Heritage agency joins fight to save war defences: Oliver Gillie visits a site once primed to repel German warships

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WILD PIGS patrol the gun emplacements at South Sutor, on the Moray coast, once a vital part of Britain's defences in two world wars. The guns were used to defend the entrance to the Moray Firth, an important resting place for the British fleet, but today the site is a ruin.

The owner of the site, Michael Nightingale, a farmer and antiquarian who is anxious to preserve as much as possible of the fort, put the pigs there to frighten off intruders but has been unable to prevent vandals removing armoured steel doors and shutters to sell as scrap.

Now Historic Scotland, the Government's heritage agency, hopes that it may be possible to preserve some of the major buildings on the site. At the edge of the cliff, deeply set in concrete, are two bunkers where six- inch guns were placed in the Second World War, matched by two more on the north side of the entrance to the firth. In the First World War, one 9.2-inch naval gun was matched by four 4-inch guns on the north side.

Doreen Grove, inspector of ancient monuments with Historic Scotland, said: 'So much remains that the fort still gives us an idea of the effort that was put into our defences in two world wars. I would like to see this site cleared up and opened to the public.' As a first step Mrs Grove intends to request a survey by the Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. After that the site will need to be cleared of trees that are threatening to damage some of the buildings.

The occupation of the site for 70 years has made it complicated to interpret. But a survey by John Guy, an enthusiast from the Fortress Study Group, has shown that there were two major sites: one on the top of the cliff and one at the base. Looking down the cliff to the sea, two small observation posts can be seen perched on pinnacles of rock. Beside them is the second site with the remains of the bunker that once contained two four- inch guns.

(Photograph omitted)