Friday, 30 April 2010

AOCs Inspection 1990? - Air Vice Marshal William Wratten

The following sequence of photos show an AOCs Inspection whilst Sqn Ldr Brian Gregson was CO. I strongly suspect it was 1990 but it is possible that it was in 1991. None of the photos were labelled so I have been unable to title them. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who can supply any details:-


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Christmas 1960 - Parties, Pantos & Food

In 1960 the number of servicemen at Saxa was about 160 (13 Officers. 4 SNCOs, 19 Cpls and over 120 airmen). Most of them were single and  a number of those with families were unaccompanied. A significant number of National Servicemen were still included in the complement. Just 4 months previously there had been a vist to the station by the Queen and Prince Philip. By Christmas some of the RAF personnel would have gone on leave but the majority would have remained on base.

Childrens Parties. As usual there were Christmas Parties for the local children - a tradition which started when the station opened and which continued throughout most of the stations life. There were normally 2 parties with the children separated in different age groups. In 1960 a total of about 100 local children attended the parties.

First Ever Panto on Unst. In 1960 the Unit presented the first ever pantomime to be held on Unst and, according to the press at the time, it was only the second in the whole of Shetland. The production was of a slightly Norse variation of Cinderella with, judging from the programme, a little influence from the Goon Show. I am grateful to David Goodall (Saxa 1959 to 61) for the pictures of the Pantomime Programme below. I find it interesting that there were a number of local folk included in the cast and amongst the helpers. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).
Christmas Meals. It was a long held tradition in the RAF for the Officers & SNCOs to serve the Airmens Christmas Dinner, waiting on the troops. For the latter part of my RAF time this tradition was significantly diluted by the fact that stations went to minimum manning over the festive season. This meant the "Christmas" dinners were usually brought forward to the middle of December and, although the Officers & SNCOs were still involved, the atmosphere was not quite the same. However, in 1960 the old ways were still to the fore and dinner was served by "the Bosses". Once again I would like to thank David Goodall - this time for the Chistmas Days Menus.


Thursday, 22 April 2010

AOCs 1979 - Inspecting Officer - Sqn Ldr Peter Batchelor!

It was logical that senior visitors tended to schedule their visits to Saxa Vord during the summer months. The simmer dim and the reduced chances of travel disruption were obviously attractive. However, from the point of view of those posted to Saxa, it sometimes caused a little resentment – those who were making decisions about the conditions on base usually missed the extreme bad weather and frequent difficulties of travelling to and from Unst experienced by mere mortals.

Occasionally the unpredictable elements intervened. When the Queen and Prince Philip visited in August 1960 it was a wet and windy day. Again, when Prince Philip came to open the new Quarters at SHE in May 1995 the weather was pretty miserable.

In the spring and early summer of 1979 the camp was subjected to its usual clean-up and paint job prior to the expected AOC’s inspection, scheduled for the 6th June. Plenty of parade rehearsals took place and, just before the planned event, part of the RAF Kinloss Pipe Band arrived. Then nature took a hand – fortunately or unfortunately (dependent upon one’s perspective), bad weather intervened and the Inspection was cancelled at short notice.

The CO, Sqn Ldr Peter Batchelor, decided to inspect the Guard of Honour himself. Then, I expect, everyone headed for the nearest bar. The photos below show the CO carrying out the Inspection, the CO outside the Officers’ Mess being entertained by the RAF Kinloss Pipe Band (I’m sure that’s a fruit juice Sqn Ldr Batchelor is drinking!) and the last shows the award of a commendation which I presume would have been done by the AOC if he had arrived. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).


Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Saxa - Groups & Bands - Mid 60's/Early 70's (amended 1 Oct 14)

Usually there were enough musicians on strength at Saxa to form a group on the Base. Obviously their abilities ranged from excellent to not so excellent, but for most of the time there were a number of competent musicians capable of playing at Dances on the camp and often further afield. With the nature of the RAF posting system a particular group could have a number of different members over a period of time. In the same way, an individual extending his tour length or returning for a second tour could end up playing in more than one band.

I wrote about “The Hustlers” (1962 to 64) one of Saxa's early groups earlier :   and  a more extended piece here:
In this section I intend to publish the information I have about the mid sixties and early seventies. I’m grateful to Andy Parkinson (Supplier, Saxa 68 to 70) for information and photos on the groups “Plesance Fogg” and the “John Baker Big Band”. The rest of the pictures came from my wife and my late father-in-law.

Pleasance Fogg & The John Baker Big Band.
The following text & pictures came in emails from Andy Parkinson:-
"When I arrived at Saxa I reported to the guard room and was greeted with "You must be the new bass guitarist" and was immediately inducted into a group consisting of Rod Stevens guitar, Dave McBain Guitar/vocals and myself on bass/vocals. I can't remember who the drummer was possibly a clerk called Les ?. The band was called "Plesance Fogg" (very hippy like Canned Heat). When Dave left big Bll Gibb stepped into the breach on lead guitar, flute, saxophone and clarinet.
With the arrival of Sgt John Baker the band took on a different look with a budding brass section. The addition of another lead guitar in Gwyn (Taff) Williams and yet another change of drummer to Ernie Perridge, the trombone of Malcom Browne and trumpeters Jimmy Green and An other, the name changed to "The John Baker Big Band" . Still going strong when I left. Sadly I have since learned that John Baker has passed away. He was a very good musician and taught us youngsters a great deal.”

Plesance Fogg and the John Baker Big Band definitely made favourable impressions making numerous appearances in the NAAFI, Sergeants’ and Officers’ Messes. Not only that but they played in the Public Halls, Springfield, Mid Yell and even played in Lerwick at one of the Halls in Shetlands main Up Helly Aa Festival.
Other Bands
A band called "The Embers" was formed in late1965. It consisted of Doug Slade (lead guitar). Rod Paton (rhythm guitar and singer), Tony Reid (bass and lead singer) and Dave Truman (drums). Doug and Dave were both medics, whilst Tony and Rod worked in Stores.  Doug was the first to leave - posted to Wegberg in June '66 and I don't know if they recruited another lead guitarist. The group managed to achieve a lot in their time together with a repertoire around 40 tunes including:

Money (that's what I want)
Wanna Be Your Man
Wild Thing
Bring it on Home
Route 66
Saw Her Standing There
Sloop John B
Save The Last Dance
It's all Over Now
Last Time
Get off My Cloud
Hang On Sloopy
House of Rising Sun
Keep on Running
They played mostly on the base but were booked for a couple of the local halls and had an overland trip to perform in the Planets Ballroom in Lerwick. The pictures below were taken at a Christmas function in 1965. I'm grateful to Doug and Rod for their help.
When I arrived at Saxa there was a camp band was called the “Six-Sided Sound” but I know little about the Group. During the period 1967-69 the bands I came into contact with on the base seemed to be ad hoc gatherings of musicians. One of those musicians had a very nice Fender Jaguar guitar (so I obviously had to marry her!) - two pictures below:-

In the period  1971 to 74 there was a group on the Station called Mutley with Tom Worthington, Jim Storrie and Phil Baker. With the departure of Phil Baker the line up changed to Tom Worthington on guitar, Jim Storrie on drums and vocals and Francis Hunter was added on Bass. The name changed to simply Tom, Jim & Francis. This is the line up seen in the next photo.
I have Little  information about the group in the picture below - I believe it was about 1964/5 and probably taken in one of the local halls, The drummer was Jimmy Hopkins and the bassist was Bob Sunter if anyone can supply the remaining name or any other information about this group – or indeed any others from Saxa. My email address:- (replace the AT with the normal symbol)

Saturday, 17 April 2010

What goes up must come down – Demolition of the Type 80 Radome

In the years 1976 to 1979 the top of Saxa Vord was a construction site. New radars and buildings were erected as part of a complete rebuild and I hope to complete a section about this upheaval at a later date. One item to disappear forever was the Type 8o Radome, which had been erected in 1963. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

Whilst this work was going on the S259 was deployed to provide operational cover.

The following 3 pictures show the work on dismantling the Radome:-

The last picture shows what the hill looked like in November 1979 after the T80 Radome had gone.