Cairnryan and the
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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
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.