Faslane – The Legacy Scottish Unionists are Content to Hand Over to Their Children – P3 – The Holy Loch After 30 Years Occupation By The Yanks – To Be Continued

The US nuclear submarine re-fitting base at the Holy Loch

The Holy Loch based US submarine refit facility

In autumn 1959, the US Government decided to provide forward servicing facilities for a submarine squadron to be based in the UK. Studies were carried out to determine the most suitable location for such a refit facility, leading to a final selection of the deep, sheltered access Holy Loch in July 1960. Following an approach to the British government, requesting permission to establish a refit site in the United Kingdom for Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines, an agreement was negotiated which permitted the US to use the Holy Loch, on the Firth of Clyde, for the anchorage of a submarine tender, a large dry dock, and other supporting craft.

The number of submarines supported varied over the years however an indication of the scale of the operation can be seen in the number of patrols carried out. On April 2, 1987, a US submarine completed the 2,500th Ballistic Missile Deterrent Patrol to be carried out by the submarine fleet.

The facility expanded rapidly from 1961 as personnel gained experience and the number of supported submarines grew. But there was never a base at Holy Loch, instead, the US Navy facilities were integrated with the local community, with Sandbank and Dunoon providing shore facilities. In May 1962, the US Navy arranged for the old Ardnadam Hotel to be converted into an enlisted mens’ club, commissary and exchange. All personnel lived ashore, residing in rooms or homes rented from members of the local community. American children received their education in primary schools in Dunoon, Kirn, Sandbank and St Munn’s, then in Dunoon Grammar School when they were older. Americans became active participants in many community related events.

As tensions eased over the years, and the Cold War eventually came to an end with the demise of the Soviet Union, the closure of the base became inevitable, with the announcement being made February 6, 1991. In March 1992, the last US Navy ship, the submarine tender USS Simon Lake, sailed out of the Holy Loch, ending thirty one years of American presence in the area.

The Holy Loch – the aftermath

For thirty years, between 1961 and 1992, the Holy Loch was the location of a base for the U.S. Navy’s 14th Submarine Squadron. It was handed back to the MoD in June 1992.

During its time as an American base, a vast amount of waste, some of it toxic, was dumped into the loch, and was left on the seabed when the Americans departed.

In 1992, due to concerns from local residents in Sandbank, a team of marine scientists undertook an underwater camera survey to examine the amount of waste on the seabed. The survey revealed that levels of some elements, including nickel, zinc, cadmium and selenium were well above the national averages and there were about 60 drums filled with an unknown substance.

It was not until 1998, however, that work began to clean-up the waste as there were disagreements about whether the waste removed would pose a risk to local residents and marine life.

Tonnes of waste was slowly and systematically removed from the area of the former base between February 1998 and February 2001 at a cost of nearly £11million. The work was carried out by a contractor on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

During the recovery process, an assortment of objects were found including propellers, cables, scaffold towers, wire reels and gas cylinders of acetylene, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. In total, over 2,700 tonnes of waste and debris was recovered from the site of the naval base and the MoD claimed that the vast majority of the site had been cleared. Responsibility for the Holy Loch was handed to Clydeport Authority in April 2002.

However, in August 2002, a number of local people complained that their boats were losing anchors because they were being caught on debris on the seabed. The MoD admitted that some debris, including shipwrecks and other non-hazardous objects had not been cleared. The cryptic justification provided by the Westminster government was that to do so would cause more harm than good to the natural habitat. So just what is sitting on the seabed on the Holy loch???  Extracted and modified – Fortress Scotland published by Scottish CND

Submarines being stacked for refitting on the Holy Loch

Submarine being raised onto te floating dock on the Holy Loch

2 replies on “Faslane – The Legacy Scottish Unionists are Content to Hand Over to Their Children – P3 – The Holy Loch After 30 Years Occupation By The Yanks – To Be Continued”

Only the half of it.

All shellfish around the Holy Loch died suddenly at one point. The debris on the bottom of the loch was a red herring. There is as much if not more debris in Rothesay Bay which housed a naval base for many years but no suggestion that a large fleet of ships should come and clean that up. They were looking for something else in the Holy Loch which they found and the cleaning ships left suddenly in a few days. A previous US base commander actually contacted the local media begging that they should call for the leaving the bottom of the loch alone.
The incidence of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and other leukaemias and cancers around the Holy Loch in the last two decades is many times the national incidence. BBC made a film called “Tin Fish” starring Emma Thompson on the Holy Loch (written I think by Paul Murton from this area whose brother died very young of leukaemia) which dealt with the cancer threat of nuclear submarine bases but then he whole political content of the piece was removed before it was broadcast. I know. It was the hotel I owned whic hwas the base used for the film


Frightening . One wonders what is lying at the bottom of the lochs near-hand the Clyde. I used to visit Rothesay as a young lad. My memories are of a paradise. The water was a clear blue and we played happily in it for many hours in the course of the day. A walk along the shore was an adventure there was an abundance of sealife to wonder at and collect for eating later. Today the island is a very sad place having been on the receiving end of a constant battering for the last 50 years. The environment might never recover from the excesses of the military occupation of the lochs and ports. What is sad is that the Scottish public will not exercise their vote and bring about independence and it is only that which will guarantee our children a future free of the aftermath of nuclear weaponry even it remains unused.


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