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Cramond Island, First World War and Second World War defences

A Scheduled Monument in Almond, City of Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9949 / 55°59'41"N

Longitude: -3.2902 / 3°17'24"W

OS Eastings: 319621

OS Northings: 678741

OS Grid: NT196787

Mapcode National: GBR 24.VBSS

Mapcode Global: WH6SC.FLG3

Entry Name: Cramond Island, First World War and Second World War defences

Scheduled Date: 5 June 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13684

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Artillery mount

Location: Edinburgh

County: City of Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Almond

Traditional County: Midlothian


The monument is a complex of First and Second World War coastal defences established from 1915. It is visible as the upstanding remains of a series of concrete structures and dugout trenches located on and around Cramond Island. The site overlooks the navigation channels of the Firth of Forth.

Cramond Island formed part of the middle of three defensive lines established between 1900 and 1916 to defend the Forth. It was operational during the First and Second World Wars. The First World War remains comprise the two original gun positions of the battery at the northeast of the island. On the west coast are the footings of a pier used in both wars for landing supplies, and on the east, dugout trenches.

The other visible upstanding remains date from the second phase of military occupation from 1938. These include immediately northeast of the original battery site, an additional larger battery with a gun emplacement, two engine houses, searchlights, and remains of camp accommodation. On the north coast, there is also a searchlight battery and mooring block for a submarine boom that extended across the Forth to Inchcolm Island. At the north west of the island lies a brick and concrete structure, possibly a recreation room or store, and an earlier stone structure that was reportedly re-used as an ammunition or grenade store. Remains on the foreshore include two mooring blocks for securing seacraft, and a metal trolley. An anti-shipping barrier, formed by concrete pylons up to 3m high, extends from the mainland to 'the Knoll' on the south shore of the island where a brick-built gun emplacement and searchlight provided covering fire. A network of concrete and tarmacadam tracks, paths and steps, likely dating from the Second World War, link various elements of the defences.

The scheduling comprises three separate areas. The first consists of a linear area up to 2.5m wide to cover the anti-shipping barrier with an extension to cover the battery on the Knoll. The second is on the east of the island covering the dugouts. The largest area covers the main battery, searchlights, camp remains and pier and mooring blocks at the northern end of the island. The scheduling includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling excludes any piped waste and sewage systems in the intertidal zone at the southern and northern ends of the island.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

Cramond Island is notable for the comprehensive survival of the major elements of coastal defences of the First and Second World Wars. War Office plans (National Archives WO 78/4417) confirm the lay-out of the First World War defences on the island around 1915.  The location of the two guns was identifiable (in 2017) as two of the Second World War gun emplacements re-used the earlier gun mounts to make use of higher ground with views towards the navigations channels of the Forth. The dugouts on the east coast preserve evidence of rubble walling and probably provided additional lookout and gun positions during the First World War.

The Second World War defences survive to a particularly high degree. Key elements of the battery, searchlights, gun emplacements, engine houses and remains of the accommodation camp survive. Some structures are in a largely complete state with original metal doors, window shutters and traces of interior decorative paint visible. The highly prominent anti-shipping barrier, formed by tall free-standing concrete pylons with interlocking concrete shuttering between, is a unique example of coastal defence in Scotland and was built to block access by fast-moving surface craft to the shore and channels between Cramond island and the mainland. The survival of these features helps us to understand the role Cramond Island played in the extensive network of coastal defences of the Forth.

There is high potential for the survival of archaeological evidence both within and around the battery, particularly around the accommodation camp and the main battery structures, which can increase our understanding of the construction and use of the battery and the daily lives of the men who built and served on it.

Contextual Characteristics

Cramond Island defences occupy a strategically significant location on the south side of the Firth of Forth.  It was initially fortified in 1915 as part of the defences of the Firth of Forth to cover the anti-submarine barrier that ran from Cramond to Braefoot, via Inchmickery and Inchcolm islands. The main battery and camp area, located in the same area of the island in both wars, overlooks the north and east of the Forth with views to neighbouring defended islands. Together with the batteries on the mainland, either side of the Forth, and other island defences, it was part of a network used to defend the navigation channels of the Forth from incursion by surface vessels. The defences at Inchcolm (scheduled monument ref SM90166) and Inchmickery (scheduled monument ref SM3332) are clearly visible from Cramond Island, and the range of different guns used across these and other batteries would have provided comprehensive defences against amphibious attack.

Coast artillery batteries were constructed in and around Forth in both the First and Second World Wars to defend this key strategic estuary and important dockyards such as Rosyth. They display an interesting degree of variation, given the officially 'standardised' nature of military structures, and reflect the local availability of materials and the specific nature of the site Evident at Cramond are the use of stone in the construction of retaining walls and access steps to gun emplacements and searchlights. The grouping of three searchlights at the north of the island is unusual, each with triple slit windows for focussing concentrated light beams across the Forth. The anti-shipping barrier is a unique example of coastal defence in Scotland and was a response to the specific geography of this part of the Forth.

The Forth defences formed a vital component of a national defensive system that extended from Shetland to Cornwall. There were 47 coast batteries within Scotland during the First World War and 70 coast batteries during the Second World War. The density of batteries and coastal defences of the Forth reflects its strategic importance during two world wars. Although clearance was conducted on many military sites following the end of the wars, the tidal location and hence relatively remote nature of Cramond Island meant that these efforts were not as intensive as elsewhere with only some defensive elements and a minority of structures being removed.

Associative Characteristics

The imposing concrete wartime structures that survive at Cramond are highly visible from the coastline around Cramond village. The physical remains of sites from the First and Second World Wars such as Cramond Island have become places to visit, remember and commemorate the men who served on wartime sites such as this. Their relatives and descendants visit the Forth from across the globe for this reason. The Second World War remains provide evidence of the single largest construction effort ever to have taken place in British history, which also had a significant impact on the local population and landscape. The monument is a highly visible reminder of the considerable efforts made to defend the British Isles during the First and Second World Wars.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is an integral part of the network of defences constructed in the First and Second World Wars to defend the Lothian coast and strategic interests in Forth. The diverse and well-preserved collection of First and Second World War structures on Cramond Island include unusual features such as the triple group of searchlight emplacements and a  unique anti-shipping barrier. The layout of the defences is well documented on War Office plans. There is considerable potential to study the relationship between the various elements of the site to enhance our understanding of defensive military strategy along the coastline of eastern Scotland during the two world wars of the 20th century. Cramond Island's imposing concrete wartime structures provide a highly visible and tangible reminder of two of the defining events of the 20th century. If this monument was to be lost or damaged, it would significantly affect our ability to understand the nature and scale of the efforts made to defend Britain against enemy naval threats in the First and Second World Wars.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE IDs 50455, 106631, 113097, 140935 (accessed on 18/01/2018).

Brown, I. (2002). 20th Century Defences in Britain: an Introductory Guide. Council for British Archaeology, York.

Clark, N H. (1986). 'Twentieth Century Coastal Defences of the Firth of Forth' in Fort, vol. 14. Fortress Studies Group.

Dods, J S. (2006). Cramond Island: The early history of the island and its role in two world wars. Cramond Heritage Trust, Edinburgh.

GUARD (1996). 'Forth Coastal Survey' in Discovery and Excavation Scotland. Glasgow University

Redfern, N I. (1998). Twentieth century fortifications in the United Kingdom, 5 V. V.1 Introduction and sources; V.4 & 5 Site gazetteers: Scotland. York.

War Office (1915). Cramond Island: Fort Record and Plans. Imperial War Museum, London.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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