Conference: The Northern Barrage in the Highlands [Inverness]

ARCH Highland

03 October 2019, Starts: 10:00, Ends: 16:00

The Northern Barrage in the Highlands

A one-day conference on the U.S. Navy activity in the Highlands in World War I, assembling and then deploying mines on the Northern Barrage between Orkney and Norway. Various community groups which have researched the topic will present their findings of this little known presence. Full programme and further details available from organisers. Venue: Spectrum Centre, Inverness (near the bus station).

Free/donations welcome. Wheelchair access.

Bookings to:
Inverness Local History Forum & ARCH.
Phone 077888 35466

Conference programme and abstracts:

The Northern Barrage in the Highlands Conference

Thursday, 3rd October
Spectrum Centre, Inverness

9:30-10:00       Registration, coffees/teas

10:00-10:10     Welcome & housekeeping

10:10-10:40     The Hidden Peril – an introduction to the Northern Barrage – Allan Kilpatrick, HES

10:40-11:10     Base 18 – America in Inverness– Dave Conner

11:10-11:30     Tea/coffee break

11:30-12:00     Defending Base 18 – Groam House Museum WWI Project

12:00-12:30     Researching the People – Anne Fraser, High Life Highland

12:30-12:45     Discussion & questions

12:45-2:15       Lunch & browsing displays

2:15-2:45         Dalmore: More than Just Whisky – Carolyn Samsin

2:45-3:15         Moving Components and Mines – TBC

3:15-3:30         The US Navy Hospital in Strathpeffer – Susan Kruse

3:30 -4:00        Final discussion & closing remarks


4:00-7:00         Stalls available for browsing

7:00-8:30         Mine how you go! – public talk by Allan Kilpatrick



The Hidden Peril – an introduction to the Northern Barrage (Allan Kilpatrick)

This introduction to the Northern Barrage will provide a brief overview of the creation, operation and dismantling of the minefield. Addressing the political and military driving forces for the creation of the barrage and examine the functions and role of the US Navy and Royal Navy.

Base 18 – America in Inverness (Dave Conner)

During the period 1917 to 1919 that part of the town of Inverness comprising the Glen Albyn Distillery and the Carse Farm — which now form the Telford Retail Park and Carse Industrial Estate — were transformed into a huge munitions assembly area for mines for the North Sea Barrage. Over 1000 US sailors worked in the base, plus many others in the associated naval fleet. It was a hive of activity and an important part of the history of Inverness — although sadly largely unknown to locals nowadays.

Defending Base 18  (Groam House Museum WWI Project)

Unlike the Cromarty Firth, there were no military defences for the approaches to Inverness. This became a major concern when Inverness became a busy anchorage for the US Navy mine-laying fleet, which arrived in 1917. This talk by members of the project investigating World War I in Rosemarkie, Fortrose and Avoch will describe the plans for, and the installation of, signal stations, gun and searchlight batteries and a submarine boom between Rosemarkie and Fort George.

Researching the People (Anne Fraser)

Anne Fraser of Highland Archive Centre reports on the investigations of people involved in the Northern Barrage operation in the Highlands, using various online and local records found at the Highland Archive Centre.

Dalmore – More than Just Whisky

Base 17 at Dalmore was one of two sites in the Highlands assembling and shipping out mines. Carolyn Samsin describes results from a community project which investigated the site in 2018, drawing on new photographic evidence, some key wartime documents, and tracing remains on the ground.

Moving Components and Mines

The logistics of getting the mine components from America to Base 17 and Base 18, and then onto minelaying ships will be highlighted in this talk.

The US Navy Hospital in Strathpeffer (Susan Kruse)

The US Navy requisitioned several hotels in the fashionable spa town of Strathpeffer to be used for injured sailors. A number of photographs survive of this unusual period in Strathpeffer’s history.

Mine how you go (public talk by Allan Kilpatrick)

The creation of the Northern Barrage minefield between Orkney and Norway required over 60000 mines and required a fleet of specialist ships. The design of the minefield required a new design of an underwater mine, leading to the manufacture of the components using the power of US industry. The transporting and assembly in newly built US Naval Base 17 and 18, and the laying of the minefield required a massive fleet of ships and large amount of men. These all had an effect on the rural Highlands and what industry and transport existed.

This talk will discuss the all aspects of the operations required in the creation of the Northern Barrage. It will bring together some of the findings of the Northern Barrage conference and provide an overview of the massive industrial and military project that was the first big combined operation between the US Navy and the Royal Navy. The paper will also examine what the success of the barrage was and what its legacy is today.




Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), The Goods Shed, The Old Station, Strathpeffer, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV14 9DH
Tel: +44 (0)77888 35466 Email: