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Former Naval Headquarters and Communications Centre, Wee Fea, Lyness, Hoy

A Category A Listed Building in Stromness and South Isles, Orkney Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 58.8318 / 58°49'54"N

Longitude: -3.2246 / 3°13'28"W

OS Eastings: 329399

OS Northings: 994459

OS Grid: ND293944

Mapcode National: GBR L5DD.3L5

Mapcode Global: WH6BN.F8PT

Entry Name: Former Naval Headquarters and Communications Centre, Wee Fea, Lyness, Hoy

Listing Date: 31 January 2002

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 395771

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB48378

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Walls and Flotta

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: Stromness and South Isles

Traditional County: Orkney

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Description

Royal Marine Engineers, 1943. Large concrete, rectangular-plan Second World War communications and signal station set on Wee Fea overlooking Lyness. Built into a bank to north west with a ditch between the building and hill to the north west and south west. The north west elevation has an opening to left with (now missing) timber forestair and a porthole opening to right flank, with 2 more openings to right. An opening is set back to far left and concrete stairs lead up to a door. The south west elevation has a small square window with external pipes evident below. The south east elevation has numerous porthole openings with a window to the far left. There is an advanced 3-sided section to right with windows in each face. There is a window opening to the far right, and numerous ventilation slits are present throughout the length of the elevation. The north east elevation has 3 window openings, and a concrete forestair to far right leading to an opening in the right return. The flat roof contains the remains of signal mountings, a brick water tank and other concrete structures.

Statement of Interest

The former communications centre building at Wee Fea, with extensive strategic views over Lyness and beyond to Scapa Flow, is a significant physical landmark and remnant of the military activity at Lyness from the Second World War, and was principally used by the Admiralty to send and receive communications to the fleet based at Scapa Flow. It is a rare survivor of an important strategic military site and group of facilities put in place to supply the Royal Navy stationed in Scapa Flow immediately before and after the Second World War. There are no other examples of its type in Scotland and it is a remarkably intact structure from the period. The building remains in its outstanding setting of the Scapa Flow and is part of a wider group of listed military buildings in the area.

It was constructed to replace the earlier Admiral Commanding Orkney and Shetland (ACOS) Naval Communication Centre near to the decontamination station (see separate listing). All communications for the fleet at Scapa Flow were processed in this building, communicating through both telephone and wireless transmission. It was strategically important, handling over 25,000 messages per day.

Prior to the First World War, Britain was considered to be most at risk of attack from continental Europe and the British Navy was based on the south coast of England. However the changing political situation at the beginning of the 20th century meant that the threat changed to focus on the German Navy in the Baltic sea. It was this, combined with the geography of the Orkney Islands which was the impetus for moving part of the Grand Fleet to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. Scapa Flow is is one of the world's largest natural harbours and it is mostly enclosed by surrounding islands, including Hoy, where Lyness overlooks Scapa Flow.

The enormous impact on the Orkney Islands of both World Wars has left us with an important legacy of military structures, many of which do not survive elsewhere in the UK.

By 1942 the naval base at Lyness supported thousands of military and civilian personnel. Lyness would become a self-contained town that provided accommodation, recreational and practical facilities for the number of service men and women who were stationed there during the First and Second World War.

Previously listed as 'Walls (Hoy), Wee Fea Naval Communications and Operational Centre'. Category changed from B to A, and listed building record updated as part of the review of Lyness (2014).

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