Flare Gun
Gairloch Museum

Content warning. Some visitors may find this object upsetting.  

Though far from mainland Europe, the landscapes and waters of the Highlands were to feature in World War Two in a number of surprising and sometimes tragic ways.   

Between 1941 and 1945, Loch Ewe was transformed into the gathering place for the Arctic Convoys, essential for transporting life-saving supplies to the Russian allies. The story gives us an insight into how Highland communities were shaped by war.  

Naturally deep, with a narrow entry point that could be protected from enemy submarines, the loch was ideal for naval purposes. This flare pistol, however, was recovered from the wreck of the US liberty ship called William H Welch. Tragically, the ship ran aground on 26th February 1944, as she attempted to enter Loch Ewe en route from London, before she was due to make the next stage of her planned journey across the North Atlantic.   

The William H Welch faced extreme weather conditions that night, and was driven by blizzards and overpowering wind and waves into a reef to the north of the island of Eilean Furadh Mor.   

The desperate crew fired flares, including from this pistol, but their rescuers were unable to reach the ship. In total, only a dozen men survived from a crew of seventy-four. Local men and women built a huge bonfire to warm the survivors who made it to the shore.  

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Date: 1940s
Materials : Metal
Size : 30cm x 25cm

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