Orkney – A Virtual Tour of the WW2 Sites by Vicki Beeby

My blog visitor this week is Vicki Beeby, who has recently won the 2023 Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Saga Award. (Yay! Congratulations, Vicki! Mx)

I have loved Vicki’s series set on Orkney in World War Two for Canelo. The main characters, Sally, Mary and Iris are posted to a look out station in Orkney and the latest book in the series to be published is Hopeful Hearts for the Wrens. Vicki is talking today about the wartime sites on the island that she visited when she was conducting her research. Over to Vicki …

Thanks to Morton for hosting me again. It feels like yesterday when I was here with a post about the first book in my Wrens series, and now here I am with the final book just published! 

When I planned my first visit to Orkney back in 2019, it was to see the Neolithic sites such as Scara Brae, Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar. It wasn’t until I got there that I realised Orkney was also teeming with remains from the two world wars, and by the end of my visit I was inspired to write a whole series of novels set in World War Two Orkney (although it was a couple of years before I could start it). I thought for this post, I’d share some of the sites that inspired the series.

Churchill Barriers

These are the only structures from World War Two that I knew about before my arrival, and I was keen to see them. On my very first day in Orkney, I visited the Tomb of the Eagles on South Ronaldsay, right at the southernmost end of the archipelago. I went partly because I wanted to see the tomb but also because I couldn’t wait to drive across the road built upon the Churchill Barriers – a series of causeways linking the Orkney mainland with the string of islands to the south and east.

The barriers were built to prevent German U-boats from getting into Scapa Flow, which was used as the anchorage for the British Home Fleet during both world wars. It required a huge amount of labour, and so Italian prisoners of war were brought to Orkney to work in the quarries and on the barriers themselves. Learning about these prisoners inspired the character of Aldo, whose story features in Hopeful Hearts for the Wrens. 

Italian Chapel

The Italian POWs were kept in two camps – on Lamb Holm and Burray – while they worked on the barriers. The Italians on Lamb Holm were granted permission to make a chapel from one of the Nissen huts in the camp and the result was the beautiful Italian Chapel. I was amazed by the artistry and craftsmanship that went into the interior, and it inspired me to make Aldo good at carving. 

Ness Battery

These concrete structures just outside Stromness are the remains of the gunnery placements that protected Hoy Sound – one of the main channels that shipping used to enter Scapa Flow. On my second visit to Orkney, I did a guided tour of the Ness Batteries and learned about the lives of the men who lived and worked here. I was particularly struck by the amazing view they had – the same view my Wrens have in their fictional signal station of Kyeness.


This is the site of the main naval base operating in Scapa Flow and is on the island of Hoy. Back in 2019 when I visited, the museum had been closed down for refurbishment and it still hadn’t reopened on my next visit. All there was to see was a flat, concreted area by the ferry port with pillboxes up on the hills around. It was this bleakness (and coldness) that made me wonder what life must have been like for the Wrens who were posted to Orkney, and the idea for the Wrens series formed from there. 

A new museum has now opened on the site so now I can’t wait to go back and visit!

About Vicki Beeby

Vicki Beeby is a saga author who writes about the friendships and loves of service women brought together by the Second World War. 

Her first job was as a civil engineer on a sewage treatment project, so things could only improve from there. Since then, she has worked as a maths teacher, an education consultant before she turned freelance to give herself more time to write.

She is published by Canelo and represented by Lina Langlee of The North Literary Agency. She was a finalist for the RNA Romantic Saga award in 2021 and won it in 2023.

Website: vickibeeby.co.uk

Twitter: @VickiBeeby

Facebook page: facebook.com/VickiBeebyAuthor

About Hopeful Hearts for the Wrens

During war, nothing is ever at it seems…

Sally Hartley is a hopeless romantic. Her father died when she was a baby but she has lived off stories from her mother of what a wonderful man he was. Now, all she wants is a love like theirs. And she thinks she’s found it in Adam, the brother of a friend from home. When Adam is posted to Orkney, it’s like Sally’s dreams have all come true.

After Italy changes sides in the war, the Italian POWs are granted more freedom on the islands, meaning Sally can spend more time with her friend, Aldo, and the two grow ever closer. But when a family secret is revealed, Sally’s trust might be forever broken.

Sally, Iris and Mary must continue their duties even as life changes drastically around them, including an attack on one of their fellow Wrens from an unknown assailant. Now the friends face danger not just from the enemy, but also someone much closer to home.

An uplifting and dramatic WWII saga for fans of Kate Thompson, Margaret Dickinson and Daisy Styles.

Purchase link: mybook.to/HopeWrens

Morton’s review of Hopeful Hearts for the Wrens

5 Stars – It was lovely being back in Orkney with the Wrens, Sally, Mary and Iris. Vicki Beeby carried me along yet again with her skillful story weaving. The book has it all with romance and friendship, plus danger and intrigue. Even the baddies have their own story. I didn’t want this series to end and I finished this book with a tear in my eye and a great big, satisfied feeling.

Morton’s news – My publisher, Choc Lit became part of Joffe Books last week. I have little idea of what this will mean for me and my books as yet but will update you when I do. You can read the press release about the acquisition here.

Thank you for visiting my blog – Morton S. Gray – Author. I hope you enjoyed this post. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Summer at Lucerne Lodge published as an eBook, paperback and audio download too – Amazon Check on my Choc Lit author page for other purchasing options here 

Christmas at the Little Beach Cafe published as an eBook, audio, paperback and large print – Amazon KindleApple iBooksKoboNook BooksGoogle Play and Choc Lit for other options.

Sunny Days at the Beach is now available as an eBook, audio and paperback – Amazon KindleApple iBooksKoboNook BooksGoogle Play and at Choc Lit for other options.

Christmas at Borteen Bay is available as both an eBook and audio download – Amazon KindleAudioApple iBooksKobo and Choc Lit for other buying options.

The Truth Lies Buried is available from all eBook platforms – Choc LitAmazon KindleKoboApple iBooks and also as a paperback and audiobook.

The Girl on the Beach published by Choc Lit is available as a paperback and from all eBook platforms – Amazon KindleApple iBooksKobo, Barnes and Noble and Google Play.

By Morton S. Gray

Author of romantic suspense novels. http://mortonsgray.com


  1. Congratulations to Vicki on her amazing award.
    Orkney and the Italian chapel is on my bucket list of places to visit. So in the meantime, I’ll visit it through Vicki’s writing. Thank you for sharing.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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