Monday, 31 May 2010

AOCs Inspection 1983 - Air Vice Marshal Ken Hayr

The AOCs Inspection in 1983 took place on 15 Jul and was carried out by AVM Ken Hayr CB CBE AFC RAF. Ken Hayr made a number of visits to Saxa - in fact he had been on Unst just 4 months before this inspection. The Station Commander at the time was Sqn Ldr Stewart Dorward. The first stage of the Domestic Site redevelopment had just been completed and the AOC and his wife formally opened parts of the new airmens accommodation. (Left click on the pictures below to enlarge).

The following article appeared in the edition of the Shetland Times dated 22 Jul 83:-

The story was also covered in the edition of the Aberdeen Press & Journal dated 27 Jul 83 - this was quite appropriate as the Stn Cdr  was an Aberdonian:-

Footnote - AVM Kenneth William Hayr
Ken Hayr had an interesting and distinguished career. He was born in New Zealand and joined the RNZAF before transferring to the RAF. He spent his earlier flying career on Hunters and Lightnings and went on to command 228OCU (Phantom Operational Conversion Unit) at RAF Coningsby. From there he went on to command 1 Sqn (Harriers). He considered this his best flying tour as the squadron had the opportunity to develop operating procedures and tactics for this new type of aircraft. In 1973 he was posted to RAF Binbrook (5 & 11 Sqns) as the CO and was able to increase his flying time on Lightnings.

Following Staff Tours and training courses he was appointed AOC 11 Group on 11 Aug 82 – he was the first New Zealander to hold this post since Sir Keith Park in the Battle of Britain. In 1985 he was posted to command British Forces in Cyprus and this was followed by 2 senior Staff appointments. He was involved in the planning of RAF operations in the Gulf in the early 90s before retiring in 1993.

After that he divided his time between New Zealand and the UK enjoying paragliding and parachuting as hobbies. However, flying remained his main interest and he was very active in the world of display flying whenever the chance arose. It was whilst flying a DH Vampire at the Biggin Hill Air Display in 2001 that he died aged 66. It is thought that the aircraft flew through the wake turbulence caused by a DH Sea vixen, which was taking part in the same display sequence. The Vampire went out of control – there was insufficient height to recover; both Ken Hayr and fellow crew member Jonathan Kerr were killed in the crash.


Thursday, 27 May 2010

Rugby at Burrafirth - Ladies Day?

I don't know when the following pictures were taken but it must have been in the period 1995 -97. I can be sure it was in that era because I recognise Bill Gray (CO in those years) wearing an extremely becoming floral patterned, knee-length dress set off by a very smart pair of Wellies..  I am also unaware of the owner of these photos, if the owner reads this and wishes either to be credited or to have them removed would he/she please contact me. Obviously I believe it is the national interest that they be published. (Left Click on pictures to enlarge).


Monday, 24 May 2010


I have just completed updates to 2 earlier sections of the blog adding some text, photos and press clippings. These sections are:

Radar Equipment at the Top Site

Queen Visits RAF Saxa Vord & Unst 1960


Saturday, 22 May 2010

Station Personnel - 2005

With the Station Closure looming it was decided to gather as many of the personnel as possible for a series of photographs before the servicemen/women were posted around the world. The pictures below were taken in 2005. (Left click to enlarge).

A few minutes later!
The culprits

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Annual Formal Inspection (AOCs) 1998

The Annual Formal Inspection (known as the AOCs Inspection in my days) in 1998 was carried out on the 26 Aug. The Inspecting Officer was Air Cdre LA Doble who was Air Officer Air Defence and the Station Commander at the time was Sqn Ldr DK Jones. The photos below were taken on the day. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).


Thursday, 13 May 2010


The text below is largely based on information received and my guesswork using the pictures I have available. If anyone with more knowledge of the TACAN on Unst sees any mistakes I would appreciate it if they would get in touch so that I can amend this section:-

The name TACAN is based on the full name of the equipment – Tactical Air Navigation System. It was designed for the military and suitably equipped aircraft could obtain a slant range and bearing from the equipment. If an aircrafts crew could interrogate 2 TACAN sites it was possible to fix their position very accurately by triangulation.

My first attempt at publishing this section has been amended after receiving advice from Steve Harrison who worked at the Transmitter/Receiver sites from Nov 91 to May 93. He and his section were responsible for the TACAN. I have also received some significant information from Bob Jenner

TACAN at the Top Site
The picture below has been produced from 2 pictures sent by Bob Jenner of the Air Ministry Plan for Saxa’s TACAN dated 1958 (the poor attempt at joining the 2 pictures was my responsibility!). I believe that the equipment must have been erected in that year or very soon thereafter.
The next photo, taken in 1963 from Burrafirth, shows the TACAN beacon to the right of the Type 80 before the radome was built.

The next 3 photos show the TACAN aerial on Saxa in the years following.

TACAN on VallafieldIn the first half of the 80’s it was decided that the TACAN should be relocated to Vallafield, about 10km (6 miles) SSW of Saxa. I don’t know why the move took place - possibly because of interference with other equipment or because of line of sight obstruction caused by too many aerials on site. The move did not go too smoothly as there were problems in getting permission to construct an access road. Eventually a 5km track was constructed from near the south end of the Loch of Watlee to the trig point at the top of Vallafield (216m – 708ft). I’m sure that permission would be refused nowadays as Vallafield is a significant breeding area for Red-throated Divers. The next 2 photos show the Vallafield TACAN just as it was made operational in 1986 - it was enclosed in a 20ft radome. The TACAN installed was a mobile version

The next 3 pictures show Vallafield from the air in late 1991.

Those who were on Unst for the New Year 31 Dec 91/1 Jan 92 will remember the night well – the worst storms in living memory. Practically every item of equipment was destroyed or badly damaged (this night will be the subject of a long section in the blog in the future). The TACAN on Vallafield also incurred the wrath of this storm. The radome was completely shattered, the TACAN severely damaged and beyond economical repair. Sometime later the dome was rebuilt and a new mobile TACAN was delivered from the UK mainland. After Flight Trials the site was re-commissioned in 1992/3 – Thanks to Steve Harrison for correcting my earlier version of events.

The following photos were taken during a walk on the west side of Unst in May 2010 and show the remains of the TACAN site. The access road is still there but there is a sign at the bottom of the track saying it is unsafe for vehicles. There is also a locked gate at a cattle grid some distance from the top. However, there were recent tyre tracks right up to the old radome base!.