Hoy Sound Gun Batteries

Hoy Sound forms the main western entrance to Scapa Flow between Hoy and the Mainland’s Stromness peninsula, with the small island of Graemsay in the middle. These batteries are fairly typical of those found at strategic entrance points round Scapa Flow.

Map of Hoy Sound defences

Volunteers’ battery

Next to the campsite some of the remains of the gun platforms for the battery built in 1860 for muzzle loading cannon and is situated such that it covers the entrance to Stromness harbour rather than the entrance to Scapa Flow. It was up-gunned with 4.7 inch breech loaders sometime before 1910 but was overshadowed by the construction of the Hoy Batteries in WWI.

Volunteers' Battery Volunteers' Battery

Links Battery

Walking round the shore path – skirting Stromness golf course that gives the battery its name – the first obvious structure is a twin six pounder QF emplacement of the Links Battery looking out over Clestrain Sound towards Graemsay. With an effective range of 1,500m the six pounders would cover the 1000m of water with ease and be more than a match for light vessels such as motor torpedo boats.

Links Battery emplacementHoy Sound

Further round there is a low searchlight emplacement set into the shore. If the searchlights were being used to find a target in the sound at night they would provide an obvious target so they tended to be placed away from the guns. This covers a similar area to the six pounder emplacement – over towards Graemsay.

Links searchlight emplacement Links searchlight emplacement

Hoy No. 3

In the rough of the golf course the foundations for the WWI Hoy No. 3 battery of three five inch guns can still be made out from the path.

Hoy No 3 battery

Ness Battery

Still further round an higher up the hill there are the emplacements for the main six inch BL guns of the Ness Battery that would have covered the entire Hoy sound. With a seven mile range these guns would have commanded the seaward approach to Hoy Sound and been extremely effective at the close ranges across to Hoy.

Ness Battery Hoy Sound from Ness Battery

There is a guided tour of the Ness Battery that is well worth doing as it not only covers the gun emplacements and supporting structures but also the surviving accommodation huts.

Hoy No. 2

In front of the emplacements of the Ness Battery are the remains of the WWI Hoy No. 2 battery, similar structures to those of Hoy No. 3 but for two six inch guns.


On the rocky high point of the ness overlooking both Stromness and the Ness Battery is Citadel which was the site of an 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun in WWII. This is now known as Gun Viewpoint which is at the end of Citadel Road.

The Citadel The Citadel

Hoy No. 1

To the west of Stromness beside Warbeth Road is the location of the WWI Hoy No. 1 battery which, like Hoy No. 2, had two six inch guns. There don’t seem to be any discernible remains but the site has a commanding view over the seaward entrance to Hoy Sound.

View from Hoy No 1 Battery

Skerry Battery

Situated on Hoy the Skerry Battery had two 12 pounder QF guns and searchlight emplacements. The battery is located at the entrance to Burra Sound – between Hoy and Graemsay – which was effectively closed by block ships supplemented with additional anti-submarine obstacles in the channels.

Graemsay and Skerry Batteries from Ness Battery

The majority of Skerry battery still remains in the corner of a farmer’s field. At the rear is a generator building, in the centre is the fire control tower with another building off to the right.

Skerry Battery

The fire control tower has a ground floor room and the first floor main observation room is entered via an exterior stair at the rear of the building.

Skerry Battery

From the fire control tower the whole of Hoy sound and the entrance to Burra sound can bee seen.

View from Skerry Battery fire control tower

The wooden window frames still survive and it’s possible to make out the recesses where the window hinges would have fitted.

Skerry Battery fire control window

The two twelve pounder emplacements are immediately in front of the fire control tower.

Skerry Battery gun emplacement Skerry Battery gun emplacement Skerry Battery gun emplacement

Inside the emplacements there are ready use ammunition lockers in the front corners.

Skerry Battery gun emplacement Skerry Battery gun emplacement Skerry Battery gun emplacement

The guns were situated so as to be able to cover the entire sound.

Skerry Battery gun emplacement

Set into the front of the cliff with their tops level with the field are the two searchlight emplacements.

Skerry Battery searchlight emplacements

Further round and in the lee of a slight dip in the cliff line two concrete Nissen huts still remain.

Skerry Battery nissen huts

Graemsay Battery

The later Graemsay battery, situated next to the Hoy Low lighthouse, consisted of a twin six pounder QF gun emplacement and searchlights that, in combination with the similar guns of the Links Battery, meant by 1944 the main western entrance to Scapa Flow via Clestrain Sound was well covered.

Built late in the war the Graemesay battery is somewhat different from the others, notably it doesn’t have top cover for the gun emplacement – presumably as it had been four years since the last air raid – and it features dispersed beam search lights.

The fire control tower has four levels, the upper two feature panoramic windows.

Graemsay Battery Fire Control Tower Graemsay Battery Fire Control TowerGraemsay Battery Fire Control Tower

Inside, a number of original fixtures still survive.

Graemsay fire control tower fittings Graemsay fire control tower fittings Graemsay fire control tower fittings

The upper floors were accessed by wooden ladders and there are cable runs between the floors set into the walls.

Graemsay battery fire control tower ladder Graemsay battery fire control tower cable runs

The gun emplacement mounted a pair of six pounder QF guns.  The floor is concrete with a metal hexagonal ring to fix the turntable.

Graemsay gun emplacement Graemsay gun emplacement

The outer walls are finished with local stone and this is particularly evident in the ready use ammunition lockers.

Graemsay gun emplacement Graemsay gun emplacement

The emplacement’s traverse covers the entire sound from Hoy to Stromness.

Graemsay battery panorama

The dispersed beam searchlight emplacements are set some way off to the south of the gun emplacement.

Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacements

The dispersed beam emplacements feature two sets of three vertical windows which, judging by the traces of glass, would have been glazed.  There are fittings for two search lights inside.

Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement
Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement
Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement

The inside is painted in two tones, split to match the horizon.

Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement

There are markings next to the windows that are presumably angles and assist with set up of the dispersed beam.

Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement markings Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement markings Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement markings Graemsay dispersed beam searchlight emplacement markings