Ray Foster-Westgarth was at Saxa from Feb 1978 to Aug 1979. As an Air Defence Operator he started his tour
in the old Ops Block, the R10, and would have moved to the new hardened Ops
Block, the R101, when it opened in the summer of 1979.
As a "scopie" he was required to work shifts and
was a member of D Watch. His Watch Commander was Fg Officer Brian Gregson, who
returned for a second tour on the Unit in 1989 as the Station Commander. The
SNCO i/c the Watch was Sgt Harry Baker. Ray seemed to have made good use of his
off duty time and saw much of Unst, a few of his pictures follow:
Sgt Harry Baker used to encourage off duty watch activities
such as fishing, squash and walking. It was during one of these walks that the
idea evolved for the Round Unst Trek, or RUT, as it soon became known.
Unfortunately Harry was posted before the event took place.The first RUT was scheduled for the weekend
of the 2nd & 3rd June 1979. Since 1976 the Ops & Tech Sites had been
the scene of much activity whilst new radars and buildings were installed. The
weekend of the RUT coincided with the move from the old Ops Block (the R10) to
the new Ops Block (the R101) - in my opinion a good time for a long walk! The
idea of the RUT was simply to walk around the coastline of Unst over two days,
visiting a number of checkpoints and returning to base in the shortest time
possible. From a distance Unst may seem a small place but I can vouch for the
fact that you would need to be fit to complete the trek as the distances to be
covered are considerable and the terrain pretty rugged in places. The checkpoints
which were to be visited are marked on this Flash Earth image:
In his own words
Rays attempts at gaining sponsorship the night before the start of the Trek
could have provideda better preparation
for the event " I was not in the best state of health, I had not
really picked up much sponsorship so had to go to the Viking Club as it was
disco night to persuade many drunks to sponsor me, found it safer to take the
money up front which was the best decision. But unfortunately Finlay Mouat was
on the bar and these red and blue roses kept appearing in my hand ..."
Early the next
morning the teams started assembling outside the Ice Cap:
Rays team consisted
of: Mick McCluskie, Matt Johnson, Steve Doyle, Pat McLure and himself:
The teams set off
at intervals and Rays were the first to leave on a nice sunny morning. By the
time they reached Lambaness everyone still seemed happy:
After a while the
seriousness of the undertaking appears to have been realised.
The further they went the harder
it became; once again in Rays words. "The
scarves around the necks were for the wind and sun burn, shocked that I
actually got sun burn whilst on Unst. Feet were certainly sore. I had huge
blisters on my heel that I had to have drained the following day by the medics.
Very useful that for the next few weeks after we had moved into the R101 the OC had decided that, as the floor was all
white floor tiles, we had to wear white plimsolls"
The second day was
cooler and wetter leading to the need for waterproof jackets and Shetland
Finally, after 2
days of walking, they reached the finish line. There, holding the tape, was
their watch commander Brian Gregson and his wife Lynne;
Soon after completing the Trek they heard that they
were the winning team. According to Ray:- "We
were the winning team - we found out later when all the teams completed as we
had achieved the best times, (still got the small trophy to prove it). The guy
on the right I forget his name, he was an Air Traffic Controller from Shetland
radar who chose to go for a walk that day and joined us. Next stop the Penguin
Club, don't remember leaving it though ....
My thanks to Ray for allowing me to use his memories and photos.
The aim of this site is to preserve memories of RAF Saxa Vord for service personnel and local civilians. I spent 22 years in the RAF as a Fighter Controller and was at RAF Saxa Vord from November 1967 until March 1969. In 1988 I left the RAF and settled in Shetland and have lived here ever since.
I am always on the lookout for suitable material and would appreciate it if anyone can help out with photos and/or printable anecdotes. I am also anxious to ensure that the material on the site is accurate and would be grateful if anyone who notices mistakes, or believes that photos have been incorrectly credited, would contact me.
My email address is - gordon.carleAtgmail.com (replace the AT with the normal symbol)
A Contents List for the Blog is here: http://ahistoryofrafsaxavord.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/contents-list.html