The Old Acharacle Observer Corps Post
by John Dye

Description of what it was like in Moidart, manning the observer post between Acharacle and Salen during the Second World War; Hugh MacDonald talks to John Dye.

During the entire War, only one German plane was seen.

The Old Acharacle Observer Corps Post - (G/R NM688660)

The post was constructed on the top of the hill between Acharacle and Salen above the old telephone exchange.

According to Hugh MacDonald, Moss, the last surviving member of the team, there was a shed close to the road in which the observers could leave their bikes and brew up a cup of tea, but all trace of this has now disappeared.

Hugh joined the team when he was discharged from the army on medical grounds in 1941. I presume it had been operating since the outbreak of hostilities.

The post was officially known by the code JON 3, there were a series of linked posts: JON 1 was at Strontian, JON 2 was at Kingairloch. There was another post at Glenfinnan but Hugh does not know for sure if this was one of the JON group. All the posts were connected by phone line and the whole system was coordinated at Oban.

The observers were separated into A Shift and B Shift. The A Shift personnel were full-time and got paid more. The B Shift personnel were part-time and worked three nights a week from 6 pm to 2 am, Hugh had to be out at 6 am to work with the roads squad. There were always two men on duty.

A Shift (maybe not all the names)
Hugh Cameron, Ardtoe - Alan Beaton's uncle.
Sandy MacPherson, Shielfoot - there were four of that name in Shielfoot at the time!
Angus MacPherson, Arivegaig - Ruby's stepfather
Charlie Grant, Salen Hotel - married the Minister's daughter

B Shift (maybe not all the names)
Johnny Anderson, Dalilea
Jimmy Wilson, Gardener at Shielbridge and brother-in-law of Johnny Anderson
Hugh MacDonald, Moss
Alec MacKenzie, Keeper at Salen
Alec Dan Henderson, Newtown

The post had a wall around the observer's area, which was equipped with binoculars and a good telescope. They also had an American rifle with five rounds of ammunition. At one end of the building was a tiny roofed area which contained the telephone. Iain MacPherson, Ardtoe was a teenager during the war and became a Police Messenger (Jochen was another); he went up to the post while it was operational. He said there were pictures of planes all round the walls, they even gave descriptions of the engine noise.

Near the post, and at intervals up the path, Hugh had placed some flagstones to make it easier to cross the soft ground.

In the whole war, only one German aircraft was seen - a Heinkel bomber which was spotted by Hugh Cameron.

In addition to the Observer Corps, the district also had ARP wardens (Jimmy John George among them), and a Home Guard detachment, with Ronald MacDonald the blacksmith, Alec MacKay, Sandy Joiner and Duncan Strath. Duncan was given trousers which were too narrow and they were widened by the inclusion of a strip of non-matching material. Sandy Joiner had been in the Gordon Highlanders and insisted on wearing both cap badges.