(Image: TCCI1; Oban Minefield Control Tower)
If you were a German U-boat commander during World War Two, there’s one place around Britain’s shores you absolutely would not have wanted to end up. At the achingly-beautiful Sound of Kerrera near Gallanach in Scotland, a vast network of submarine mines were laid out, each poised to explode and send German vessels sinking beneath the waves. Controlled from a concrete watchtower high above the sound, they could be remotely programmed to disable themselves, explode on contact… or all detonate at once, destroying everything in sight.
While the minefield is today long gone, the nigh-on indestructible tower remains intact, silently watching over the waters below, as if waiting for the day when the U-boats would return. Stripped of its military guard and equipment, the abandoned Oban Minefield Control Tower now looks like something out of a Brutalist sci-fi film: a concrete spaceship, all hard lines and razor-sharp edges, preparing to blast off into the Scottish sky.
Inside, this hallucinatory impression is quickly replaced by something much more down to earth. Now gutted and covered in graffiti, the derelict military tower’s interior simply has a sombre, neglected air, like a place that’s been forgotten by everyone but bored teenage vandals. Little trace remains of its one-time importance, or the vast, destructive power it was capable of.
Perhaps that’s a good thing. In its small underground section, away from the revealing glow of natural light, the Oban Minefield Control Tower is a silent, haunting place. Like the threats Britain used to face on a daily basis from Germany, it has become little more than a relic of the past. A postcard from a far-distant, infinitely stranger time.