#53323
Maurice
Participant

Sea lion training base, Glam Llyn (PRN 60188)

The threat of the U-boats was so serious that all possible means to develop detection devices were considered. The wilder shores of research in this direction involved the use of sea lions to detect submarines, although this was in a context where there was also an attempt to train seagulls to identify submarine periscopes and ideally defecate on them (Wilson 2006).

‘Captain’ Joseph Woodward, a music-hall sea lion trainer, suggested that his animals could be trained for the purpose of submarine detection, and he was given permission to develop experiments and trials which took place in public swimming baths in Glasgow and Westminster, at Lake Bala and finally in the sea on the Solent. The aim was to train the sea lions to follow the sound of a submarine without being distracted by passing fish and the trials were carried out between November 1916 and July 1917 (Wilson 2001). The trials in the Glasgow swimming baths had some success and the sea lions were moved to Glanllyn on Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala) for
open water trials. Stabling for about 50 sea lions, a carpenter’s shop and the use of small boats were provided by the owner of Glanllyn, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, for the duration of the trials between 30 March and 6 July 1917 (Wilson 2001, 442-443). There was some progress in the training and two sea lions trained in Llyn Tegid had the chance to chase a real submarine in the Solent in May and June 1917, but there were problems tracking the animals and their performance tended to deteriorate rather than improve over time with further training. Most importantly the hydrophone proved to be better at detecting submarines than the sea lions in a noisy real-life situation and the project was abandoned (Wilson 2001, 444).

Glanllyn, Llanuwchllyn was a hunting lodge for the Wynnstay Family from Ruabon but it was rented in 1950 and finally bought in 1964 by the Urdd for use as an outdoor centre (Urdd website: http://www.urdd.cvmru). Large new buildings have been constructed and additions made to the main house. The sea lions were presumably either kept in existing outbuildings, or more likely in purpose built but very temporary accommodation near the lake shore. This would not be recorded on maps and remains are unlikely to survive.
Hen Glanllyn, the home farm just north-east of Plas Glanllyn, would perhaps have been a more likely place to stable sea lions than near the main house as there were more available outbuildings as well as an adjacent boat house and small Barbour (figure 11).

Ref: Wilson, D. A. H., 2006. Avian Anti-Submarine Warfare Proposals In Britain, l9l5-l8: The Admiralty And Thomas Mills, International Journal of Naval History, vol 5, No. l, 1-25
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The above is from First World War Military Sites: Manufacturing and Research and Development,
Part 1: Report and Gazetteer, available on line from http://www.heneb.co.uk/ww1/reports/ww1manufacturingresearch.pdf

Also included is information on the airfields at Anglesey and Bangor, Marconi wireless installations and various manufacturing sites with references, photos and large scale maps.
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The latest edition of British Journal of Military History has this:

Constructing The Enemy Within: Rumours of Secret Gun Platforms and Zeppelin Bases in Britain, August-October 1914 by Brett Holman.
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Air Power Revue has a couple of items relating to WW1:

Air Power In Darfur, 1916: The Hunt For Sultan Ali Dinar and the Menace of the Fur Army by Brigadier Andrew Roe.

“Complete Failure” The British and Dominion Aerial Re-supply 1915-16 by Warrant Officer Class 2 Paul Barnes.

Both APR and BJMH are available on line and have other articles that may be of interest.