Lower Scapa, Orkney (Kirkwall and St Ola parish), Earthwork Survey

Gavin J Lindsay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Notes HY 43612 08800 An earthwork survey was carried out 11 July 2009 on a previously unrecorded WW2 trench system located on the top of a protruding section of sea cliff at the W end of Scapa beach, 90m SE of the Scapa Whiskey Distillery. The work was carried out with a team of volunteers as part of an initiative in response to the active marine erosion of the site. This was the first fieldwork undertaken by ODIN, a recently established voluntary organisation with an interest in Orkney’s wartime remains. It served as a pilot study to
inform the development of a fieldwork methodology and as a training exercise for members unfamiliar with archaeological survey techniques.
A single V-shaped dog leg section of trench c18m in length was found to survive in good condition to a height of c0.80m in places. Aerial photographs taken in 1950 suggest that the system was originally twice as large stretching further along the cliff edge to the E but has subsequently been eroded by the sea. A plan and section drawing of the surviving earthworks was carried out. Surviving features include a sub-rectangular recess c2m wide x 1m deep with firing step at the V point of the dog leg, which could have served as a machine gun (MG)
position for a single Lewis or Bren gun. A possible turf blast screen was also identified built out from the back wall of the trench although this was heavily obscured by bioturbation along the S facing baulk. No dating evidence was recovered, but the trench is closely associated with the Inganess–Scapa anti-invasion defences (HY40NE 29.0–29.06, 37, 45 and HY40NW 31), which were constructed during 1940 at the peak of the invasion threat. Given the forward, elevated position of the trench it would appear likely that the trench and MG position formed part of these anti-invasion defences and that they were designed to provide enfilading fire onto the beach at Scapa in the event of an assault.
Archive: Orkney SMR (intended)
Funder: Voluntary and unfunded with equipment supplied by ORCA and training support from Orkney College Geophysics Unit
Gavin J Lindsay – Orkney Defence Interest Network (ODIN)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-132
Number of pages2
JournalDiscovery and Excavation in Scotland
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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