’) in 1329 and the supposed ‘end’ of the First Scottish War of Independence – rests in the shadow of its more illustrious predecessor. In particular, popular awareness and understanding of the events of these years seems somewhat absent.

In part this is because the figures involved in the second war are often eclipsed in the public consciousness by those who rose to prominence during the First War of Independence. There is no William Wallace, no Robert Bruce, and no Edward I. In their place we have the lesser known Andrew Murray of Bothwell, John Randolph, earl of Moray, King David II, and (King)…

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