André Ruiter Historic Landscapes

Shetland at War

Traces of war at the Shetland Islands

About the project

Waiting in the terminal for my flight to Orkney, I always looked at "Sumburgh" on the flight schedule monitor and thought: one day, I will fly to the Shetlands. In 2016, I completed my project Scapa Flow about Orkney's defences and in September 2017 I landed for the first time at Sumburgh.

I knew that Shetland also had many remnants from both world wars, but I had no intention to start a photo project here. I was afraid it would be too much like what I already had done on Orkney. However, I visited some remains of the defences around Lerwick. I found structures that were different from what I had seen on Orkney and soon the idea of ​​a new project came to mind. The various traces are scattered across the different islands of the Shetlands, so one week was clearly not enough. I therefore focused on the Mainland first, determined to go back next year.

I returned in April 2018 and visited several locations on Bressay, including the imposing tower at Ander Hill. However, the highlight of that week was a trip to the former RAF Skaw radar base at Lamba Ness on the northern island of Unst. A 2,5-hour drive from Lerwick, including two ferry crossings, took me to this outpost of the Shetlands. The remains of the base are spread over a desolate area on the coast. It was an unforgettable experience.