Index

An A-Z index of all Frontline Ulster posts.
  • A study of the pillbox at Murlough Beach
    For those of you who are familiar with the beach at Murlough Bay nature reserve, you may have noticed a rather unassuming pile of rubble. Without interpretation you may have thought this had been dumped some decades ago, but it provides a convenient sitting place or playground for adventurous children.…
  • All pillboxes are concrete, but some are more concrete than others
    I am going to make a bold statement that may cause some heated discussion. All pillboxes were made of concrete. Concrete is an incredible building material, first used by the Romans and very much still in use today. As a raw material it can be transported relatively easily; it can…
  • Anti-Tank Obstacles
    These rudimentary concrete obstacles were produced to a basic pattern with many local variations and flourishes, and manufactured in their thousands. Their original intent was to delay and channel advancing enemy armour during an invasion of mainland Great Britain. Many were sold and repurposed after the war, while others have…
  • Armoured Fish and Chip Van
    On 8 April 1971, a high priority order was received for three vehicles to be fitted out for use as fish and ship vans in Northern Ireland. After some deliberation, it was decided to use the Bedford J Type (J2SZ2, code No. 2660-0149) Hawson Body large van, three of which…
  • Battery Observation Post – DRF
    Often found in coastal artillery forts, this concrete pedestal would have been home to a Depression Range Finder (DRF), an instrument designed in the 1880s used to calculate the distance and bearing of enemy shipping in order for the battery to engage. It represented a technology top change in coastal…
  • Blimp over the Border
    In the mid-1990s trials were being undertaken at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, England for a new type of airborne surveillance platform. In the days before Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) were common place in military aviation, it was thought that an airship could be used in Northern Ireland to provide surveillance…
  • British Coastal Defences of Ascension Island
    A lesser-known British Colonial outpost, Ascension Island could be the secret lair of a Bond villain. It is a dormant volcano, approximately 88 square kilometres in size, 1,000 miles from the coast of Africa; and more often than not these days is surrounded by sharks. There is no indigenous population;…
  • British Coastal Defences of the Falkland Islands
    This article looks at the coastal defences of the Falkland Islands between 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.
  • Derryard aftermath; the introduction of the rifle grenade into Northern Ireland
    The introduction of the AP rifle launched grenade came after the lethal IRA ambush at Derryard just after 1600 hrs on 13 December 1989. This prompted an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) to be issued; returning the Luchaire 40mm Rifle Grenade. Along the southern border of Northern Ireland, just north of…
  • DIY Photographic Marker
    After years of taking what appear to be random images of old buildings and features, most of which consisted of WW2 defences, I thought I should really try to ‘professionalise’ some of these images, with one of my driving forces in taking them being to record the sites as they deteriorate.…
  • Downhill Radio Navigation Site
    The use of radio technology transformed the air war during the Second World War. In a short space of time RADAR was born and fine tuned to detect and track approaching enemy aircraft, radio direct finding (RDF) was used to detect illicit communications, ships and submarines as well as tracking…
  • Field Fortifications: How thick was thick enough?
    The ability to construct quick but effective fortifications in the field has historically fallen to the soldiers of the Royal Engineers. This dirty and backbreaking work may not be precise, but it is based very soundly on experience and scientific experimentation. During the 19th and 20th centuries, as weaponry and…
  • Flickr Album Locations
    The problem with not having a single platform that best collates the information and photographs I have collected over the years is trying to establish a solution that best shares this information in a user-friendly manner. The map below has been populated with the albums I currently have on Flickr…
  • Fortifications of Operation Banner
    Between 1969 and 2007, both the British Army and civilian population were under attack. It was a dynamic conflict, both in terms of geography and threat, during which there would not necessarily be a winner, just a lesser loser. And there were three sides; republicans, loyalists and the security forces,…
  • Garmin Foretrex 601
    The Garmin Foretrex 601 is a long overdue upgrade to the Foretrex Series. This small wrist mounted device offers GPS, GLONASS and Galileo support for accurate and reliable GPS positioning, coupled with barometric elevation tracking, sunrise / set and tide almanac built in. Powered by two AAA batteries it can provide…
  • Glimpse into the Past
    As part of my research into the 36 Maintenance Unit Snodland, I visited a site close to the location of this unit during WW2. While this was only a preliminary visit, on a site which is inherently difficult to gain access to and off the beaten track; there was a gem…
  • Guarding the Coast
    The British Isles and Ireland are island nations dependant on their domination of the coastline and waters surrounding them. With estimates of upwards of 11,000 miles and 1,700 miles respectively, the task of providing protection for and communication around these vast coastlines is a problem that has been attempted numerous…
  • How long did it take to build a pillbox?
    25 unskilled labourers, 6 carpenters, 4 steel fixers, 2 concrete workers, 1 mixer driver, 1 superintending officer One of the privileges of collecting contemporary military manuals (see the full list of publications in my library here), is that every now and again I stumble across a snippet of information that…
  • How much property did the army requisition?
    This article aims to bring together a number of sources of information I have in order to demonstrate the extent of requisitions undertaken by the army, typically for short duration, in support of surges in violence but also for the accommodation of the newly formed Ulster Defence Regiment in the 1970s.
  • Interpreting Burray Ness
    A rare military site dating back to the height of the First World War remains virtually untouched on an exposed headland at Burray Ness, on the Isle of Burray, south of Orkney Mainland. Constructed at some stage between 1914 – 1918 (most likely in around 1915 when the scale of…
  • Kilroot Coastal Artillery Battery
    A site visit and photographic report on the history and current condition of Kilroot Battery, a 1910 coastal artillery battery on the western coast of Belfast Lough. The fort was in use until 1956 when the coastal artillery units were disbanded, and during the Second World War it saw expansion…
  • Lower Medway Pillboxes
    I first published this article in 2018 when I had spent some time in Kent and after walking the River Medway around Maidstone realised that a large proportion of the Second World War pillboxes still remained. There is no interpretation with this article, it is purely a record of each…
  • Military Stones
    Military boundary stones, not to be confused with Ordnance Survey datum points, are somewhat of an enigma. Historically they delineate boundaries of military sites, however their use is not consistent – some sites have them, others do not, and as for design, there are many different styles. Their use appears…
  • Mobile Screens
    In order to separate crowds of protesters and offer some protection to security forces and members of the opposite community, a series of mobile sight screens were introduced; constructed out of hessian and timber and mounted on the side of a 4-ton truck, imaged above. The resulting screens were 16…
  • Nightingale Song
    On Tuesday 03 May 2016 I took a walk into Chattenden Woods, on the Hoo Peninsula, Kent. I had heard that Nightingales often congregate here, and as such the site is of national importance for these now rare songbirds. I was lucky to hear their song throughout the evening, and…
  • North Irish Horse Camp, Antrim
    Located on what is now Steeple Road PSNI Training Centre, was a 440 bed camp of the North Irish Horse. Very little is evident today of what was vacated over 100 years ago, but the site boundary is almost identical to what the reserve cavalry soldiers would recognise from their…
  • Oil Berth 3
    It may sound somewhat unassuming, but Oil Berth 3, sitting at the entrance to Musgrave Channel in Belfast Port, was once at the centre of a fascinating piece of Northern Irish history. In 1969, with the escalation of the IRA campaign, the Army deployed on Operation BANNER. This surge of troops…
  • Parachute Mine Defused in London, October 1969
    Having conducted some research in the Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal (BD) archives at Carver Barracks, I came across a fascinating report covering the neutralising of a WW2 German Type GC parachute mine at Burghley Road, London, by Major G.R. Fletcher MBE, Royal Engineers. When I started to read the report…
  • Portballintrae 1880 / 2017
  • Postcards from Ballykinlar
    Ballykinlar (also Ballykinler) Camp started life as a firing range for the 5th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles as they trained for the war in South Africa, fighting the Boers. At the time they were garrisoned in Downpatrick, 8 miles away, and the coastal land at Ballykinlar offered good real estate…
  • Pre-OCTU Wrotham Camp
    The purpose built Pre-Officer Cadet Training Unit at Wrotham Camp was reputed to be at one stage the largest training establishments in the world with up to 10,000 cadets on site at one time. The first intake into Wrotham was in August 1942 and the camp continued training potential Officers…
  • Prefabricated Military Accommodation of the Early 20th Century
    The image above is a 1918 photograph of a Dechets barrack hut constructed by the Tarrant Company in France utilising recycled wood from boxes and crates (IWM Q6769 A hut made of old boxes and crates by women carpenters working at the Tarrant Hut Workshops, June 1918). The purpose of…
  • Protecting Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure
    With any conflict comes a risk to national infrastructure by terrorist organisations as a means to exert power and create panic and unrest among the population in the name of their cause. Long before the official start of Operation Banner in 1969, local Government and security forces (SF) were concerned…
  • Radar in Northern Ireland 1939 – 1945
    One rainy afternoon in lockdown, I thought I would do some research on finding evidence for the WW2 radar sites that were once dotted around Northern Ireland. Finding photographic evidence of what were once secret installations is still quite tricky almost 80 years on! I have been fortunate enough to…
  • Randalstown Camp
    Dissected by the M22 motorway at Randalstown, an army camp capable of housing more than 5,000 British and Irish soldiers in preparation for the trenches of France once sat, with little trace remaining today. With 65 million untrained men called up to fight in WW1, a problem arose in how…
  • Second World War Aircraft Direction Finding Part I – Background
    The start of the twentieth century was a post-industrial technological arms race, and the traces left behind are like a timeline of pioneering developments in an attempt to outsmart our adversaries. Two of those boundary breaking technologies were wireless telegraphy, and aviation. The story of Radio Direction Finding, or RDF,…
  • Second World War Aircraft Direction Finding Part II – Locating the Sites
    In the second part of this article I will pull together information and images from across a number of sources in an attempt to interpret some of the cryptic remains from what I believe to be HFDF sites across the country. Table of Contents Siting the StationsHFDF Station DesignBallyhalbert HFDF…
  • Second World War Microwave Experiments
    The 1930s and 1940s saw huge advances in the development of radio and radar technologies, with one of the most sophisticated networks of Radio Direction Finding (RDF) being deployed in the form of Chain Home stations around the coast of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Running concurrently with the development…
  • Site Visit – Ballygomartin Radio Station
    Originally, I believed this site was an Air Traffic Control (ATC) Exchange or Repeater Station. Since then I have learned that the site was a microwave radio link connecting Northern Ireland with mainland Great Britain, via a corresponding site at Enoch Hill, near Stranraer in Scotland. I originally visited twice…
  • Site Visit – Baxter Block, Ballykinlar
    Baxter Block as it was later known was an iconic accommodation cluster within Ballykinlar (Ballykinler) Camp in Country Down. This portion of the accommodation had a long and colourful history, first being relocated from The Curragh camp in order to house the newly raised 36th (Ulster) Division, and later to…
  • Site Visit – Belvoir Park Hospital
    Situated in the leafy suburbs of South Belfast, Belvoir Park Hospital has lain empty since 2006 when the remaining healthcare operations moved to the City Hospital. Belvoir opened 100 years earlier in 1906 as the Purdysburn Fever Hospital and had a long and fruitful history being the site of Northern Irelands…
  • Site Visit – Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen
    Situated firmly in East Berlin sat a secret and prohibited district, left off maps, and surrounded by high walls, barbed wired and armed guards. Inside lay a facility that bred paranoia on the part of the guards, and fear and terror on the part of the prisoners. Their houses raided…
  • Site Visit – Cabin Hill, Belfast
    Acquired by Campbell College in 1925 as their preparatory school, a house at Cabin Hill dates back to 1786, although the main house standing today was built in 1860 and extended in 1902. Having seen a rich and vibrant history as a fine house and latter school, Cabin Hill now…
  • Site Visit – Cabin Hill, Belfast
    A photographic visit.
  • Site Visit – Clancy Barracks, Dublin
    The barracks and army ordnance buildings of Clancy Barracks are located on the south side of the River Liffy in Dublin. Constructed in around 1798 and originally known as Islandbridge (Island Bridge) Barracks, the site was renamed in 1942 after Peader Clancy killed during the War of Independence in 1920.…
  • Site Visit – Crumlin Road Gaol
    After being built in 1845, Crumlin Road Gaol, later to be named HM Prison Crumlin Road, was operational for 151 years until its closure in 1996. Through its rich and troubled life, it saw the incarceration of many notable personalities, including some of the country’s politicians during the many years of…
  • Site Visit – Defence Area 14, Cuckmere Haven
    The Defence Area (Number 14) at Cuckmere Haven is still a fascinating place to explore; even 76 years after construction almost all the defences still exist and the landscape is relatively unchanged. Identified in the German plans for Operation Sea Lion, the flood basin running inland from Cuckmere Haven would…
  • Site Visit – Divis Key Point
    Divis KP or Divis Key Point as it was known, was a remote communications station situated on the bleak Divis Mountain to the west of Belfast overlooking the City. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the site little is publicly known about it, however as part of the normalisation…
  • Site Visit – Dunree Fort, County Donegal
    Meaning ‘Fort of the Heather,’ Dunree Fort is now a national museum in Donegal. Originally a fort was erected on the cliffs in 1798 to guard against French invasion. The much expanded site today consists of 4 distinct areas of interest; the original fort which is now a museum (and was…
  • Site Visit – Fort Burgoyne
    A collection of photographs that were taken on a tour by the Land Trust in 2007.
  • Site Visit – Gilnahirk Y Station
    Finishing its wartime role in January 1946, and taken over in 1947 by the Government Communication Headquarters, the station at Ginahirk was one of 3 listening stations around the UK built in 1942 to intercept enemy wireless communications in conjunction with the code-breakers at Bletchley Park. Closed as a listening…
  • Site Visit – Grain Tower Battery
    Grain Tower Battery was constructed between 1879 and 1855 of granite in an Martello tower style. Unique by virtue that it was constructed off shore on a mud-spit in the River Medway, and only accessible by foot along a (muddy) brick causeway at low tide. The fort was initially armed…
  • Site Visit – Ide Hill Ammunition Park
    As the war in Europe intensified and the struggle for the protection of Britain grew, so did the need for the storage of more and more ammunition. Storage predictions proved difficult, and soon the new but limited RAF underground storage sites became overwhelmed and the introduction of Air Ammunition Parks…
  • Site Visit – Lenan Head Fort, County Donegal
    Situated on a rocky headland, Lenan Head Fort (sometimes spelt Leenan) is a British built coastal artillery battery from the late 19th Century. Standing isolated for over 120 years, the Victorian site was only in use for less than 40 years, but stood proudly on the cusp of the Atlantic protecting the deep-water…
  • Site Visit – Lodge Hill Anti-Aircraft Site
    Sitting within the Medway District, the anti-aircraft emplacement at Lodge Hill is seen as having national significance, and as such was scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (reference) in 2012, and it is believed that this site, and its ‘sister’ site at Beacon Hill are the…
  • Site Visit – Magilligan Point
    The origins of a camp at Magilligan are difficult to ascertain, as I haven’t discovered any definitive records relating to the initial construction of the camp. A number of clues exist in the early Ordnance Survey maps of the area and in the local landscape that help in charting the…
  • Site Visit – Maunsell Sea Forts
    A total of three sea forts under the control of the Army were constructed in 1941/42 to protect the vital shipping lane and air corridor along the River Thames which had suffered greatly from magnetic sea mines dropped by German aircraft. Devised and named after their creator Guy Maunsell, the…
  • Site Visit – Mereworth Woods Ammunition Depot
    Just west of RAF West Malling is a dispersed ammunition site dating from WW2. Still owned by the MOD, the forested site is a dry training area (ie; no live ammunition is fired, blank only) frequently used by Cadet and Army Reserve units. There is an active helipad on site,…
  • Site Visit – Portmoon Anti-Tank Range
    Situated approximately 1.5km East of the world famous Giants Causeway, Portmoon (Port Moon) is traditionally known for its historic Salmon fishing house. The site sits on Benbane Head in the town land of Carrowreagh. Remnants of this industry remain in the area in the form of the tin roofed fishermans…
  • Site Visit – RAF Detling
    A photographic tour of the remaining defences.
  • Site Visit – RAF Greystone Radar Station
    A photographic visit.
  • Site Visit – Redhall Mill, Ballycarry
    Inside the old mill (circa 1835) on the Redhall (Red Hall) estate just outside Ballycarry lie a remarkable secret from WW2. During the war, as huge swathes of American troops descended on Northern Ireland, large volumes of accommodation was taken over to accommodate the new visitors. One of these buildings…
  • Site Visit – Rifle Range, Divis
    In the hills above Belfast on Divis is a disused 600 yard military firing range, constructed in 1943 most likely to accommodate training for the high numbers of American troops in the country. A copy of the standing orders still exist, giving an overview of the classification and type of…
  • Site Visit – Signal Station, Killylane
    On the hills approximately 6 miles to the north east of Derry/Londonderry is the small but abandoned signal station at Killylane. Constructed during the Second World War, the site was used for around 20 years as a Royal Navy shore-to-ship radio communication station communicating with naval vessels operating across the…
  • Site Visit – Slough Fort, Allhallows
    Slough Fort (so named due to its proximity to Slough hamlet to the north west) was built between 1861 and 1867 to combat a ever growing threat from the French who were bolstering their coastal defences and naval fleets. One of many stone built forts built along the Kent coastline,…
  • Site Visit – Snodland Ammunition Park
    After coming across reference to a Snodland Air Ammunition Park in relation to WW2 ammunition storage, I was intrigued. I am familiar with most of the sites in the area, but had never before come across a large site which would have been suitable for ammunition storage on such a…
  • Site Visit – Ulster Folk Museum
    On a rather damp and dreary day in January 2018, I took myself and a friend off to the Ulster Folk Museum, Cultra, near Holywood. The living history museum tells the story of life in early 20th Century Ireland through a unique collection of every day buildings which have been…
  • Site Visit – Wouldham Bridging Camp
    A camp under the control of the Royal Engineers has existed on this unassuming patch of land since the 1860s, making use of the River Medway as a bridging obstacle between Wouldham and Halling. The camp was extensively used for almost exactly 100 years, and over time some permanent structures…
  • Site Visit Part I – Randalstown Forest, First World War Rifle Range
    One of many Forest Service forests across Northern Ireland, Randalstown Forest was gifted by the Shanes Castle Estate in 1934. It is open to the public and can be openly visited and explored. What many of the visitors to the forest may not appreciate, is that hiding among the relatively…
  • Site Visit Part II – Randalstown Forest, Second World War Defences
    The pillbox is synonymous with the Second World War. Thousands were constructed across the United Kingdom (and Ireland) to defend high-value areas or as part of a National defensive line. Many of them still remain and conjure up the romantic notion of local boys and men bearing arms to defend…
  • The Birth of the Military Reaction Force (MRF)
    In July 1971 a unique unit was born into the British Army, in particular 39 Airportable Brigade under the command of Brigadier Frank Kitson (September 1970 – April 1972). Brigadier Kitson has a wealth of experience in counterinsurgency operations, and politically his appointment to 39 Bde was welcomed. Known as the…
  • The Development of Internal Security Equipment for Northern Ireland (1972)
    In 1972 Brigadier Sir Ian Jardine had the task of writing a history of the Northern Ireland emergency including an annex on equipment development. The document below is the content of this annex, dated 22 May 1972, and undersigned by the Assistant Chief of the General Staff (Operation Requirements) or…
  • The Hard Border
    The contentious issue of the Irish border is not a new one. In secret documents uncovered at the National Archives at Kew, one page in particular highlights measures that were considered and dismissed by military planners. A ‘cordon sanitaire’ a mile or so wide along the Border. Illegal for those…
  • Visit Report – Fort Luton
    Address Magpie Hall Road, Chatham, Kent, ME4 5XJ Google Maps Fort Luton on Google Maps Website www.fortluton.co.uk Facebook Fort Luton Facebook Page Opening Times Work days for volunteers every Saturday between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Public open days advertised on social media. Date of Visit 29 September 2018 Facilities…
  • Visit Report – Grey Point Fort
    Address The Fort, Helen’s Bay, Bangor BT19 1PU Google Maps Grey Point Fort on Google Maps Website Visit Northern Ireland WebsiteRadio Society Website Facebook Grey Point Fort Amateur Radio Society Facebook Page Opening Times Weekends 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (unconfirmed) Date of Visits 3 September 201711 May 200813 June…
  • Was there a secret intercept station at Divis?
    There are many elements of operations in Northern Ireland that will remain secret, and rightly so. But as time moves on historians, academics and enthusiastic amateurs will slowly uncover details which I am sure all but a select few would have had exposure. As the saying goes “a little knowledge…