Ancient Monuments

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Aerial View, battle headquarters 200m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.8768 / 59°52'36"N

Longitude: -1.3017 / 1°18'6"W

OS Eastings: 439194

OS Northings: 1110396

OS Grid: HU391103

Mapcode National: GBR R24M.N70

Mapcode Global: XHD4P.G07L

Entry Name: Aerial View, battle headquarters 200m NE of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13043

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Battle headquarters

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of an underground Second World War airfield defence control building, or battle headquarters, and two adjacent structures. The battle headquarters is located at 20m above sea level within the western area of the modern Sumburgh Airport complex, in an area of rough grass.

Access to the control building is via an entrance stair at its NW end, which leads to five underground chambers. One of these, the observation chamber, has a protruding concrete roof with an all-round observation slot. The adjacent, contemporary structures comprise an air raid shelter and an almost square brick-built building with blast wall. The footprint of the control building is approximately 10m by 5m, the air raid shelter approximately 12m by 6m, and the brick-built building approximately 5m by 6m.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and measures a maximum of 37m NW-SE by 20m WSW-ENE (maximum). The area to be scheduled includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This is a well-preserved example of a Second World War battle headquarters, which retains significant structural detail. Some graffiti was observed in some of the chambers, but the overall building is intact. The neighbouring air raid shelter has been broken in two by underlying ground movement, but again the structural detail survives. The adjacent brick-built structure has been reduced to its lowest brick courses, but its floor plan is clear to see. These remains have the ability to tell us much about the design and construction of Second World War airfield defence works. They were built to standard War Office specifications and reflect not only the functional development of buildings able to withstand direct munitions attack, but also the strategic approach to the defence of military airfields.

Contextual characteristics

This type of monument was a central component in the defence of Second World War airfields, from where defence operations would be controlled in the event of an attack. It is located in a classic position, taking advantage of relatively high ground and in close proximity to the airfield control building. It was only used in times of high or imminent threat (of air attack or invasion), but its presence indicates that the threat of German attack or invasion was taken very seriously by the government and military air authorities. It was built to a standard design and most of it was underground (only the observation chamber was visible above ground); this design was believed to be less vulnerable than an earlier version. It was the control point for a range of passive, active and mobile airfield defence measures, and therefore central in co-ordinating the efficient deployment of an often scarce defence force, later to be the RAF Regiment.

This is a rare form of defence structure, one of less than 10 battle headquarters recorded in Scotland. It is an important, visible and central component of the military infrastructure developed at Sumburgh airfield and, as such, bears testament to the war effort in Shetland. It represents something of the strategy, equipment and capability of the British forces at local level, and their efforts to combat what was then seen as the likely imminent invasion of the United Kingdom by German forces. In 1940 it was believed there was an imminent threat of invasion of Shetland as a diversionary tactic for the invasion of mainland Britain or in a bid to control Scapa Flow in Orkney and the main shipping channels.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the organisation and defence strategy of military airfield complexes during the Second World War. It survives in good condition, with the majority of its structure intact. It is a lasting component of a wider contemporary landscape, specifically a military airfield complex which served to protect the Shetland Islands and the northern fringes of the British Isles in the Second World War.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU31SE 34 (general record for Sumburgh airport) and 34.06. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR references are MSN4570 and 4571. This site was recommended for protection in a report commissioned by Historic Scotland from Geoffrey Stell on the significance of Shetland's military remains.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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