Life in Newburgh on Ythan

By Talpa

Defending the realm

In 1940 Britain was facing the very real threat of an invasion by Nazi Germany and great efforts were put into defending vulnerable areas of the coastline. Our own area around Newburgh on Ythan, with its gently sloping sandy beaches, would have been an ideal site for a landing by the German army. In 1938, the German airship Graf Zeppelin had photographed the northeast Scottish coast in great detail in preparation for a possible future invasion. 

At the outbreak of the Second World War, George Bennett Mitchell, Aberdeen Architect, was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and became CRE (Chief Royal Engineer) 9th Divisional Engineers, CRE North Highland Area and CRE Lothian and Border Area. He was made responsible for erecting beach defences from the River Forth up to Wick. The main lines of defence were to be barbed wire entanglements, concrete blocks to prevent tanks from landing, tubular scaffolding poles, pillboxes, heavy gun emplacements and mine-fields. The remains of these structures can be seen all along the beach that runs from the mouth of the Ythan at Newburgh all the way to Aberdeen, 12 miles to the south.

The vast majority of the anti-tank blocks were cubes of concrete cast in wooden shuttering. However, at some point a decision was made to make them by pouring concrete into precast concrete sewer pipes. As the photograph shows, a short section of them survive to this day.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell is buried in Newburgh's Holyrood cemetery. Mrs T and I own the lair next to his and plan to spend eternity in his company!

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