Monday 23 November 2009

Russian Trawler Wrecked on Skaw (updated 8 Jul 15 & on 12 Mar 18)

Throughout the cold war Soviet ships, mainly Trawlers and AGIs (Electronic Surveillance Ships or AGI (Auxiliary General Intelligence) showed great interest in our defence installations. RAF Saxa Vord, with its Naval Building, seemed to come in for more that it's fair share of attention. I hope to cover more of this aspect of operations at Saxa at a later date.
However, one incident lives in the memories of those who were involved. On 4th March 1967, in fairly rough seas, a Russian Trawler ran aground at the point of Skaw, fortunately the crew survived. A number of the Russian sailors had made it to the shore and some others were rescued by the Unst Coast Rescue Unit using a breeches buoy. Although the RAF Saxa Vord Medical Centre had been prepared to look after the crew they were taken off to other Russian craft which had been standing by.Over the next few days a number of brave (maybe foolhardy) individuals took it upon themselves to " liberate" as much from the wreck as they could. Items which were salvaged included the ships log, various items of paperwork, the ships wheel etc.At the time of the incident one of the officers on the base, Mike Hope, happened to be a Russian linguist and I believe that a certain amount of translation occurred before documentation was shipped south to higher authority. I know that a request for the return of all items was made by the Soviet Embassy but I don't know how much was returned and how much was retained in the hands of the liberators. I do know that the ships wheel still hangs in the Methodist Kirk in Haroldswick, very close to the old Domestic Site.
The next 2 photos came from the collection of my late father-in-law, Hughie McMeechan

The next 2 pictures were taken by my wife:

I am grateful to Neil Henderson for allowing me to reproduce these four excellent photos of the incident, which were taken by his father, Henry Henderson. Left click on the images to enlarge:

A cutting from the Shetland Times of 17 Mar 67 follows:

Rod Pye, an Air Defence Operator, was on detachment at Saxa Vord at the time of the incident. He had already served a full tour on Unst (1964/5) and some of his Shetland photos have already been published:
The photos below have all come from his collection:         

Finally, 2 recent photos of the area:


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