Fort Belan was the site used by 31MU, Llandwrog to effect Operation Sandcastle.
This, from October 1954, was the disposal of the 71,000 250 kg Tabun 'GA' nerve gas bombs stored on Llandwrog airfield since 1946/7. They had been confiscated from stocks in north-west Germany in 1945 and shipped via Newport Docks, then rail to 31MU Llanberis before being road transported to Llandwrog (via some very narrow roads!). The operation was codenamed 'Dismal' and was handled by 277MU.
Now considered redundant and in danger of leaking, the plan was to transport the weapons by sea to the No.2 Military Port at Cairnryan, Stranraer - where they would be loaded onto a number of obsolete hulks and then finally deep-sea dumped a long way off the UK coast.
Army Landing Craft were used to move the bombs from Llandwrog to Cairnryan. Six in total were used in rotation - a typical sequence was 6-8 hrs loading, 12-18 hour sea journey, 15-36 hrs to unload, then return. It was naturally tide dependent. Typically one LCT departed every day.
Initially 500 bombs could be loaded on to an LCT, but after 16,100 had been transported, the tails of the remaining weapons were removed by 'knocking them off' by means of a so-called 'guillotine'. It was actually a 400 lb weight dropped 8 feet onto the tail of the bomb which was strapped down. In this way the welds were fractured. Three such devices were eventually installed. Naturally the wooden storage boxes were also shortened accordingly, and the LCTs could then carry 800 bombs at a time. (Note the aim was to de-tail a total of 300 bombs per day which contradicts the daily shipping achievement of 800 bombs?).
All three armed forces were involved in the operation. Firstly this required:
1) Construction of a slipway 'hard' on the beach at Fort Belan. This would enable a pair of LCTs Mk.IV to dock and be loaded from roller conveyors. The area had been surveyed by the Admiralty.
2) A paved stockpiling / assembly area, where the weapons transported by Bantam Karriers from the airfield could await sea transportation. This was manned by civilians and RAF personnel.
3) Improvement of the existing cinder and gravel track and construction of a new road from the airfield perimeter to the area.
4) Installation of an administration site adjacent to the assembly area. It would have rest and changing rooms, a guard house and full medical inspection and decontamination facilities.
5) 'Street' lighting, GPO telephones and R/T communications were also installed.
The whole shipping operation was completed on 23 July 1956 after which most of the facilities were demolished.
Source: TNA, AIR17/xx (numerous 'Sandcastle' files). Photographed June 2012.
Admin building bases
Sole remaining building on the admin site
The Assembly Area looking east
The Assembly Area looking back towards the airfield
Assembly Area on the left leading to the Beachead (right)
Beachead looking east
Beachead looking west
Fort Belan in background
Unknown structures on beach
Wonderful Snowdonia scenery - but a distinct sense of foreboding here.
Last edited by Carnaby; 09-08-2012 at 13:18. Reason: guillotine drop was 8ft, not 12
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)