The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Ness Battery, Stromness

Ness Battery was a crucial element in the defence of the western entrance to Scapa Flow, the main fleet base for the Royal Navy in both World Wars. Several of the original wooden huts which formed the accommodation camp are still intact, and in one of these is a painted mural covering three walls, depicting rural English scenes. An extensive programme of stabilisation and renovation was completed in 2012, and the site is now open for guided tours. To book a tour call Stromness Tours on 07759 857298.

World War I
In WWI Ness Battery was one of three batteries covering Hoy Sound from the north side. The batteries were named Hoy Nos. 1, 2 and 3, numbered from west to east. In 1915 the three batteries were equipped with guns manufactured in the United States and manned by a mixture of Royal Marines and local men of the Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery. After WWI the three batteries were dismantled and the guns scrapped, but traces of Hoy No. 2 Battery can still to be seen at Ness Battery.

  • Hoy No. 1 - Innertown, two 6-inch guns, manned by Royal Marines
  • Hoy No. 2 - Ness Battery, two 6-inch guns, manned by Royal Marines
  • Hoy No. 3 - Stromness Golf Course, three 5-inch guns, manned by the Orkney Royal Garrison Artillery

Looking across Hoy Sound with one of the 5-inch guns of Hoy No. 3 Battery in the foreground. © Orkney Library & Archive

World War II
In WWII the site became a coast defence battery once again. At the outbreak of war it was one of only two coast batteries in Orkney with guns ready to fire. Another five batteries were built during the war to defend the western approach to Scapa Flow from attack by enemy surface ships. Ness Battery became Fire Command for them all. The battery also had the role of Examination Battery, supporting the Royal Navy's Examination Service which controlled all traffic coming in and out of Hoy Sound. The battery's main armament was a pair of breech loading Mk VII 6-inch guns with a range of 7 miles (11 km).

A 6-inch gun emplacement at Ness Battery in WWII.  © Orkney Library & Archive

Ness Battery fired the first shots of Orkney's war on 29 September 1939  when two 'bring to' rounds were fired across the bows of a suspect vessel. Intriguingly, local sources remember this vessel as a Dutch merchant ship, but the official Army records describe it as a Navy store ship.

Battery Observation Post at Ness Battery in WWII. © Imperial War Museum H010607

Post World War II
The 6-inch guns remained at Ness Battery until 1955 when they were removed as part of a general abandonment of fixed artillery as a form of coast defence. It was thought that such weapons had no role in the era of guided missiles and nuclear weapons. However, the site continued to be used for many years by the Territorial Army. They were supplied with a mobile 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun, later replaced with a Bofors L70, and carried out regular firing practice.

Many other units of the armed forces used the site for training. The Northern Lighthouse Board set up a small base at the Battery, with a helipad from which their lighthouses were supplied. The Fire Brigade are known to have used the site for training, and several school groups stayed at the site while visiting Orkney.

The site was sold by the Ministry of Defence to Orkney Islands Council in 2001.