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Downing Point WW1 Gun Emplacements

Some of you will remember the gun emplacements on the cliff above Bathing House Wood when they were partly covered by grass, ivy and other plants, and with hawthorn trees growing out of gaps in the concrete.

Once the group discovered that this area was also in the land transferred to the Community Council then work could begin to uncover and protect them. It was Gordon Barclay, an enthusiastic archaeologist and historian, who, after being contacted by Blair, was delighted that the gun emplacement site was coming under the Dalgety Bay Community Woodlands Group care, and advised us about what we could do to uncover and protect the structures. Some of the work is shown in the slide show below.

Some of you may also remember our work (mostly by Blair in the early stages) to clear some of this vegetation The final work of the first phase was to spread the collected soil over what had been an ivy covered bank and check for any metal artifacts in the soil. Nothing was found from WW1, but a couple of blank bullet casings showed that it had probably been used for training exercises in WW2.

The drainage channel was also freed of grass roots, and the sump, where Blair is working beside a large puddle of rain water, was cleared of mud and filled again with stones to provide free drainage. The day after this work, the puddle had gone, testimony to a drainage system that was still working after more than 100 years. The hawthorns were also tackled and no longer pose any threat to the structures.

The remains of the steps up to the mounting for the Depression Range Finder were now clear, and just over a year later, what had been an ivy covered bank quickly became covered in wild flowers.

“Our” gun emplacements now feature in a book, “The Fortification of the Firth of Forth“, the culmination of many years of research by Ron Morris and Gordon Barclay. And it was a great pleasure on Wednesday 13th March for Blair and I to attend the launch of this book by the ‘Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’, and hear more about the researches that led up to its publication, and meet with some of the people who had contributed documents and memoirs about life in the fortresses.

The book also has Gordon’s map of the barracks and other buildings in Bathing House Wood redrawn from the archived plans of the proposed defence structures. This is the map which, with Gordon’s permission, is also on the information board at the edge of that wood. In conversation, Gordon said that he was always delighted, when talking to others about the defences, to use our group as an example to show what can be achieved when a local community is prepared to care for an important historical site.

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