Inverness – Fort George

View from the Point Battery at Fort George, looking out on to the Moray Firth.

We are about eleven miles north east of Inverness in Scotland, on a piece of land that juts out into the channel, controlling the approach to the city from the sea.  From the car park the fort doesn’t look much, but this has been, since its construction following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which ended with the Battle of Culloden in April 1746, a working military establishment, and it will continue to be so until 2032 when it will close, according to the Government in 2016, because ‘the Highland rebellions are over’.

However this fabulous model shows the complexities of its design.  The modern car park is marked as a purple oval, and the bastion on the left, known as the Prince of Wales’s Bastion and marked in red, is the same one that is visible in the previous photograph, where you will spot the observation tower perched at the bastion’s point.  Construction of the fort, incorporating star-shaped defences, as did all good post-Vauban designs, and with its own harbour beneath the walls, allowing it to be supplied from the sea in the event of a siege, began in 1748 and was completed in 1769, at a little over double the original budget – some things, it would seem, never change.  We shall find ourselves exploring the bastions marked in yellow in the background much later in the post, but we shall start at the very beginning, entry being through the visitor’s centre (orange), where a small bridge leads across the first defensive ditch to the ‘v’ shaped ravelin…

…and the first entrance to the fort, above which the Saltire flutters; the ravelin, as the model shows, is completely isolated, and totally exposed to fire, from the rest of the fort, and should it be taken provides no means of entry to the fort proper.  Fort George is an excellent example of the defense in depth philosophy, its stone-faced walls, some twenty feet wide, bristling with cannon and incorporating projecting bastions and redoubts, topped with earth and grass to absorb enemy artillery shells and protect the main garrison in vaulted casemates beneath, all designed to create a killing field beneath the fort’s walls.

Beyond the ravelin, a second, much longer walkway (check out the model again) crossing a deep ditch beneath more defended bastions leading to the second, main, entrance, above which the Union flag proudly flies.

This bridge incorporates a drawbridge, on which we are standing, and beneath was the  aforementioned intended killing field, where attacking infantry would be slaughtered before there was any chance that the fort itself could be entered.

Anyway, back to modern times, and once inside,…

…garrison buildings, all original, little having changed here since the fort was built,…

…buildings that frankly could be nothing but military.

Interesting though the fort itself is,…

…my main reasons for visiting…

…were more specific.

As the sign tells us, this is the regimental chapel of the Seaforth Highlanders and Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforths & Camerons).  The Seaforth Highlanders were formed at the time of the Childers Reforms in 1881 with the amalgamation of the 72nd (Highland) Regiment of Foot and the 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, the new regiment based here at Fort George.  The 1961 amalgamation with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders formed the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforths & Camerons), still based at Fort George, before the fort became home to The Black Watch, 3rd Bn., The Royal Regiment of Scotland, in 2007.

Inside, colours hang from the balcony on either side, and at the far end of the room,…

…memorials…

…and Rolls of Honour relating to the fort’s current occupants, The Black Watch,…

…these three wooden tablets remembering men who have lost their lives between 1954…

…and 2016.

Unfortunately the door to the balcony was locked,…

…but no matter, this and the following shots will do well enough.  This is the Queen’s Colour,…

…a Regimental Colour,…

…the King’s Colour,…

…and another Regimental Colour.

Looking back towards the apse from beneath the balcony, the succeeding four shots following the colours down the left hand side,…

…and the following four showing the colours opposite, returning up the right side:

Talking of the apse, six more very ancient colours can be seen behind the altar,…

…with an explanation nearby.

Seaforth Highlanders Rolls of Honour for two World Wars.

Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders Rolls of Honour, again for two World Wars.

More Seaforth Rolls of Honour, World War II, and beyond,…

…men who died in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland and the Gulf.

Drums of the Black Watch,…

…and beyond the drums,…

…Monty’s window.

Drums of the Seaforth Highlanders,…

…and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders,…

…and as I took these photos I couldn’t help but wonder what stories these drums could tell, if only they had the means.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in April 1923 these two Seaforth majors, both Great War veterans who had co-incidentally joined the regiment on the same day, were taking a stroll a couple of miles from their camp at Landi Kotal (North West Frontier, once India, now present-day Pakistan, near the Khyber Pass on the border with Afghanistan), when they were ambushed and shot by two tribesmen as revenge, it turned out, for the British hanging of a family member some fifteen years earlier.  Both officers were in mufti, and neither was armed; the tribesmen were subsequently captured and shot.

The two lance corporals were both killed in action within a few days of each other in September 2006, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Paul Muirhead dying of his injuries five days after sustaining them, his mother having been flown out to be by his side.

I reckon that’s about it for the chapel, but well worth half an hour of anyone’s time.

Once outside again,…

…there’s a bell from H.M.S. Excalibur, but no one seems to know the Fort George connection,…

…and a rather nice tribute from the Dutch town of Waalwijk.

Time to head up there, I think.

Looking down on the chapel from up on the bastions, all of which are named, this one being the Duke of Marlborough’s Demi-Bastion.

Panning to our left,…

…this panorama covering 90° from east (left) to south (right).

18th Century plan of the fort – you can see here how little has changed – with the Duke of Marlborough’s Demi-Bastion marked in orange,…

…and this is one of its cannon, pointing out to sea, next to which…

…is the bastion’s observation tower, perched above the sea and the same design as the one I pointed out right at the start of the post.

Four more cannon…

…lead us to the Point Battery on its sliding track, the furthest west of all the guns, the view from which I showed you in the first photo of this post,…

…with more cannon to its left, the Point Battery now in the background.

Turning to look south, the small roofed structure from which the lady in red (absolutely no singing please) has just appeared is another observation tower, this one part of Prince Fredericks Williams Demi-Bastion (marked in magenta on the 1769 map),…

…and the view looking back across to the Duke of Marlborough’s Demi-Bastion, now in the background, the roof of the observation post we entered earlier just visible beyond the lightest-coloured piece of wall near the centre of the shot.

Panning right from the same spot,…

…and a panorama which gives an idea of the fort’s western defences.

The chapel once more, from where we find ourselves,…

…by some miracle of photography, in the former Lieutenant Governors’ House, which is now home to the Highlanders’ Museum (Queen’s Own Highlanders Collection).

Look at this.  A real treat for a seeker of Rolls of Honour like yours truly.  Explanation below.

How can no one know where this Roll came from?  Somewhere, probably in some regimental photograph album, there are pictures with it in the background.  There must be.

Messages from the front line – even though I have seen many over the years, I always find it interesting to see survivors of this particular form,…

…and death pennies, but not nearly as many as I have!  Ha!  Honestly.  What a braggart.

Two ladies whom we have briefly come across before on our Western Front travels; Mairi & Elsie, the Madonnas of Pervijze.

The photograph near the centre (enlarged below) shows both nurses, on the left, and a Belgian orderly, in the act of taking cover as a German shell bursts nearby, early 1918.

Standard British small arms: Lewis gun and Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle (SMLE).  Isaac Newton Lewis was a retired American colonel who, in the years immediately preceding the Great War, invented the Lewis gun, manufacturing first in Belgium, and then in 1914 in Great Britain, where the licence to produce his gun was bought by the Birmingham Small Arms Company, the design being approved for service with the British Army in October 1915.

Leaving the little museum, and returning to the fort’s main entrance,…

…the plaque above which…

…remembers the 8,432 men from ten battalions of Seaforths who died in the Great War.

And finally back across the bridge towards the ravelin, the cannon on the left pointing straight at where the car park is now sited, if you check the model of the fort, and in the foreground, beneath us,…

…the wide ditch where the killing would take place.  Thankfully, so far, it never has.

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4 Responses to Inverness – Fort George

  1. Nick Kilner says:

    What an absolutely amazing place! Little wonder it’s never been attacked, it would be suicidal, extraordinarily well designed. That roll of honour is stunning, and quite the mystery. I’m with you, there will be a photograph somewhere. Cracking little museum too! Some very nice bits and pieces, and those colours….. superb! A really enjoyable tour of the facility, thank you.

    • Magicfingers says:

      It’s a brilliant place, and I wouldn’t have known anything about it except some kilted Canadians had mentioned it to the missus and said it was a must-see. Thanks mate.

  2. Margaret Draycott says:

    Fascinating report M no idea that fort was there have been in the area but many years ago now. Beautiful chapel and so well looked after obviously an immense pride in their regiments and achievements. Echo what Nick said who would be foolish enough to attack it.

    • Magicfingers says:

      And I double-echo it! Thank you M. I hadn’t been to the Cairngorms since I was a kid. One wonders the Fort’s fate, and all its contents too, come 2032.

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