History of weapons dumped off the Galloway coast

Fire
Weapons washed up on the shoreline can pose a danger Photo: ITV

After the second world war, thousands of tonnes of munitions were dumped miles out to sea, at Beaufort's Dyke, between south west Scotland and Northern Ireland. In recent years, some of what was left has washed up on the coast of Galloway - including two incidents over the last few days.

What was dumped?

There are no official records as to what was dumped, or how much. Some say it could have been as much as a million tonnes of munitions: reportedly including 29" Spigot mortar bombs, hand grenades and RAF 500lb cluster bombs.

Why Beaufort's Dyke?

The underwater trench far out to sea between south west Scotland and Northern Ireland was meant to be a safe, final resting place for the munitions which were not used during WWII.

However, the crossing was often difficult and dangerous for the seamen who took it there, and many suspect some of their cargo may have been ditched closer to shore.

In fact, images taken in 1995 show munitions littering the seabed in shallow waters. Over time, they had become corroded and unstable:

Underwater weapons
An underwater camera showed weapons in shallow water off the Galloway coast Credit: ITV

When did this become a problem?

In the mid-1990s, some of those munitions began washing up on the Galloway coastline. Phosphorus flares would end up on beaches, drying out, and some eventually caught fire.

Flare
Phosphorus flares first began to wash up on beaches in the mid-1990s Credit: ITV
Fire
The flares would wash up, dry out and sometimes catch fire, like this one in 1995 Credit: ITV

Recent storms are thought to have dislodged more of these weapons, with two incidents of them having washed up on the shoreline in September 2013. People who find them on the beach are encouraged to leave them alone, and report them to police and the coastguard.