The Doric Columns
Torry Point Battery
Successive harbour defence Blockhouses were built on the north of the Dee from the 1490s and replaced in the 1780s by a battery on the Beach. The Torry Point Battery was built later in 1860.
Torry Point Battery has commanded the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour since 1860. The Battery has had a long and varied history: by turns, it has been a Coastal Defence Battery, emergency housing and a sanctuary for migratory birds. Today it is one of the best-loved historical monuments in Aberdeen, and holds a special place in the hearts of many Aberdonians.
This Aerial Shot of 1947 shows the extent of the Battery and also the wooded estate of Col James Davidson who lived in Balnagask House which was completely demolished for new housing. It served for a time as an old Peoples home and the grounds extended from Victoria Road to Balnagask Road
Torry Point Battery was built to defend the city and the harbour of Aberdeen. It superseded a number of older structures including the Footdee Sandness Blockhouse, built in the 1490s as a response to a perceived threat of sea-borne attack by English forces.
The Blockhouse was rebuilt several times but remained the primary defence for the City for many centuries. It was the Medieval Battery, the storehouse for the town’s armaments and, on occasion, acted as a place of execution for pirates. This Blockhouse was replaced in the 1780s by a new Battery built in the Beach, which was very quickly in need of repair. Negotiations between the City Council and the Board of Ordnance were intermittent between 1806 and 1860 with neither side willing to fund repairs, or a new Battery, or compromise. During those long negotiations, several sites were suggested including the Bay of Nigg and Torry Point. In 1858, agreement was finally reached for a new series of Coastal Batteries in Aberdeen, one at Torry Point and the other on the beach. It has been stated that fear of an invasion by Napoleon III caused the Batteries to be built. Although Napoleon I had been a very real threat to the security of Britain, the case was not that clear cut with his nephew, Napoleon III.
In the late 1850s, when it was agreed to build Torry Point Battery, Britain and France were in fact allies during the Crimean War and the 2nd China War. Although a French threat was always in the background the Battery was built because: 1st, a new battery had been required for some time and 2nd, the experience of the Crimean War broke the deadlocked negotiations between Aberdeen and Military Authorities. Britain and France eventually did ‘win’ the war, but the media, reporting on a war for the 1st time, told a story of decadent Generals, inadequate supply lines and poor Military organisation. This debacle shocked the nation and the resulting change of attitudes caused the deadlocked negotiations to end and a new battery to be built.
200-pounder a gun on Sir William Armstrong's design was in course of manufacture. Guns successively designated as the 'Armstrong' the 'vent -piece' and 'B.L. screw guns' using Armstrong's system of construction, in which coils of wrought iron were built up by shrinking one layer over the other, adopted in 1859 before the advent of the interrupted screw 'B.L.' guns of later date. They were rifled on the polygroove system. Sir William Armstrong designed these heavy guns we still call “Armstrong” guns, with 3 important innovations that swung the balance of power on sea and on land in the favour of the British. The 1st innovation was its breech-loading system that kept operators in a safer zone behind the gun during re-loading and firing, in contrast to previous practice of loading ammunition down the muzzle at the front. The 2nd was the rifling of the inside of the barrel – a series of 38 grooves spiralling along the inside of the barrel, that gripped the shell and launched it in a spin, improving the accuracy of its path. The 3rd was the tight grip of the lead-coated shell in the barrel which guaranteed high compression in the firing chamber behind it and maximum forward thrust (similar to the piston of a car).
In 1895 the Battery was decommissioned and partially dismantled when the guns and mountings were returned to the Ordnance stores at Leith.
Thereafter, the Battery was used principally as a training ground for the volunteer forces. In 1904, the Gunners of Torry Battery won the King’s Cup at the Scottish National Artillery Association competition. In the same year the decision was taken to reconstruct the Battery. It was re-fortified in the early years of the 20th century and was permanently staffed during the 1st World War. At this time 2 new 6 inch MK VII guns, on CP MK II mountings, were also installed. The works took 2 years to complete at a cost of £5640
During the inter war years the Battery became home, for the 1st time, to a number of homeless families, during a housing crisis.
During the war years the Battery’s gunners engaged a number of German bombers and took direct hits.
The Battery was staffed by a variety of personnel during World War II, including men from the Home Guard and the City of Liverpool Battalion of the Royal Artillery.
Artillerymen who trained at Torry Point Battery saw action all across the world. It was during the 2nd World War that the Battery’s big guns opened fire for the only time in their history, against a friendly vessel. On the night of 3 June 1941 two unidentified vessels approached Aberdeen harbour. As only Admiralty ships were allowed to enter the harbour at night, the gunner took no chances and fired 2 shells. As it turned out the vessels were friendly ones. Later in 1941 the Battery’s machine guns engaged a German plane, which had dropped bombs off Kinnaird Head. It was later brought down in flames at St Cyrus.
In 1953, the housing crisis was over and the families left the Battery. The guns were next to go, although they had been given a brief reprieve, owing to the growing Suez crisis. The following years were the wilderness years for the Battery: gone were its guns, functions and looks. The Battery was partly demolished, the site abandoned and gradually became a ‘dangerous eyesore’. The buildings that survived the demolition were without roofs and windows. The main square was littered with debris from the building’s past and its partial demolition. At this time calls were made to demolish this eyesore, championed by the mothers of children who played on the wrecked buildings. The City Council never completed the demolition. It was during this period that the remains became home to many species of migratory birds. Around 30 different species, some of them rare to these shores, took up residence, including the Ortolan Bunting and the Wryneck.
Near the Harbour Mouth there were 3 batteries mounting 19 guns.
Aberdeen Beach Battery
An Artillery Battery was situated near Queens Links above the lower Esplanade and the Sea Defences
A heavy anti-aircraft battery has been identified from RAF WWII vertical air photographs situated on the esplanade immediately NE of the Beach Ballroom. The battery had 4 square-shaped gun-emplacements with a command centre, all located within the width of the esplanade. The gun-emplacements were possibly designed in a square-shaped form to fit into the width of the esplanade. The remains of the crew accommodation camp is also visible to the West of the esplanade. There is a GL (gun-laying) Radar unit at the North end of Golf Road some 600m to the NW, which may possibly be connected with this battery. It was, however, constructed post May 1942 and there is a yet no evidence to connect the anti-aircraft battery to the Radar site. Nothing is visible of this anti-aircraft battery, which stood on the esplanade at Aberdeen Bay, immediately NE of where the leisure centre now stands. Like most of the other defence installations that were situated on the beach front at Aberdeen, it was probably removed soon after the 2nd World War.
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