“Bomb Craters” are Chilling Reminder of Greenock Blitz

Whitelees Moor in Scotland is punctuated with possible bomb craters, due to its use as a Starfish decoy site in World War Two in a bid to lure German Luftwaffe bombers away from Clyde Shipyards. These craters may have been made during the Greenock Blitz of 1941.(Image: Lairich Rig. Possible World War Two bomb crater on Whitelees Moor above Greenock)

On the night of May 6, 1941, the German Luftwaffe launched a relentless attack against the shipyards at Greenock, a town on the south bank of the River Clyde, in Scotland’s historic county of Renfrewshire. Despite the military target, civilians bore the brunt of the two-night bombardment that became known as the Greenock Blitz. As the bombs fell, 271 people were killed, more than 10,000 were injured, and thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. But had it not been for a series of decoys on the desolate moors south of the town, the casualty rate may have been far higher.

Possible bomb craters littering Whitelees Moor above the River Clyde in Scotland may have been blasted during the 1941 Greenock Blitz.(Image: Lairich Rig. The “bomb craters” are in the vicinity of a WW2 Starfish decoy site)

The British government deployed numerous decoy sites during World War Two in a bid to protect high value targets such as shipyards, airfields, factories and the like. The barren expanse of Whitelees Moor south of Greenock, between the town and Loch Thom, offered an ideal location for a “Starfish decoy” installation built as part of the Clyde Anti-Aircraft Defences. Almost 80 years later, the barren moorland still bears the scars of that subterfuge.

"Bomb crater" from the time of the Greenock Blitz.(Image: Lairich Rig)

Across Whitelees Moor, close to the Old Largs Road, are a series of waterlogged holes – believed to be bomb craters – that may thus reveal the effectiveness of the decoy fires. According to Secret Scotland, records indicate that at least one Naval “Starfish” decoy (numbered GG2) was built on the moor, and another site numbered GG3 is also mentioned.

(Image: Lairich Rig)

Starfish was the codename given to Special Fire (SF) decoys, whereby controlled fires would be deployed in depopulated areas in an effort draw enemy bombers and reconnaissance aircraft away from strategic targets. The idea was the brainchild of Colonel Sir John F. Turner of the Royal Engineers. (Click here for a more detailed summary of different decoy sites and techniques.)

(Image: Lairich Rig)

Secret Scotland writes: “Using techniques borrowed from stage and film, the decoy sites simulated factories, railway yards, docks, urban layouts such as cities and towns, airfields, and the effects of incendiaries and bombs. Many of these sites were designed and built by Sound City Films at Shepperton Studios, whose General Manager was Campbeltown born Scot Norman Louden.”

The surviving WW2 fire control bunker on Whitelees Moor above Greenock, Scotland.(Image: Raibeart MacAoidh. WW2 fire control bunker on Whitelees Moor above Greenock)

Returning to Greenock, and local reports also indicate the presence of two Naval decoys in the vicinity of Whitelees Moor, a QL (lighting) installation above Gryffe Reservoir, and a QF (fire) decoy to the west in direction of Old Largs Road. According to the website, “Q Sites” were night decoys, whereas “K” denoted day installations.

Memorial to those killed in Greenock bombings, including the intensive Greenock Blitz which occurred over two nights in May 1941.(Image: Lairich Rig. Memorial to those killed in Greenock bombings)

Whitelees is also home to a brick and concrete QF decoy control bunker, which was reportedly built by the Air Ministry to oversee the fires on the moor. The barren landscape is at peace again today, but the relics of war are never far away. Down the hill, in the town’s cemetery, a memorial bears the inscription: “Dedicated to the everlasting memory of the citizens of Greenock who died as a result of the air raids 1940-1941”. Of those raids, the Greenock Blitz of 6–7 May 1941 was the most intensive.

Related: The ‘Beaulieu Letters’: Echoes of Hampshire’s Great War Past

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The Sutro Baths: Ruins of a Lost San Francisco Landmark

The Sutro Baths were built in 1896 in the Lands End area of Outer Richmond, San Francisco.(Image: via Wikipedia. The Sutro Baths were a late 19th century wonder of San Francisco)

Nestled beneath the Cliff House on the west wide of San Francisco, California, lie the remains of a vast saltwater swimming pool complex that was every bit as grand as the Parisian Piscine Molitor. The opening of the Sutro Baths on March 14, 1896, marked the arrival of the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. But 70 years later, a ferocious fire would burn the Outer Richmond landmark to the ground. Today, all that remains are a series of tantalising ruins.

The majestic Sutro Baths were once the world's largest indoor swimming pool but burned down in 1966. Their concrete ruins can still be seen today beneath the Cliff House.(Image: ParaGreen13. The abandoned Sutro Baths ruins today)

Named after their owner Adolph Sutro, a successful San Francisco entrepreneur and the Bay City’s former mayor, the Sutro Baths incorporated six saltwater swimming pools and one freshwater pool in an area roughly 500 ft long and 254 ft wide. The complex boasted 30 swinging rings, seven water slides and a sprung diving board. According to J. E. Van Hoosear, its Victorian structure was comprised of 600 tons of iron and 100,000 square feet of glazing.

Ruined: the abandoned Sutro Baths on the west side of San Francisco.(Image: Xaven)

The remarkable 19th century complex, situated in the Lands End area of Outer Richmond, was filled by sea water at high tide, which flowed directly into its swimming pools and was capable of recycling 7,600 cubic metres of water in just one hour. At low tide this process was assisted by a powerful turbine, which drove a water pump built into a nearby cave.

(Images: Fred Hsu; Lincoln Adler)

In addition to its seven pools, the complex also housed a 2,700-seat amphitheatre, an ice rink, more than 500 dressing rooms, a museum crammed with art, artefacts and curiosities of the age, and two railway termini. The Ferries and Cliff House Railroad ran along the cliff tops, offering stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge as it wound its way to its downtown terminal. The eponymous Sutro Railway, meanwhile, operated electric trolleys between downtown and Golden Gate Park.

Illustration showing the terminus of the old Sutro Railroad(Image: Ed Bierman. Illustration showing the terminus of the old Sutro Railroad)

But despite the grand vision of its affluent founder, the Sutro Baths struggled financially. As the decades passed, high operating costs and constant maintenance took a heavy toll of the 19th century wonder. When the 1960s dawned, the writing was on the wall. And in 1966, just as the majestic iron and glass structure was in the throes of demolition, a fire broke out which smote its ultimate ruin.

(Images: Mark J. Sebastian; Beyond My Ken)

Long abandoned, the crumbling ruins of the landmark Sutro Baths make for a haunting echo of San Francisco’s past. And with 7,600 cubic metres of concrete poured into the foundations, its remains are unmistakable beneath the old Cliff House. Both the building and the abandoned salt water complex below are now protected landmarks in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and are administered by the US National Park Service.

The abandoned Sutro Baths, still a tourist destination even in decay, at sunset.(Image: Tvol. The abandoned Sutro Baths at sunset)

They may be a relic of San Francisco’s past, but movie fans can still catch a glimpse of the Sutro Baths in all their former glory. Just pick up a copy of the 1958 crime drama The Lineup, in which Eli Wallach and Robert Keith are instructed to deliver a heroin shipment to the Sutro Museum. Today the abandonment is a popular tourist destination for fans of both film and social history.

(Image: Brocken Inaglory)

Related: 12 Abandoned Lidos & Paddling Pools of the UK (Including Those Recently Restored)

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The Toppled Statue of Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz

The toppled statue of naturalist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz outside the Stanford University Zoological Building remains one of the most famous photographs from the school's history at the time of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake.(Image: W. C. Mendenhall. Toppled statue of naturalist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz)

The cataclysmic San Francisco earthquake of 1906, which shook the Bay Area to its core and devastated much of the city, was no laughing matter. But, more than a century later, there’s an element of dark humour to this unusual and vaguely comic period photograph. The image shows a statue of Swiss-born American biologist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz after being toppled from the facade of Stanford University’s Zoology building, its head firmly embedded in the concrete below.

This image soon became a symbol of Stanford’s earthquake history, and even today remains the most famous photograph associated with that devastating event. Many stories have been told about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and various accounts were given by students and faculty at the school (more here). As one student wrote:

“A big marble statue of Agassiz was toppled off his perch on the outside of the quad and fell foremost into the ground (right through a cement walk) up to his shoulders, and still sticks there, legs in the air and his hand held out gracefully. People came running from the quad with such sober faces, but when they saw him they couldn’t help laughing, and one fellow went up and shook hands with him.”

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Conceptual Art Depicts the Terraforming of Mars

Terraforming Mars(Image: D Mitriy. Concept art depicts the terraforming of Mars)

In 1973, celebrated American astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan published an article in the journal Icarus titled “Planetary Engineering on Mars”. Three years later, NASA addressed the issue of making the Red Planet habitable for human life in a study using the terminology “planetary ecosynthesis”. By 1982, the term “terraforming” made its first appearance in the title of a published journal article.

(Images: D Mitriy – left, right)

The paper, “Terraforming Mars”, by planetary scientist Christopher McKay, was published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. “Terraforming” has been the standard nomenclature ever since, fuelling scientific debate and leading to its fair share of concept art, like these images by Wikimedia contributor D Mitriy.

(Image: D Mitriy)

Putting aside the ethical and technological limitations, terraforming refers to the process of engineering the surface and climate of a planet to make it able to support human life. Sagan first proposed the terraforming of Venus back in 1961 by “seeding the atmosphere” with algae. But later studies of atmospheric conditions on Venus rendered this approach nonviable, and the Red Planet has since become the main focus of scientists.

(Image: D Mitriy)

In addition to serious scientific study and debate, the terraforming of Mars has also become a popular subject for conceptual artists to address. Lone travellers exploring distant planets and the dystopian ruins of our own world have all proved popular subjects. When it comes to terraforming Mars, perhaps in the future these fun visuals will break the shackles of science fiction…

(Image: D Mitriy)

Published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence, these images by D Mitriy are steeped in a retro-futuristic atmosphere popular with the sci-fi genre. The image below, meanwhile, shows an artist’s impression of Mars being terraformed in four different stages.

Artist's impressive depicting the terraforming of Mars.(Image: Daein Ballard, GFDL)

Read Next: A Definitive Guide to the 7 Wonders of the Solar System

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Vegan Graffiti on Dalry Road, Edinburgh

Vegan graffiti and other messages tagged on Dalry Road, Edinburgh. The message reads "Vegan: Compassion non-violence for people for animals and planet"Vegan graffiti and other messages tagged on Dalry Road, Edinburgh

Earlier today I hit upon this fascinating and poignant article in The Scotsman about the changing face of Gorgie-Dalry over the last 40 years. For those of you who live in Edinburgh, or those with a more general interest in economic and social history, the article by David McLean, featuring the photography of artist Catherine Stevenson, is well worth a browse.

It’s also prompted me to post these (admittedly far less quality) photos of a series of vegan graffiti and various inspirational quotes, that are scrawled on the side of a building site at the junction of Dalry Road and Morrison Street. Unlike most of the graffiti in this busy part of town, their meaning is clear, carrying messages of non-violence, self-belief, ethical treatment of animals and more. I’ve walked past these scrawled messages every day for weeks, perhaps months, so finally decided to snap a few pics.

BE THE CHANGE you want TO SEE in the world

BE THE CHANGE you want TO SEE in the world

The above is popularly attributed to Gandhi, but is actually a bumper sticker, according to the New York Times.

Whatever happens in your life remember: YOU're the most beautiful and important person in this WORLD

Whatever happens in your life remember: YOU’re the most beautiful and important person in this WORLD

BUY LESS DO MORE

BUY LESS DO MORE

System change NOT CLIMATE change

System change NOT CLIMATE change

We’re unsure who’s behind these messages, and I’m no handwriting expert. System Change Not Climate Change is a familiar enough slogan, an ecosocialist mantra that comes with its own website.

The temporary timber wall that serves as a canvas for these tags separates Dalry Road from the site of the much anticipated £200 million Haymarket Development (website here), an ongoing construction project which, The Scotsman writes, is currently delayed. Finally, at top, the vegan graffiti that, IIRC, led to the rest:

VEGAN

Compassion non-violence for people for animals and planet

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ZA370: Last Granby Tornado GR4A Reconnaissance Jet Retired (RTP)

Tornado GR4A ZA370, a dedicated reconnaissance variant of the Tornado that flew operational missions during the first Gulf War (1991), is pictured in the Mach Loop, Wales, in 2015.(Image: Howard Sinclair. Recce Tornado GR4A ZA370)

Several weeks ago, on 12 December 2017, ZA370/004, understood to be one of only two remaining Panavia Tornado GR4A reconnaissance jets in service, made her final flight to RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire to be reduced to produce (RTP). The RTP process sees all useful spare parts removed from the airframe before the empty hulk is scrapped. The GR4A (an updated version of the original GR1A) was the dedicated reconnaissance version of the RAF’s workhorse Tornado strike jet, and is perhaps best known for its role seeking out Iraqi Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War.

During the 1980s the UK ordered 30 Tornado GR1As, which were based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Of these, 16 were new-build airframes and 14 were GR1 conversions. Externally similar, the GR1A’s most notable difference from its GR1 counterpart was the deletion of the twin Mauser cannon from the forward fuselage. This was replaced by the Tornado Infrared Reconnaissance System (TIRRS), which included Sideways Looking Infra Red (SLIR) sensors on each side of the forward fuselage to capture oblique images.

Operation Granby veteran Tornado GR4A ZA370 - the last dedicated reconnaissance Tonka from the 1991 Gulf War left in service - made her final flight to RAF Leeming in North Yorshire for RTP (scrapping) in December 2017.(Image: Howard Sinclair. Op Granby veteran ZA370 made her final flight in December 2017)

During Operation Granby, the UK military’s contribution to the first Gulf War, ZA370 (coded A) and other Tornado GR1As flew perilous missions from Dhahran in Saudi Arabia deep into enemy territory in search of Iraqi missile sites. These dangerous sorties earned the jets and their crews the respect of NATO allies and proved invaluable to coalition efforts to counter Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

Tornado ZA370 first flew on 18 August 1982 and was delivered to the Royal Air Force the following month. In 2001, as part of the Mid-Life Update (MLU) programme, the airframe was converted from GR1A to GR4A standard at BAE Warton. But as ongoing upgrades were rolled out in the years since the MLU, a dedicated reconnaissance version of the Tornado was no longer needed. The introduction of the RAPTOR reconnaissance pod meant all  Tornado GR4s could fulfil the recce role. GR4As were thus no longer deployed to conflict zones due to their lack of guns. The variant did however fly on in the training role.

ZA370’s withdrawal marked the retirement of the last Tornado GR4A to have participated in Operation Granby. (Only one other GR4A remains in service at the time of writing: ZG707/119, which was built in 1989.) The last Tornado GR4s are set for retirement in 2019. And though most Tornados sent to Leeming to date have been scrapped, a handful of withdrawn machines (including GR4T ZG750 aka “Pinky”, below) are still in storage at the North Yorkshire base, awaiting their turn in the RTP queue (or hopefully a reprieve).

Panavia Tornado GR4T "Pinky" commemorates Operation Granby of 1991.(Image: Steve Tron. Check out the campaign to save “Pinky” here)

Only one production Tornado GR4 (ZA452/021) has so far been saved thanks to Coventry’s Midland Air Museum. Most other surviving Tonkas (excluding a handful of F2/F3 interceptors and the current fleet) are pre-production/prototype airframes, early TTTE jets or GR1B anti-shipping variants. Some are gate guards or museum pieces. Others are used for ground instructional purposes. It’s unclear how many retired airframes are tucked away inside Leeming’s hardened aircraft shelters awaiting disposal, or how many, if any at all, will be saved for preservation or ground instruction.

There’s no doubt, however, that the RAF’s dedicated Tornado GR1A/GR4A reconnaissance force played a crucial role in conflicts like Operation Desert Storm. This important aspect of British aviation history could be reflected in the preservation of one or two of these jets. As the last surviving example of a recce Tornado to have participated in Operation Granby, ZA370 is an obvious choice. Meanwhile, ZG707, the sole remaining GR4A in service, is also an important airframe, having flown missions in 2003 during Operation Telic, sporting the nose artwork “B.A.B.S.”

Read Next: ZA372: Gulf War Tornado GR4A Fuselage Dumped at Leeming

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The “Old Well” Off Edinburgh’s Canongate

Site of an old well just off the Canongate in Edinburgh, Scotland.(Image: Kim Traynor. Site of an “old well” off the Canongate, Edinburgh)

Edinburgh, Scotland’s storied capital, is a captivating city where folklore and hidden history abound, not to mention a fair share of oddities of the past. Previously, we’ve featured the grave (or at least a marker in a humble car parking space) of 16th century Protestant minister and reformer John Knox. The location of Knox’s grave, in what is now a carpark behind St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town, got me thinking about another innocuous marker which lies behind the nearby Canongate.

The inscription – “Old Well” – on these two stone slabs leaves little doubt as to its original purpose. The photographer, Kim Traynor, writes that “the well stood behind tenements in Gladstone’s Court, immediately west of Old Tolbooth Wynd. The Court was called Bowling Green Close until its name change to honour the 19th C M.P. for Midlothian and Liberal prime minister. It also housed the Magdalene Asylum before it moved to Dalry.”

The old Magdalene Asylum, meanwhile, is another story, and a dark one at that. Stay tuned…

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The “Old Well” Off Edinburgh’s Canongate

Site of an old well just off the Canongate in Edinburgh, Scotland.(Image: Kim Traynor. Site of an “old well” off the Canongate, Edinburgh)

Edinburgh, Scotland’s storied capital, is a captivating city where folklore and hidden history abound, not to mention a fair share of oddities of the past. Previously, we’ve featured the grave (or at least a marker in a humble car parking space) of 16th century Protestant minister and reformer John Knox. The location of Knox’s grave, in what is now a carpark behind St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town, got me thinking about another innocuous marker which lies behind the nearby Canongate.

The inscription – “Old Well” – on these two stone slabs leaves little doubt as to its original purpose. The photographer, Kim Traynor, writes that “the well stood behind tenements in Gladstone’s Court, immediately west of Old Tolbooth Wynd. The Court was called Bowling Green Close until its name change to honour the 19th C M.P. for Midlothian and Liberal prime minister. It also housed the Magdalene Asylum before it moved to Dalry.”

The old Magdalene Asylum, meanwhile, is another story, and a dark one at that. Stay tuned…

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The Old Windmill Near Appleton Roebuck

Old windmill near Appleton Roebuck in North Yorkshire.(Image: Richard Croft)

If you’ve ever travelled on the East Coast Mainline between York and Doncaster, you may have noticed an old windmill in a field to the east of the railway. The distinctive structure stands alongside Old Road just west of Appleton Roebuck, a North Yorkshire village that got a mention in the Domesday Book. Rightmove shows that in more recent times the Grade II listed ruin was put up for sale at a guide price of £175,000, with planning permission to convert it into holiday accommodation.

(Image: JThomas)

The windmill outside Appleton Roebuck was built between 1818 and 1828 and ground corn for more than 100 years before ceasing to operate during World War Two when its machinery was commandeered for the war effort. Once a hive of industry, the four storey structure would never reopen, and has quietly haunted the surrounding landscape ever since. Its empty form would later inspire artist Karl Wood, who was known for his sketches of windmills.

(Image: DS Pugh)

The Yorkshire Post wrote in 2014: “Wood cut a slightly eccentric figure travelling around the country on his bicycle, his paintbrushes strapped to the back along with his sketchpad, thermos flask, shaving brush and cycle repair kit. Consulting Ordnance Survey maps, his route was carefully plotted in his diaries and by 1933 he had clocked up 28,000 miles visiting 450 windmills. Sometimes he camped, but on the odd occasion he would offer to paint a person’s house or dog in return for a bed.”

Related: 10 Abandoned Windpumps, Turbines & Windfarms

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Ruined Fort Godwin Artillery Battery (Kilnsea, East Yorkshire)

The ruins of Fort Godwin in East Yorkshire.(Image: Rich Cooper 2012. The ruins of Fort Godwin in East Yorkshire)

Near the tip of East Yorkshire, adjacent to the Sandy Beaches holiday park, lies a ruined wartime fortification that’s consumed by the North Sea at high tide. The remains of the Godwin Artillery Battery lie half buried in the sand east of Kilnsea, a tiny hamlet on the north bank of the Humber Estuary. We’ve featured a number of abandoned military fortifications, built for the defence of Britain, to date, but the Godwin Artillery Battery is arguably the most destroyed.

Abandoned remains of the Godwin Artillery Battery near Kilnsea.(Image: Rich Cooper 2012. Abandoned concrete remains of Godwin Artillery Battery)

Built at the outset of World War One, when the bustling ports of the Humber Estuary were crucial to the British war effort, the coastal artillery battery known as Fort Godwin was operational by 1915 and equipped with two 9.2 inch Mk X guns. The 46.7 calibre breech-loading weapons, which saw service between 1899 and 1950, are considered to be among the most successful of Britain’s heavy naval and coastal defence ordnance.

Fort Godwin Artillery Battery was built in 1915 to defend the Humber Estuary ports against German attack.(Image: Rich Cooper 2012)

Fort Godwin remained in service after the end of the First World War. Then,as global tensions again boiled over, the installation was thrust back into the thick of it during World War Two. By 1940 the fort’s original firepower had been upgraded. A 4-inch Mark IX gun replaced the older armament. Two searchlights were also fitted to counter the threat of Nazi attack.

(Image: Rich Cooper 2012)

At the end of World War Two, the Godwin Artillery Battery would again be called on to defend the land as the tense Cold War decades unfolded. But by 1995, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fortress lay in ruins, all but destroyed.

(Image: Rich Cooper 2012)

The mighty concrete gun emplacements now lie broken in the sand, their giant forms collapsing into the beach as coastal erosion attacks the surrounding cliffs.

(Image: Rich Cooper 2012)

What’s left is a mass of broken rubble, unstable and hazardous to approach, pummelled by the inhospitable North Sea waves. Despite its condition, there’s no mistaking the original purpose of these century-old fortifications, or the crucial role they played in keeping Britain safe throughout a century of conflict.

(Image: Rich Cooper 2012)

Nearby, in a field east of Kilnsea, stands another relic of the Great War in the form of a concrete acoustic mirror. Grade II listed and more intact than Fort Godwin, it was constructed around 1916 as part of an early warning system (see also the ruins at Denge, Kent) that was ultimately replaced by the Chain Home radar network.

(Images: Rich Cooper 2012)

Related: 10 Abandoned Sea Forts, Towers & Anti-Submarine Platforms

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