Scottish military maps, 20th century

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These military maps, dating from the 20th century, include very detailed plans of defensive works in and around the Forth and Clyde estuaries, constructed before and during the First World War. These were the largest-scale plans ever surveyed of these sites, many at a scale of 30 feet to one inch (1:360) with very regular contour lines every 5 feet, and intended for classified military use. They allow the terrain and defences to be scrutinised in minute detail, with whole islands and related coastal sites remodelled for military purposes. There are also plans relating to military training areas, and the construction of new barracks.

We have coverage of Aberdeen, Glen Affric, Ardhallow, Barry Links, Braefoot Point, Central Scotland, Cloch Point, Cramond Island, Dreghorn Barracks, Edinburgh Castle, Gretna / Longtown Hebrides Range Area, Inchcolm, Inchkeith, Inchmickery, and Portkil.

We have categorised these below into:

  1. Forth military defences (1911-18)
  2. Clyde military defences (1904-18)
  3. Military exercise maps (1904-1966)
  4. Barracks (1926-1939)
  5. Miscellaneous

Most of these plans were surveyed in the early 20th century running up to the 1960s by Ordnance Survey, working for the War Office.

In terms of content, purpose, authorship and intended audiences, these military maps share much in common with the Board of Ordnance military maps of Scotland in the 18th century. The Board of Ordnance was formally abolished in 1855, and thereafter, its mapping work was taken up by Ordnance Survey and the War Office. Within the War Office, the Intelligence Department, built around the Topographical and Statistical Department (IDWO), was responsible for maps. This unit expanded to employ twenty staff in the 1890s, becoming the Topographical Section, General Staff (TSGS) in 1905, and the Geographical Section General Staff (GSGS) in 1907. Ordnance Survey and GSGS continued to share information, expertise, mapping and personnel, especially for military mapping purposes. Ordnance Survey undertook substantial drawing and printing tasks for GSGS, and, as is the case for these maps, Ordnance Survey’s personnel and base maps were employed for illustrating Scottish defensive works in the 20th century.

1. Forth military defences (First World War)

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These plans of Braefoot Point, Cramond Island, Inchcolm, Inchkeith, and Inchmickery show the extensive fortification works in and around the Forth estuary leading up to and during the First World War. The militarisation of the Forth reflected the growing concerns in the Edwardian era over the vulnerability of the east coast of Scotland to invasion, particularly by German forces. Plans were drawn up showing the practicability of the east coast for landing - see, for example, these plans for the Forth Defences in 1907 and 1909. The need for defences was given further impetus by the development of Rosyth as a naval base from 1909, and as the principal support and repair base for warships of the Grand Fleet. Anchorages west of the Forth Bridge were the main concern at the start of the First World War, but from 1916, attentions moved further east. The new lines of defence and batteries on Inchkeith, Inchcolm and Inchmickery took full advantage of the scattering of the Forth islands, and the whole estuary was considered a ‘fortress’. Groups of guns and individual batteries on the islands were planned as elements of this wider whole, with interlocking fire, organised under a common control.

For further details, see:

See also Maps to accompany the Scottish coast defence scheme in 1907 and 1909 for Aberdeen, the Clyde, Forth and Tay.

Braefoot Point (Forth)

Plan of special survey war department site at Braefoot Point, Fifeshire, 1918.

The battery at Braefoot Point in Fife was planned in 1912, and probably built in 1914–15, protecting the northern end of the anti-submarine barrier that ran across the Forth from Cramond. By the time of the Ordnance Survey mapping for the War Office shown here in 1918, the site was disarmed. However, during the War, the battery had a defended perimeter comprising a firing trench, a ‘palisade’ fence, and a barbed wire entanglement. There was a barracks incorporated in the perimeter, with the outward facing side and both end walls loop-holed for defence. Although the original defensive perimeter still existed, two large camps were built to accommodate the wartime garrison and these were enclosed within a larger barbed-wire fence. By 1918 there were ten blockhouses, four in an inner and six in an outer line. Sadly, most of these military structures are shown on Sheet 7 of the set, which we are missing.

Extracted, with thanks, from Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE website - Braefoot Point.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Index1918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 11918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 21918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 31918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 41918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 51918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 61918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 71918Courtesy of the British Library
Braefoot Point Plan No. 81918Map.Area.C18:13(05)
Braefoot Point Plan No. 91918Map.Area.C18:13(05)

Cramond Island (Forth)

Cramond Island was fortified in 1915 as part of the Middle defences of the Firth of Forth, primarily to cover the anti-submarine barrier that ran from Cramond to Braefoot, via Inchmickery and Inchcolm islands. The Island was fortified with two 12-pounder guns and also had an Electric Light emplacement. The island was re-armed at the beginning of the Second World War and two 12-pounders were re-mounted on the original emplacements.

Extracted, with thanks, from Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE website - Cramond Island.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Plan of special survey Cramond Island, Firth of Forth, North1915Map.Area.C18:16(1)

Inchcolm (Forth)

The defences on Inchcolm Island surround the Augustinian monastery, first established as a priory in the twelfth century, and elevated to abbey status in 1235. Over the following centuries, Inchcolm was the subject of a number of attacks by English forces who plundered the monastery, and following the Reformation and the demise of the abbey, the island’s strategic location in the Forth resulted in it being fortified against new enemies. Gun batteries were established at the eastern end of the island during the Napoleonic Wars, which were still evident in the 1820s when Charles Hutton visited and mapped the island. Inchcolm was remanned for defence in March 1915 with a battery of eight 12-pounder Quick Firing guns and two or three Defence Electric Lights (powerful searchlights to illuminate targets at night). The guns and lights were intended to protect the anti-submarine boom that controlled access up the Forth from this point. Two of the guns were placed in the western part of the island (“H” Group) and six in the eastern part, around the summit of that part of the island (“O” Group facing north; “M” Group facing NE and “L” Group facing SE). The Battery Command Post and the Electric Light Director were behind these six guns. The map shows three electric lights, all in the eastern part of the island, one at the northern corner, at two at the eastern tip.

Inchcolm was to be provided with a far heavier armament in 1916-17, as part of the wider reorganisation of Forth defences. Two of the 12-pounder guns were to be retained (“O” Group). A battery of four 4-inch Quick-Firing guns was built just in advance of the other 12-pounder emplacements on the east part (“M” and “L”) and at the top of the hill a powerful battery of two 6-inch guns was built along with a new Battery Control Post. In the western part of the island the “H” Group of two 12-pounders was replaced by four 4.7-inch Quick-Firing guns. By 1921 Inchcolm was the site of the Fire Control command for the whole Middle Line of the Forth defence. A Fire Control Post was built on the west part of the island possibly around this time, and used again in the Second World War.In 1930 the station and its equipment were dismantled: the 6-inch guns were sent to Inchkeith. The 4-inch guns were returned to the depot and the 4.7-inch guns were broken up for scrap.

Inchcolm was re-armed in October 1939, when two 12-pounders were installed on the old 6-inch gun emplacements. A twin 6-pounder gun was later installed, supposedly on one of the old 4-inch emplacements, but possibly on a new emplacement and various lighter guns (Bofors AA and 2-pounder ‘pom pom’) were installed on the island.

Extracted, with thanks, from Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE website - Inchcolm.

Plan of special survey war department site at Inchcolm, Fifeshire, 1918.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Inchcolm Plan No 11918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 1A1918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 21918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 31918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 31918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 41918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 41918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 51918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 51918Map.Area.C18:13(02)
Inchcolm Plan No 61918Map.Area.C18:13(02)

Inchkeith (Forth)

Inchkeith was fortified from the 1880s onwards, with steadily expanding armed forces. By the early 20th century, local firing trenches had been constructed to guard the bays at the northern end of the island from landing. The approach from Leith Harbour (the main working harbour of the island) to the West Battery was also guarded by infantry. By 1911 the defences had been upgraded to include a triple or quadruple ‘wire entanglement’ across the north-facing beach at ‘Kinghorn Harbour’, another restricting access from the bay known as ‘Kirkcaldy Harbour’, and a third across the southern frontage of the South Fort. About a dozen firing trenches were dug, many fronted with concrete walls, to cover areas vulnerable to landing. The southern approach to the South Fort was strongly defended by a trench, lined with concrete, about 75 metres long, mostly roofed with railway sleepers. By 1915 nine blockhouses had been built at particularly vulnerable points, and this number had increased to 14 by 1918. By the end of the First World War in 1918, more than half of the perimeter of the island was closed off by barbed wire entanglements, and a far more complex series of firing trenches had been dug.

Extracted, with thanks, from Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE website - Inchkeith.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Inchkeith, Sheet XLV.1.3, 1:5001911Map.Area.C18:13(04)
Inchkeith, Sheet XLV.1.8, 1:5001911Map.Area.C18:13(04)
Inchkeith, Sheet XLI.13.12, 1:5001911Map.Area.C18:13(04)
Inchkeith, Sheet XLI.13.17, 1:5001911Map.Area.C18:13(04)
Inchkeith, Sheet XLI.13.18, 1:5001911Map.Area.C18:13(04)
Inchkeith, Sheet XLI.13.22, 1:5001911Map.Area.C18:13(04)
Inchkeith, Sheet XLI.13.23, 1:5001911Map.Area.C18:13(04)
Inchkeith (Kinghorn Ph.) Fifeshire, 1:2,500 1914Map.Area.C18:13(03)
Inchkeith (Kinghorn Ph.) Fifeshire, 1:2,500 1914Map.Area.C18:13(03)

Inchmickery (Forth)

Inchmickery was first manned in March 1915, at the same time as Inchcolm, when a detachment of 72 NCOs and men landed on the two islands from Leith Royal Garrison Artillery. The large concrete gun emplacements originally housed four 12-pounder guns on the highest ridge of the island, but these were upgraded with guns transferred from the island of Inchgarvie, below the Forth Rail Bridge, in late 1916. Behind the guns were large magazines, stores and shelters for officers and men, as well as latrines and a sewage pipe. Initially there were two searchlights but, as shown here, these expanded to four ‘Electric Lamp Emplacements’ by the end of the War. Although the battery garrison was not entirely self-sufficient, it had been planned as a practical, working battery with an engine room and cooling tanks, messes, canteens, stores, accommodation for officers and sergeants, a plumber’s shop, carpenter’s shop, smithy, ablution rooms, bath rooms and cook houses. Inchmickery also protected the anti-submarine boom that ran from Burntisland Sands in the north to Cramond Island in the south. Some of the guns were removed in 1917 and the rest in 1924, but the island was refortified, with several defences rebuilt between 1939-42.

Extracted, with thanks, from Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE website - Inchmickery.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Plan of special survey Inchmickery, Firth of Forth1918Map.Area.C18:13(01)

2. Clyde military defences (First World War)

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Protecting the Clyde, with its important shipbuilding and industrial works, ranked close behind the military defence of the Forth. The Clyde contained 90% of Scottish shipbuilding and marine engineering activity in 1914. Its three main dockyards came under Admiralty control at the outbreak of war, a process that was extended to the rest of the industry under the Munitions of War Act of 1915.

Fort Matilda, between Gourock and Greenock, was rearmed with modern guns, a new battery was sited at Portkil, opposite Fort Matilda, on the north shore of the Clyde, and further west, a territorial artillery garrison and searchlight was set up at Ardhallow, between Dunoon and Innellan (built 1901-05).

Ardhallow (Clyde)

A territorial artillery garrison and searchlight was set up at Ardhallow, between Dunoon and Innellan (built 1901-05). There were two 6-inch guns placed at Ardhallow battery which stood in open emplacements. During the Second World War a gun-house was constructed over each emplacement. These two detailed plans provide a survey of the site in advance of the placement of these defences.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Clyde, Ardhallow [special survey], Sheet 11904Map.Area.C18:19(08)
Clyde, Ardhallow [special survey], Sheet 21904Map.Area.C18:19(08)

Cloch Point (Clyde)

The Cloch Point coastal artillery battery, situated three miles south-west of Gourock, on the opposite bank of the estuary from Dunoon, was built during 1916-17 by the Royal Engineers and infantry. Initially, two guns were removed from Portkil Battery in September 1916 to be mounted at Cloch Point. The Clyde estuary is only about 2.7 km wide here, but the guns had a range of almost 11 km, firing 45 kg shells that could pierce armour. Another function of the battery was to cover an anti-submarine boom strung across the river from Cloch Point lighthouse.

Extracted, with thanks, from Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE website - Cloch Point.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Clyde, Cloch Point, Sheet 11918Map.Area.C18:19(09)
Clyde, Cloch Point, Sheet 21918Map.Area.C18:19(09)
Clyde, Cloch Point, Sheet 31918Map.Area.C18:19(09)
Clyde, Cloch Point, Sheet 41918Map.Area.C18:19(09)

Portkil (Clyde)

Portkil was a powerful battery of two 6-inch naval guns, capable of tackling a large enemy warship coming up the River Clyde, and two 4.7-inch Quick Fire guns (intended to tackle faster, smaller vesssels). This battery was paired with another, at Fort Matilda, on the south side of the estuary. The estuary is about 2.2 km wide here, but the larger guns had a range of almost 11 km, firing an armour-piercing shell weighing 45kg.

The battery was built between November 1900 and March 1904. The battery originally comprised the pair of 4.7-inch emplacements at the east end, and the pair of 6-inch emplacements about 180m away to the west. At a point mid-way between them were a cookhouse, toilets and a store. In both pairs of emplacements the gun pits lay above a magazine building, deeply buried in the ground on the side exposed to an enemy.These two detailed plans provide a survey of the site in advance of the placement of these defences.

Towards the end of 1908 plans were in hand to build a new combined battery control post and Electric Light Director control post, just above and behind the 6-inch guns. Further buildings, offices for the Royal Artillery staff and the resident Royal Engineers, stores and quarters for a caretaker, were all being designed at the same time. By 1916 a large accommodation camp comprising 10 large barrack huts and accompanying stores, cookhouse etc had been built to the east of the battery, protected by the lie of the land from enemy fire. Defensive trenches were dug on the tip of Portkil Point and the whole landward side of the battery was surrounded by a barbed wire entanglement to protect it from a possible landward attack.

Extracted, with thanks, from Historic Environment Scotland's CANMORE website - Portkil.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Clyde, Portkil, Sheet 11904Map.Area.C18:19(10)
Clyde, Portkil, Sheet 21904Map.Area.C18:19(10)

3. Military exercise maps

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Scotland’s topography and geography lent itself well to the training of service personnel throughout the twentieth century. From a British military perspective, the rugged, mountainous Highlands with often challenging weather, surrounded by a complex coastline and islands, with a variety of sea conditions and strong tides, were enhanced by Scotland’s relatively sparse resident population and the relative inaccessibility of the area for foreign Continental enemies to see. Around a quarter of a million Allied soldiers received special training in Scotland during the Second World War, many in the Arisaig and Morar Protected Area (out of bounds for anyone without the relevant passes), supplemented by many other sites including Derry Lodge in the Cairngorms, Arran, Inveraray and Largs. Much of the training for the D-Day amphibious landings took place on Scottish beaches.

Glen Affric

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Glen Affric - Strathconon training area 1969Map.Area.C18:15(02)

Barry Links

Barry Buddon Ness has been a dedicated military training ground throughout the 20th century. The site comprises around 2,300 acres (930 hectares) of dunes, foreshore and rough ground with isolated stands of trees, jutting out into the Tay between Monifieth and Carnoustie. It was used from the mid-nineteenth century by the Forfarshire Rifle Volunteers, by the Panmure Battery of the Forfarshire Artillery Brigade, and by a Royal Naval Reserve Battery. In 1897, the land was sold by Lord Panmure to the War Office, and it remained in their ownership ever since, still serving today as a major training centre for infantry and light artillery, with around 30,000 soldiers passing through the camp every year.

This plan of Barry Buddon Ness by the War Office dates from 1939 and is based partly on the Ordnance Survey six-inch to the mile topographical mapping of 1923, but with updates and enlarged to 9 inches to the mile (1:7,040). Apart from the Dundee to Arbroath Railway to the north, and the Barry Buddon Ness Lighthouses in the south, virtually all other man-made features have a military purpose. The long range of numbered camps in the north, running alongside the railway, had few permanent buildings, but extensive demarcated locations for cook houses, wash houses and segregated latrines for officers and men. The main rifle ranges were in the east, the longest stretching 1,700 yards, with artillery ranges and huts, bomb-proof shelters and stores all lying to the south. The main set of permanent buildings of the Camp itself were in the centre west, including the Officers Quarters and Mess, many storage buildings, stables, a hospital and hutments, and an R.A.F. Landing Ground. Several rifle ranges and target sheds lay further to the west.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
General plan of Barry Links.1939Map.Area.C18:20(2)

Central Scotland

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Manoeuvre map [of North-East and part of Central Scotland]1907Map.Area.C18:20(1)

Hebrides Range Area

This declassified military map by the cartographic unit within the Ministry of Defence shows the danger area of the new rocket range sited in the late 1950s at the north-western tip of South Uist. The main missile testing range shown was built by the Royal Air Force between 1957 and 1958 to test the Corporal missile, Britain and America’s first guided nuclear weapon. Although the Corporal missile was quickly superseded by other missiles by the 1960s, including the longer-range Sergeant and Lance tactical nuclear missiles, over 200 launches of rockets took place between 1962 and 1982, some reaching altitudes of nearly 200 kilometres. In the early 2000s, the airfield underwent an upgrade, allowing it to participate in the Eurofighter Typhoon project, test firing advanced air-to-air missiles.

The Ministry of Defence decision to site the new rocket range here in the 1950s was based on a number of essential geographical requirements which this map reveals: a level stretch of beach over 3 miles long and a mile deep for the range launch area; an area of sea extending around 250 miles by 100 miles where the rockets would fall, relatively free from shipping and containing an uninhabited island in the line of fire to monitor the trajectory of the guided missile; high land on both flanks of the range launch area and in its rear for the siting of radar stations; and two airfields of 6,000 feet, or extendible to that size, within reasonable distance. The recently depopulated island group of St Kilda was perfectly positioned for a radar tracking station, constructed at the same time, whilst the support centre for the rocket range is closely associated with Benbecula Airport at Balivanich.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Hebrides range area1966Map.Area.C18:21(4)

4. Barracks

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These plans of barracks or proposed barracks were made between 1926 and 1939. For Aberdeen and Dreghorn, these are plans in advance of construction. The proposed site for barracks for the Gordon Highlanders Regiment in 1926 (then based in the Castlehill Barracks in Aberdeen) did not materialise, and the Gordon Barracks were constructed at Bridge of Don (1933-35). The very detailed survey of the site for the new Dreghorn Barracks, in the grounds of Dreghorn Castle, was followed by construction in 1937-39. There are also a set of building plans showing the complete internal layout of Edinburgh Castle in the 1930s. As well as showing the internal uses of buildings and rooms within Edinburgh Castle, the plans also show the different scheduling designations under the 'Memorandum for Alteration and Maintenance of Historic Buildings, 1929'.

Aberdeen - Gordon Highlanders depot

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Plan of special survey: proposed new depot for Gordon Highlanders at Aberdeen 1926Map.Area.C18:45 Aberdeen (1)

Dreghorn Barracks, Edinburgh

A detailed map at 1:500 scale of the site for the new Dreghorn Barracks, which would be constructed in 1937-39 in the grounds of Dreghorn Castle. Dreghorn Castle was a mansion dating from the 17th century, and extended around 1805, which was acquired by the War Office in 1893, and eventually demolished in 1955.

Site for new R.A. Barracks, Dreghorn (Redford), Midlothian, 1936.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Sheet 11936Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (6)
Sheet 21936Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (6)
Sheet 31936Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (6)
Sheet 4 & 51936Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (6)
Sheet 61936Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (6)
Sheet 71936Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (6)

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle provisional plan.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Sheet 1 - Edinburgh Castle Block Plan1939Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (7)
Sheet 2 - Main Entrance. Guard Room, Etc1939Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (7)
Sheet 3 - Barrack Block. New Barracks1939Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (7)
Sheet 4 - Military Hospital1939Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (7)
Sheet 5 - Plans of ‘Old Governor’s House’1939Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (7)
Sheet 6 - Gymnasium, Baths and Accessory Buildings1939Map.Area.C18:45 Edinburgh (7)

Miscellaneous

Gretna / Longtown

The original First World War cordite munitions factory at Gretna was largely dismantled in 1919-1920, but in the late 1930s there were detailed plans made for constructing new military ordinance works on the Gretna site. These maps, printed in 1938, essentially took the standard topography from the OS six-inch second edition maps, published ca. 1900, and overlaid them with much more detailed height information, shown as red contours. The new sheet lines also allowed the Gretna / Longtown site to be more easily visualised than on the standard OS six-inch maps, with their different county sheet lines and meridians. In the event, the decision was taken to site the new propellant factory at Bishopton.

Sheet Name and Number    Date of Publication     Shelfmark
Gretna1938Map.Area.C18:12(01)
Gretna special sheet1938Map.Area.C18:12(02)