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Cairnryan and the

Cairnryan Military Railway

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Shortly after the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk and the fall of France to the German Nazi invaders in June 1940 plans were developed to establish emergency harbours in Britain. Now that the enemy were so close to Britain’s main ports the fear was that Liverpool and Greenock would be so heavily bombed that they would be unuseable particularly in relation to vital supplies from the United States. In Scotland several sites were investigated and two were chosen. Number 1 Military Port was to be established at Faslane on the Gareloch and Number 2 Military Port was to be established at Cairnryan near Stranraer.

Four thousand workers mostly serving military personnel in the Royal Engineers, The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Royal Pioneer Corps began the construction at Cairnryan in the summer of 1940 building two piers, the North Deep and the South Deep, seven miles of railway, with all of the associated sidings yards and service buildings and 10 accommodation camps of Nissen huts. These camps, traces of which can still be seen today, were the Transit Camp on the outskirts of Stranraer, Aird Camp, Rock McGibbon or Innermessen Camp, Leffnoll Marshalling Yard, Drummuchloch Camp, Bankhead Camp, Meadowbank Camp, Caddyburn Camp, Cairnryan Camp and Bonnybraes which was linked with the Pile Construction Yard.

Within eighteen months, in July 1943, the port at Cairnryan and the railway were opened, a truly amazing feat of construction engineering. By this time the US had entered the war, the build up for the invasion of Europe had begun and a number of US ships carrying troops and vehicles arrived at Cairnryan. At the Pile Construction Yard huge concrete sections of the Mulberry Harbours, called “Beetles” and “Whales”, were constructed, tested in Wigton Bay, and then towed to the invasion beaches in France.

With the danger of enemy bombing passed and with the successful Allied landings in France Number 2 Military Port at Cairnryan was put on a care and maintenance basis. When the war ended in 1945 the main activity at Cairnryan was the disposal at sea of huge deposits of explosives, including mines, shells, grenades, German nerve gas canisters, small arms ammunition and fuses. This was dangerous work and eight soldiers of the Royal Engineers were killed in an accident involving these explosives.

At the end of the war Cairnryan also saw the surrender of 86 German U Boat submarines and the breaking up of such great warships as HMS Ramillies, Valiant, Centaur, Bulwark, Eagle, Ark Royal and Blake.

In 1959 the port at Carinryan was closed and in 1967 the historic railway built in the darkest days of the Second World War was lifted. Little now remains to record the achievements of thousands of men and women who served here and made history.
   
 
 

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