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  1. #1
    wolfism Guest

    Arrow The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    Explored with Bryag and Zimbob – North Sutor on the Saturday, and South Sutor on the Sunday. We got cracking summer weather – but these places are truly grim in winter.


    South Sutor CASL's – very inaccessible


    One of the bunkers at South Sutor


    Minefield galvanometer bunker at South Sutor

    Alongside Rosyth and Scapa Flow, Invergordon was one of the Admiralty’s major naval bases in the Great War, and was also heavily used during the Hitler War. Built a few miles from Invergordon, these sets of artillery batteries, collectively known as The Sutors, are among the best-preserved installations of their type in Scotland. They sit on cliff headlands over 450 feet high, guarding both sides of the Cromarty Firth where it leads from the North Sea into the former Naval base at Invergordon. By contrast, the batteries that protected Rosyth sat on birdcrap-coated islands in the Forth, and have been utterly stripped of anything interesting.

    North and South Sutor are so-called because they resemble two old soutars hunched over their work: soutar is the Scots for cobbler, as in Soutar Johnnie in Burns' masterpiece, Tam o' Shanter. The best-preserved parts are at Fort South Sutor, the former 244 Coastal Battery, where gun emplacements, magazines, rangefinders and the remains of other equipment, such as the anti-submarine minefield, sit inside an “unclimbable fence” (that’s what it says on the Ministry of War plan). Also inside the fence are wild boar, with the result that we think we’re the first to brave the boar and explore what lies inside the fence. At least since the boar were installed. Bryag went first, speculatively, and we looked on with interest to see whether he would be gored. Once he reached the safety of an emplacement roof, I clambered over … then shortly afterwards, Zimbob followed after having been goaded by Bryag into joining us.


    Plinths for rangefinders, South Sutor


    Board-marked concrete, South Sutor


    Emplacement No.1, South Sutor

    The Guns
    The port of Invergordon became a naval base in 1913, and The Sutors were similarly built before the outbreak of World War I, anti-shipping forts comprising a comprehensive set of defences – not only the anti-ship artillery batteries, but by WW2 a minefield and boom defence, searchlight batteries, lookouts and observation posts, which were eventually stood down in the Fifties. After parking up at South Sutor, we visited the Fire Command Post first, at the top of the hill, with the Mine Watching Station and a couple of small bunkers near where a generator was marked on the War Department’s plan of the fort (it powered the minefield, see later). At various times during WW2, both North and South Sutor were manned by the Norwegians – http://home.online.no/%7Egestrom/history/cstalfrm.htm

    Downhill are the WW2 emplacements – each armed with two 6-inch MkVII guns on CPII mountings, which were installed in November 1939. The magazine of the No.1 Gun is flooded to within two feet of its ceiling – but further along, the No.2 Gun emplacment is of a virtually identical design, and you can climb down the magazine escape shaft to access it. A steel tube has been used as an internal lining to cast the concrete against, and it drops around 20 feet. Both magazines retain their shell slides, and cranes, and you can see the remains of the timber linings against which the brass shells were stored. There was less sign of ammunition elevators, but as is traditional when I visit places like this, I accidentally dunked a foot in what I thought was a flooded cable pit but which I think now might have been the elevator pit? I wasn’t the only one – http://www.corestore.org/guns.htm


    Emplacement No.1, South Sutor


    Zimbob investigates the No.1 magazine escape shaft, South Sutor


    No.2 magazine escape shaft, South Sutor

    The WW1 guns, of 12 inch calibre, sat in massive concrete emplacements, with a glacis at the front (to deflect incoming shells), a circular well, and a central keyhole-shaped inner well. One emplacement still has a steel rail to prevent the gun barrel elevation dropping too low and firing into the ground. In WW2, the former emplacements became magazines, which explains why the escape shafts emerge from the middle of the "keyhole". After the war, the batteries were placed on a care and maintenance basis in April 1945 and the guns were removed in 1956.

    The Radars
    Both Fort North Sutor and Fort South Sutor were equipped with centimetric band fire control radar sets in the early 1940's, so-called “splash-spotting" radars, very similar to the gun-laying radars fitted to WW2-era battleships, which were used to give accurate ranges and bearings to targets, and enable corrections to be made to their trajectory once drift had been taken into account. The radars were mounted on small concrete buildings, and no equipment is left inside to positively identify them.


    No.2 magazine, South Sutor


    North Sutor from South Sutor


    South Sutor from North Sutor, above the WW1 emplacements.

    The Mines
    At the outbreak of World War II, the Royal Navy installed "controlled mines" and associated "guard loops" between the Sutors, to detect and destroy German U-Boats. In the late 1930’s, the Navy planned four mine loops and two guard loops and in late 1939 mine-laying began in earnest. The mine loops at Cromarty required 30 miles of cable with another 13 miles of cable was needed for the ”tails”. Having had a rake around on the net, I’ve spotted that the heavy cables which had been chopped off as they entered a bunker at South Sutor were connected to the submarine detectors in the channel, and the concrete “fire surrounds” nearby were (possibly) to hold the galvanometers associated with them. The sawn-off ends of the 1 1/8 inch cables are still visible – hefty undersea multi-core cables with copper cores wrapped in india rubber, a ring of steel armour cables, then hemp sheathing and a thick black coating of pitch and resin.

    In 1945 the Royal Navy exploded the mines, as attempts to recover loops, sinkers and junction boxes tended to be unsuccessful due to a lack of power in the mine recovery winches. It’s not known how much of the mine loops were recovered from Cromarty, as individual records seem not to have been kept: it’s possible that there are still many miles of cable under the Cromarty Firth. Which leads neatly on to Zimbob’s pirate theory: a large container ship was sitting at anchor beyond the fairway buoy, flying the Jolly Roger (or so Zimbob claimed, though we couldn’t make out the flag clearly). We did wonder what the pirates were after, but the minefield cables would be a suitable target. Henceforth known as the water pikeys, they were lifting cables from 25 fathoms using a grappling iron and shouting Arrrrr Jim Lad … in Zimbob’s alternative universe.


    North Sutor No.1 emplacement, with the pirate ship in the background.


    North Sutor No.2 emplacement


    No.2 magazine escape shaft, North Sutor

    The Boom and The Searchlights
    Nothing can be seen of the boom from the batteries, but there may be some remains closer to the water. The searchlight batteries themselves lie in ridiculously inaccessible locations and will require 400 feet of rope, a harness and an ascender in order to reach them safely – and more importantly, be able to return to civilisation again. North Sutor has many similarities to South Sutor – but no boars. In fact, a good weekend for livestock … a buzzard inside a shed; dolphins off the Sutors; crickets; the Lamb Gang, who try their best to look meek but run away guiltily when you come close to them; and those small white moths which rise up in clouds from the clover.


    Vent cast by Carron Company, the world's first industrialised foundry


    Surface bunker, North Sutor


    Lookout tower, North Sutor
    Last edited by wolfism; 23-06-2009 at 09:33 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    Nice find and cool photos. Looks to be a good explore.
    ...Hear me now from the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet...

    Neolithicsea.co.uk

  3. #3
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    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    That looks a great place to visit mate, really good. Nice history and the ladder shot is fab

  4. #4
    wolfism Guest

    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    Cheers all for your comments. Yep, we had Obelix with us, in the form of Bryag.

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    Smile Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    Really interesting stuff wolfism! Amazing whats just left after so long. The photo & the lighting within your second to last is good!

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    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    What a great report and history, looks an interesting visit, well done.

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    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    Another great report and photos. I love the one of emplacement no.1.

    Boars are usually very shy but well done on the unclimbable fence

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    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    Nice work Wolfism, some cracking shots too :

    Quote Originally Posted by Muse View Post
    Boars are usually very shy ...
    Meh, I'm not convinced I've tangled with Security, Pikeys, and hidden from the Rozzers, and none of 'em came close to the boars for getting the adrenaline going gay

    Some wildlife shots ...

    Said boars :



    And from a previous visit :



    Spotted dolphins whilst debating whether or not to enter the boars lair :



    There was still 'Dazzle Paint' remaining in the WW1 QF emplacement



    Fire Command post, shutters and some paint still there :



    Rangefinder plinth, WW2 emplacements, South Sutor :



    One of the magazines, South Sutor :



    North Sutor WW" emplacement, for BIG gun



    The sunlight streaming in the vents in some of the bunkers made for great lighting



    Looking up to No2 emplacement :



    Twas a good coupla, days, pirates, boars and great weather, everything you want

    "I wasn't born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight; no, I was all horns and thorns sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright"

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    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    On second thoughts I wouldn't mess with them when they've got young! You are fearless

  10. #10
    wolfism Guest

    Default Re: The Sutor Forts, Invergordon June 09

    Nice one Zimbob – in all the excitement, I didn't get any boar photos at all … however, at least we didn't have to enact Lord of the Flies.

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