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History of the South Uist Rocket Range - site on Tiree.

Title: History of the South Uist Rocket Range - site on Tiree.
Posted by: Martin Briscoe on 07-02-2013

Discussion: I wonder if anyone on here who is knowledgeable about the early history if the Rocket Range? I did meet someone at a conference but lost his EMail address.

Some years I visited Tiree with some friends from Subterranea Britannica, looking at military sites. There was one site at Balephetrish Hill that we could not make much sense of, so presumed it was a communications site associated with the Cold War radar station nearby.

I went back over to Tiree a couple of years ago on my own and looked at this site again. This time I was able to make some enquiries locally. I was told that it was built in connection with the South Uist Rocket Range but never completed. There had been a tower there so it was probably something to do with communications, there was no obvious sign of a radar installation.

Just wonder if anyone knows anything about the site?

Martin Briscoe
Fort William

Replies to this post

Posted by: Martin Briscoe on 02-01-2019

I came across these photographs whilst looking for something else

IWM Collection

If the link does not work then just search for BENBECULA on

Posted by: Fred Godden on 11-06-2013

The Goverment started planning for a defence range very shortly after the war i;e late 40`s in the planning stages they had a shotlist of 6 sites in mind the final choice was between South Uist and Wales South Uist was chosen, the R.A.F were going to be based in North Uist the Army in South Uist with planes too find a suitable Navy base in the Western Isles as well, the Range in Uist was going to be massive but then there was a change of Goverment and a lack of money so defence spending was cut, resulting in a large scaleing back of the Range to the size it is today.
As a matter of interest initially the Uist Range would have taken over half the Iseland.

Posted by: Martin Briscoe on 08-06-2013

I went over the old newspaper stories.

The original plan was to test / train with ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles but everything was stopped and when restarted these were moved to Wales and Uist was only involved in training with the Corporal(?) ground-to-air missile.

I presume that the original plans could have been to operate over the Minch but the Corporal was only fired into the Atlantic. The Tiree site could have either been range safety, tracking or control. I think if it was to have been a comms relay station then there would still have been a need for it.

The tower does not look as if it was very substantial so I don\'t think it would have carried radar and there did not seem to be any mounting on the roof of the building from what I remember.

Martin Briscoe
Fort William

Posted by: Martin Briscoe on 08-06-2013

A few pictures of the buildings on Tiree here

Martin Briscoe
Fort William

Posted by: Mairi MacLeod on 21-04-2013

You might like to check out the archives at Kildonan Museum - I have a feeling that a lot of the old records are there.

Posted by: Martin Briscoe on 12-04-2013

I have been reading through the newspaper archives.

Can\'t find any mention of Tiree but in mid 1956 there was talk of work beginning April 1957 but later in the year the government said they were reconsidering the project, there had been a lot of protests on the islands. Then at the end of 1957 it was decided to do Air-to-Air and Surface-to-Air testing at Aberporth and Ty Croes. Uist would be used for a Summer camp for training on the Corporal Surface-to-Surface missile. The first was successfully fired in mid-1959.

I wonder if Tiree was part of plans for testing Air-to-Air and / or Surface-to-Surface but was not needed with Surface-to-Surface because they would all be fired Westwards.

Martin Briscoe
Fort William

Posted by: Martin Briscoe on 12-04-2013

Thanks, that could explain it.

Sorry for the delay, I had forgotten to check back.

Will post another question about the airfield shortly!

Martin Briscoe
Fort William

Posted by: Fred Godden on 17-02-2013

The site in Tiree will no doubt be related to the original plans for the rocket range in South Uist. If memory serves me the work on the original rocket range started in 1956 and after a few months the whole plan was scraped, new plans were drawn up by the M.O.D and that's what we have in place in South Uist today.

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