South of Lerwick at the Sound of Ness are the remains of a significant World War II coastal battery designed to guard the approach to Lerwick Harbour. Part of the Robertson Line, a defence for the town and port facilities stretching through Gremista, Upper Sound, Staney Hill, Greenhead and Point of Scattland (these last two were coastal batteries lost to harbour redevelopment) the most significant are the remains of two six inch gun emplacements with magazines to the rear and uncommonly linked by covered passageways.
Constructed of brick, concrete and reinforced concrete, it was in June of 1940 that the original four inch guns from the emplacement were replaced with the later six inch, the former moved to the Calback battery in Sullom Voe to protect the seaplane base.
So what was the importance of Shetland and Ness of Sound? As in World War I, it was the most northerly defence of the UK in general and, more particularly, of Scapa Flow which was home to the North Atlantic Fleet. In view of the German invasion of Norway it was also seen as a growing concern for a land invasion using the northern approaches and islands as stepping stones. Related to this, and grossly misguided though it was, there was a concern from Churchill and some advisors that Shetland's Scandinavian heritage may not provide as robust a
defence against Germany as perhaps other parts of the UK. Nonetheless, it helped provide the backbone to the Shetland Bus where agents and equipment were secretly ferried into Norway from where other agents and refugees were extracted.
The site also has the remains of three search lights, an observation post, engine room and, further behind the line, accommodation huts. What may no longer be visible are the pits for a four and one half inch howitzer and single 2-inch Unrotating Projectile (UP) launcher. Though grafitti is present on some buildings one emplacement in particular has been unfortunately marred by a mural, well done though it may be.
Well worth a visit, the best approach is to park at Tesco and follow the coastal path. Careful steps required in some areas as the embankments can be very steep in places. For a fully rewarding walk we advise to continue around the Ness of Sound.
Links for further information:
Ness of Sound on Canmore
WWII Shetland from the Shetland Museum and Archives