Sunday, 27 March 2011

Stage Shows and More Panto

Many Pantos and shows were put on at Saxa – invariably to raise money for good causes. I have made attempts to identify those taking part in the events and I grateful to those who have responded to my requests for help. Where there appears to be some certainty with names I have added them, unfortunately there are a number of people who have been assigned more than one name and others for whom I have no name at all. If anyone can identify individuals who currently remain anonymous, or think I have misidentified anyone, I am happy to add names or make corrections at a later date – (replace the AT with the normal symbol)
1976 (ish)
The three photos below were all taken at the same event which was some kind of Stage show/Cabaret or Revue – I don’t know what it was in aid of nor do I have an exact date. However, knowing who some of the participants involved are, I estimate that the event took place around 1976. The first photo shows what was almost certainly a copy of the sketch from “That Was The Week That Was” which featured John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett – “I look up to him etc” The only positive ID is Alex Ferguson in the middle and the consensus is that he is dressing up as a Sgt for the part – he not having reached that rank at that stage in his career. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).
The next 2 pictures are of the same singing group. In both pictures it is definitely Pete Illidge, with a beard, on the left and, next to him second from left, the names Mick Ward and Bob Walker have both been suggested. The lady on the left is Mrs Dianne Allen and the other lady is believed to be a local school teacher. (Thanks to Mike Allen for some of the idents) The only other positive identification is on the second picture at the far right. On spoons is ex LAC McMeechan (RAF Skaw) better known as Hughie to most personnel at Saxa during this period.

1977 – Cinderella

In early 1977 a performance of Cinderella was staged in the Haroldswick Hall in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund and local charities. I have no photos of the event but 2 short articles from the Shetland Times and the RAF News are below.
1979 – Cinderella again
Cinderella was performed in the Haroldswick Hall again in 1979. The first picture shows the cast and it is repeated below with some names added – still plenty to be identified. Below that is a copy of a cutting from the Shetland Times.

1984 – It Ain’t Half Cold in Unst, Mum

The title of this review which took place in the Haroldswick Hall in 1984 is obviously based to the long running TV Programme “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”. The only information I have is in the Shetland Times cutting below.

1989 – Cinderella – Yet Again

 This time the pantomime took place in the Baltasound Hall. It took to the stage on 3 nights and was performed to raise money to help fight Motor Neurone disease. I have no pictures of this panto, just 2 articles from the Shetland Times. The first clipping basically advertises the show and the second gives detail of money raised at this and other events.

1991 – Snow White and the Two Dwarfs.
Perhaps realising it was time for a change a new, specially scripted pantomime – Snow White and the Two Dwarfs was performed in December 1991. The Shetland Times coverage is copied below.
As I said at the beginning I am happy to add names and detail to the events above. I would also welcome information on the many other events which must have taken place in the life time of Saxa Vord.


Monday, 21 March 2011

Road to the Top Site 1976 – 79

The road to the top site didn’t normally carry a large amount of heavy traffic. Yes there was the 1 to 4 Tonner or Coach on watch change and infrequent heavier vehicles when maintenance was required. However, as hinted to in the last section, the major reconstruction phase in the years 1976 to 1979 was different. Numerous heavy loads, cranes, earth-movers etc were travelling backwards and forwards – there had been nothing like it since the initial construction phase on the RAF site in the years 1955 to 1957 and, even then, possibly less heavy plant was involved. I don’t know what the road surface was like at the beginning of 1976 but I do know that by later in 1977 the road was causing enough concern for the Station to be gathering evidence to support a bid for reconstruction.

The following pictures were taken in 1977 by station personnel. It looks like the survey was done in slightly inclement conditions, not unknown on Unst. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

These pictures, together with other supporting material, were sent to higher authority to back the bid for reconstruction. I should imagine the case went onto HQ 11 GP, then to HQ STC, then to MOD and then back along the route in reverse. Authority was eventually given and rebuilding went ahead at the end of the top site reconstruction phase. The work was carried by the Shetland Islands Council – the only organisation in the Islands capable of undertaking such a job at the time – and was funded by MOD with taxpayers’ money. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t covered by the NATO  infrastructure funding.



Monday, 14 March 2011

R101 from the Outside

The pictures in this section are devoted to the “new” Ops Block, the R101, and show the exterior of the building from start to after closure. I am already gathering pictures of the interiors of both the R101 and the R10 for sections I hope to produce in the future. However, it is proving harder to find photos taken inside the buildings than it has been to find photos of the outsides. I would therefore welcome any pictures of the inside of either the R10 or R101, which I would be able to use. My email:

In the period 1976 to 1979 many of the buildings on Saxa Vord were demolished, replaced or refurbished. At the same time the main radars were replaced and most of the electrical equipment was greatly modernised. Those working “up the hill” were on a major construction site. NATO agreed to underwrite the Unit upgrade at a cost of £10 million (it went a lot further then). Most of the work was completed by summer 1979, at which time to Ops staff started the move from the R10 to the R101.
The first photo shows the Ops Site before the main work started, the only visible evidence of the upheaval to come are a few stakes in the foreground. (Left click on photos to enlarge).

The next sequence of photos shows the start of serious construction work on the R101. A Large amount of heavy plant had to be imported to Unst and the problems with getting to the top of Saxa were significant – it’s no wonder that the road from the domestic to the top site had to be rebuilt shortly after – but that’s another story.
It had been decided to retain the R10 for the extra space it provided and a covered way or tunnel was built between the R10 and R101. The Police Piquet Post remained the entry and exit point for operations staff. The next 5 pictures show the construction of that covered way and how it looked after completion.

The next four photos are all taken at the south end of the R101 at a slightly later time in its assemby.
A new access road had to build to the new ops block.
The next 2 images are closer shots of the external blast doors before and after completion. The emergency exit from the building was located on the side of the building to the right of the external blast doors.
The following shots show the R101/Ops site fully operational in the period 1983 and 84:
In 1984 the Ops staff moved back out of the R101 back to the R10 into an interim facility (see earlier section in the blog : ). This was a pre planned move with GL161 equipment shipped up and installed for the occasion. I have still to ascertain exactly what happened inside the R101, but it would certainly have involved the installation of more up to date equipment and I do intend writing about this later. Whatever happened inside, work certainly occurred on the outside of the building as well, as the next 2 pictures show.

The last 3 views are just general scenes of the Ops Site, taken in 2010. Two rectangular structures can be seen on the roof of the R101 – they were constructed in 1984. I have no data on what they are (water tanks, outside loos, artificial bonxie nests – until someone lets me know I’ll keep on guessing)