Over the weekend, some of us were taking part in the monthly Wetland Birds Survey (WeBS). My patch includes the shoreline around the National Trust’s Islands of Mid Island, South Island and Chapel Island in Greyabbey Bay – all of which are accessible on foot at low tide. I would thoroughly recommend this enjoyable walk because there is always something interesting to see. Greyabbey Bay is full of archaeological structures such as old fish traps and kelp grids and the area is very important for large numbers of waders and wildfowl. I rarely find myself going home without a small curiosity that I have found on the shore, such as a feather, shell or interesting looking stone.
And it was some shells that caught my eye this time. But not the regular type of shell from a marine mollusc, which you might expect to find on the beach. This was a shell of a very different kind.
These are shell casings from bullets. Not a shotgun cartridge used for shooting ducks but something much more powerful. I have found similar casings here before and a historian friend once explained to me that some of Strangford Lough’s Islands, including Mid Island, had been used as target practice by RAF planes during the Second World War. These are the spent casings from the guns and cannons on board the aircraft.
There seem to be two sizes which I have found. The larger ones are about 10cm long and the neck of the casing has a diameter of about 15mm. There are also smaller ones which I never seem to find very intact but I am guessing they would be about 5 or 6 cm long with a neck diameter of about 6mm. Perhaps someone reading this can give us some more detailed information about the guns and ammunition that would have been used.
Although they are now rusting away, I find it absolutely fascinating that you can still discover them amongst the cobbles on the beach, 70 years later. A small reminder of just one of the many historical episodes of this ever-changing Lough.