Sunday, 31 July 2011

Functions in the Officers’ Mess in the 90’s

Towards the end of the 90’s the station strength was reducing as its’ role was changing, eventually leading to the combining of messes. I have already published a section on the last function in the Officers’ Mess:
In most Officers’ Messes there were fairly regular functions -Dining In/Ladies Guest Night every month or two, a Burns Night at the end of January, a Summer Ball and a Christmas Draw. Obviously there was also a fair share of informal gatherings such as Happy Hours etc. I hope the following pictures will give some indication of life in the Officers’ Mess at Saxa in the 90’s
Programme for Burns Night - 26 Jan 1991

Programme for the Summer Ball - 5 Jul 1991

Departure of Sqn Ldr Kevin Hann/Arrival of Sqn Ldr Bill Gray – 1995

I presume the 3 photos below are of some kind of send off and welcoming at the changeover of the Stn Cdr; the pictures were taken at the doors to the Mess.

After the meal at a Dining In Night 1995 or 96

Christmas Draw  - 1995 or 96
I would like to thank Al Callow & Ian Price for help in identifying some of the people in the photos above.

As I have said elsewhere – I would like to be able to cover events in the other Messes and Clubs but unless someone else has material I can use I won’t be able to.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Type 93 Radome -1989

Depending upon ones point of view 1989 was a good or bad year on Unst for scaffolders. Work started on the construction of a geodetic dome which was intended to house a Type 93 radar. The dome was much bigger than actually required for the radar itself but, because the plan involved the use of the old Type 80 base structure, the design had to be for a large dome. Early on there was an “event”. I don’t know if it was the weather (June is usually one of the better months), design, material or competence but in June the fledgling dome collapsed as noted in the Shetland Times. (Left click on picture to enlarge)
Work commenced to rebuild the structure and by August (as seen in the previous section about the visit of Air Marshal Sir Ken Hayr) the dome was nearing completion. However, 4 weeks after he left the Shetland climate intervened in the history of Saxa Vord again. The Shetland Times covered the event again.

The sequence of pictures below shows the results of this event. I am not aware that any injuries were caused at the time and, if that was the case, luck was a major factor.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Air Marshal Sir Kenneth Hayr Visit - 1989

In 1989 AM Sir Kenneth Hayr, who was Chief of Staff UK Air Forces and Deputy CinC Strike Command visited Saxa. Two of the reasons for the visit were to observe the preparations for the installation of the Type 93 radar and to present medals. The AM would have been familiar with the station having visited on a number of occasions previously when he was AOC 11 Gp in the early 80’s.
The five photos I have of the visit are below. The first two pictures show Sir Kenneth outside and then inside the Radome intended for the Type 93. This visit took place in Aug 1989 and the Type 93 did not arrive until the autumn of 1993. A reason for this 4 year gap was almost certainly the weather. A few months earlier (Jun 89) the radome collapsed at an early stage in its construction. Within a month of these photos the nearly complete the dome collapsed again. Pictures of the damage done in Sep 89 will be published soon in the next section. As luck would have it there was then the big New Year Storm of 91/92 which has been covered earlier in the blog. (Left click on photos to enlarge).

The next three pictures concern the presentation of LS&GCMs to Sgt Rose and to Sgt Matthew.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Dance –Christmas/New Year 1967/68

Christmas and New Year at Saxa were normally memorable occasions. Most of the main functions tended to be held fairly early on as many servicemen, especially single people, wanted to go on leave. With Christmas being more celebrated amongst the English it became something of a tradition that, where possible, they would go on leave before Christmas - returning after Boxing Day to allow a number of Scots to get away for Hogmanay. Unfortunately this arrangement didn’t always work when bad weather prevented travel between the holidays. Even with people on leave, significant numbers of servicemen had to remain on Unst to keep the Unit operating. Events continued to be held for those that remained and many RAF personnel had their first real experience of Hogmanay celebrations amongst the local Unst Folk.

The sequence of photos which follow feature a Dance in the NAAFI which took place in the 1967/8 festive season, but the exact date isn’t known. I’m grateful to Andy Anderson for letting me use 8 of the 9 photos attached. If anyone can help identify more of the “Flower People” in the pictures I would be pleased to hear from them. I would also be happy if anyone could provide any other photos or anecdotes regarding other events on the Unit -
(Left click on pictures to enlarge).
The last 2 photos are of the band for the evening.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Ops Site Questions

Over the half Century of its active life the Ops Site (sometimes known as the Mid Site) underwent many changes. Obviously, after the initial building period, the most noticeable of these took place in the period 1976-79 with the building of the R101 etc. However, there were many other alterations, some of which are outlined below. In each case I would appreciate it if anyone able to supply information which would help answer my questions, would get in touch –
The R10
There were a number of structural changes to the R10 during its lifetime. I have a couple of queries from its later life. The picture below shows part of the rear of the R10 in 1984:
The next photo was taken earlier this year:
As can be seen, two windows, near to the covered way to the heads appear to have been “bricked-up”. This leads to:
Question 1 –Does anyone know when and why the windows were bricked-up?
Another question arises from the two photos. In the first there is nothing but a pathway below the window next to the corridor leading to the R10 Rest Area/Admiralty Building. In the second photo there is a masonry structure just below the window. Similar structures were positioned just below other windows on the site, as can be seen in the next picture near the R10 entrance.

Question 2.  Does anyone know what these structures were for & when they were put in place?
The Admiralty Building
The next series of questions all concern the “off-limits” Admiralty Building. It’s now no secret that the building and the 2 storey, older building next to it) were used for trials of UK/US submarine detection systems. Most of the material surrounding this work was declassified by 1991 and elements of similar detection systems have been used in recent years for tracking the movement of whales! I hope to issue a number of sections about this work in the future.The earliest reference I have to the Admiralty Building comes from a 1952 document in the Public Records Office and was passed to me by Bob Jenner. It applies to the initial building plan:
"09 02 53 Design and construction of a Laboratory sites 70 feet
North of R10 and connected to it by a corridor. It is
a two storied building with a flat roof capable of
carrying an additional storey later of 60’ x 30’ x 9’."
The earliest picture I have of the building is shown below and was taken 10 years later in 1963. It clearly shows a 3 storey building. The next question applies either to the older generation or to someone who has early site information.
Question 3. Does anyone know when the Admiralty Building was erected?

Question 4. Does anyone have any data to show that it was originally built with 2 storeys and a third storey subsequently added, if so when was the third storey constructed?
Whilst I’m aware that the Admiralty Building was “off limits”, it too underwent a number of alterations which would have been obvious to many people working on the site. The next picture shows the Admiralty as it was in 1983:
Sometime between 1983 and 2011 the building “grew “an extension at the left-hand end (possibly an emergency staircase) and a metal cladding was added:

Question 5. What was the extension, when was it and the metal cladding added to the Admiralty Building?

The following picture is another extract from a 1963 MOD over flight photo. It shows a single electricity sub-station to the west of the R10. This building remained the only sub-station in that area until after 1984.
However, when I visited the site in April 2011 it was obvious that another sub-station had been built. I presume it was a replacement for the earlier one but the earlier one was not demolished.

Question 6. When was the newer sub-station built?

For many years there used to be a Standby Power House & fuel tanks in front of the R10 entrance – a photo from around 1984 shows the location:
From the entrance to the R10 it looked like this:
They were still there during the big storm of New Year 91/92 but sometime between then and station closure the Standby Power House was demolished and the tanks removed.  A recent photo of the area is below:
Question 7. When were the fuel tanks and Standby Power House removed?

If anyone can provide answers to these questions it would be appreciated if they would email me at: (replace the AT with the usual symbol).

I’m sure I will be asking further questions in the future!