26 May 2017
20 December 2015
In Aberlady Bay – which, incidentally, was designated in 1952 as the UK’s first Local Nature Reserve – rest the wrecks of two World War II midget submarines 1 km out from the Mean High Water line on the intertidal flats of Gullane Sands. In May 1946 these two XT-Craft – training versions of the X-Craft submarine – were moored one each 100 paces to the north and to the south of a set of five concrete anti-tank blocks (four forming a base with the fifth placed on top) positioned close to the low tide mark. Two aircraft – a Supermarine Seafire (the folding-wing, aircraft-carrier version of the Spitfire) and a de Havilland Mosquito then used the mini submarines floating at high tide as targets in a trial on the effects on X-Craft hulls of 20mm cannon shells. The wrecks of the two vessels were subsequently left abandoned in situ.
Built by Vickers-Armstrong, the X-Craft submarine was 15 metres long and was manned by a crew of four. The midget submarine was designed specifically for use in the 1943 attacks, codenamed Operation Source, on the German fleet in Norwegian fjords. The German Bismarck-class battleship Tirpitz was put out of action for at least six months after sustaining damage from demolition charges placed below her by two X-Craft. (The Tirpitz finally met her end the following year when she took two direct hits from Lancaster bombers.)
26 October 2016
The Goodwin Sands – a massive sand bank in the English Channel between South Foreland and Ramsgate – have been a hazard to shipping for centuries and there are records of lights on the White Cliffs to warn mariners of the dangers since the 14th century. In 1635 two open-fire braziers were erected at South Foreland and there have been two lighthouses there ever since. In 1793 the Upper Light was converted to use oil lamps and in 1795 the Lower Light was similarly converted. Both lighthouses were purchased by Trinity House in 1832 with alterations being carried out to the Upper Light in 1842 and the Lower Light being totally rebuilt in 1846.
By 1875 South Foreland was equipped with carbon-arc lamps making it the first lighthouse to use electric light. The lighthouse was also later used by Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) as a base for his experiments in radio transmission and it became the first ever site to receive a ship-to-shore radio message and in 1899 it also received the first international radio transmission (from Wimereux, between Calais and Boulogne in France).
By 1904 the Goodwin Sands had shifted by such an extent that the visual alignment of the two lights no longer provided an accurate indication of the location of the sand bank and so the Lower Light was decommissioned. The Upper Light was fully automated in 1969 and it remained in service until 1988 when it too was decommissioned, modern navigational aids having rendered it redundant. The National Trust took over the site in 1989 and opened it to the public in 1990.