Tuesday 4 May 2010

Special Deliveries

Because of its location on the most northerly inhabited island in the UK Saxa Vord always had to be treated as a special case when large items or bulk materials were needed. It was only in the middle 70's that RoRo ferries enabled vehicles and their cargo to reach Unst. Even then it was not necessarily the most economic way of moving large items.

In 1954 the Type 13, Type 14 and Type 80 Radars were delivered by landing craft directly to Baltasound, as was much of the equipment needed to build and run the camp. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

In 1963 a new Fire Tender was also delivered to Baltasound in a Landing Craft.

A Landing Craft was used again in 1965, this time to deliver a new Snow Plough for the station.

Between 1965 and 1967 much of the material used in the building of the first quarters at Setters Hill must have been delivered by sea – especially as the buildings were largely prefabricated. I know that the furniture for the quarters was delivered by the SS Eden Fisher (1173 GRT), a picture of her at the Baltasound pier is shown below:-

As covered in an earlier part of the Blog the Royal Engineers arrived on Unst in 1967 to construct the Unst Airstrip. Their equipment arrived aboard the Sir Bedivere and was landed using Mexe Floats at either Skeo Taing or alongside the pier at Baltasound. The photos below haven't used before and show vehicles and heavy plant approaching the Baltasound pier and being landed at Skeo Taing.

Development of the Type 13 Heightfinder was started in the the middle of WWII. It's operational life at Saxa was from 1957 to 1976 and it was not enclosed in a radome. Because of the elements (and probably old age) parts of the Type 13 had to be repaired/replaced frequently. It was decided at one stage that a total replacement of the Type 13 cabin was needed – the new cabin was delivered to Baltasound in 1970. The following photos were taken at the time.

Bulk fuel oil was required on a regular basis. It was stored in tanks at Baltasound and piped to the domestic site. Even after the introduction of RoRo ferries it was sometimes cheaper to have it delivered delivered by ship to the Baltasound Pier.

The reconstruction of the Top Site, new Ops Block, erection of the S649 and HF200 etc, in the period 1976 to 79 must have entailed the transport of massive amounts of equipment and material. Whilst some of this may have arrived via the inter island RoRo ferries the bulk of it came by sea. The 2 photos below show the arrival of the radome panels for the S649 and the HF 200.

The married quarters at SHE were rebuilt in the years 1993 to 95 and good use was made of the MV Shetland Trader. The following pictures were taken of the ship and its cargo at Baltasound.

I know that there were plenty of other deliveries to Unst by sea. On a number of occasions an S259 Radar from 1ACC at Wattisham was deployed and subsequently recovered from the Top Site and I have recently discovered that UPS1 was also deployed (I hope to amend the Radars at the Top Site rather drastically in the coming months). I have no pictures of the movement of these radars by sea but in October 1972 an S259 was removed from the hill by 2 Puma Helicopters and was transported to the Unst Airstrip – later it was taken by the Pumas to Sumburgh where it was loaded onto a C130 Hercules for return to Wattisham.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has any information about any other “special deliveries” or despatches from RAF Saxa Vord

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