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Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie -
 View of Nitration Hills, Unit 2 (Edingham)

Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie
World War II Cordite Works

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Outline of Defensive and Security Works

Key Points :-

  • Chain link fence topped by barbed wire.
  • Boundary follows acquired land.
  • 2 Type 24 Pillboxes identified.
  • 1 modified Type 26 pillbox.
  • 3 Observation Towers found.
  • Possible fourth Observation Point on Service Reservoir.
  • Defences staffed and patrolled by Home Guard.
  • Security gatehouses and search rooms on main entries.
  • Main concern to prevent 'contraband' being brought in by staff.
  • Air Raid precautions were thorough - despite demolition, at least 20 Air Raid Shelters still remain.

Dalbeattie Home Guard returning from guard duties
Dalbeattie Home Guard returning from guard duties
© Dalbeattie Museum Trust

Factory Defence Works :

Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie was a critical part of Britain's ammunition supply industry, as such a presumed target for air attack, fifth-column sabotage and possible commando raids. As the factory was in South West Scotland, all these possibilities were rather low risks, compared to the need to prevent staff from entering with 'contraband' such as matchsticks or tobacco. The real concentration appears to have been on supervising the entry of staff, to ensure that no sources of sparks or ignition came within the works as part of clothing or in their pockets. Although this may seem small-minded, the risks of fire and explosion made these precautions the correct thing to do.

This may explain why the perimeter is so poorly provided with defences, although the writer guesses that entrenchments and the site's raised earth banks (traverses) themselves offered reasonable rifle defences.The site was naturally protected by a ridge and gulley on the north-east side, by the Kirkgunzeon Lane on part of the north-west side, and again by the Lane and by Aucheninnes Moss to the south. This could explain why the only two good pillboxes are on the northwest side covering the Edingham and Dumfries approaches. The real surprise is that a pillbox at Southwick Railway Halt was thought necessary defence for that approach to the site. It is possible that the impression of a strong defence was made to deter any thought of sabotage attack.

Slightly more organisation is seen in arrangements for warning of air attack, with three, possibly four observation points, although these may have been more valuable as fire towers to spot fires or explosions in the works. There was also a remarkable array of Air Raid Shelters, of which over 20 of various capacities still survive.

The size of the site and the detail available have made it necessary to divide the defensive features into the following pages :-

  • Gatehouses : A three and a half mile perimeter with gates guarded by sentries and security police. Search rooms at the two main entrances to remove sources of ignition (contraband).
  • Pillboxes & Perimeter Fence : Two surviving Type 24 pillboxes and one Type 26 pillbox, covering points of particular vulnerability.
  • Air Observation Towers : Three present on site and a possible fourth position on the Service Reservoir.
  • Air Raid Shelters : At least twenty surviving air raid shelters, each of from 10 to 50 occupant spaces.
  • Bofors Gun position : There was a report from a visitor to Dalbeattie Museum that an emplacement for a Bofors 3.5 inch quick-firing anti-aircraft gun was blasted out of an outcrop at the south end of the Maidenholm (magazine) section of the Factory site. This is still being investigated, but appears to have been part of a three-emplacement system defending the factory and an RAF Emergency Landing Ground now used as a Glider Club.

Conclusions :

Although meagre, the defences at the Factory did fulfil their purpose in dissuading casual entry and preventing the import of dangerous contraband. The pillboxes are surprisingly few but covered vulnerable areas. The Observation Towers are an unusual type and their operation may need further investigation, other examples being known from the now-destroyed Royal Ordnance Factory Wrexham in Clwyd, Wales. The Air Raid Shelters are a much-neglected but surprisingly well-preserved group of examples that similarly deserve more investigation. As with other structures on the Factory site, there is need for further investigation.


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.