Sunday, 10 October 2010

SHE – Setters Hill Estate – 1993

In 1965 MOD decided to award a contract for the building of 47 prefabricated married quarters at Setters Hill Estate. The firm involved ran into financial difficulties but the quarters were built and opened in 1967. Apart from the military sites at Skaw and on Saxa (with its domestic site at Haroldswick) this would have been the largest building project Unst would have seen to that date.
A picture of SHE, just after first occupation, is below. (Left click on photos to enlarge).
In general service families were very happy with the estate. It saved searching for hiring’s (often fairly remote) or in some cases doing unaccompanied tours. However, over the years the climate, prefabricated construction and the usual service problem in allocation of sufficient funds for maintenance, led to a drastic deterioration in the quarters patch. The first 4 photos below show general views of SHE in 1993 and superficially there appear to be few problems.
On closer inspection of the exterior parts of the buildings it becomes obvious that significant decay and faults have appeared.
Not only were there problems on the outside of the quarters but the interiors were in a bad way. The central heating systems installed were solid fuel (coal not peat) and were in a sad state of disrepair. Most of the houses are also suffering from damp walls, cupboards etc.
Many of the quarter’s patch occupants would have been young families. Whilst most people would agree that Unst is a great place to bring up young children the immediate surroundings of SHE in 1993 were not ideal for letting youngsters roam free. The drainage ditches were ineffective and sometimes contained dirty stagnant water. The Environmental Health Dept was called in to make assessments and in the process removed a dead rat from some Japanese Roses by the childrens play area. On top of all that the sewage system was found to be dilapidated and inadequate.

In 1993 the Type 93 Radar became operational at Saxa Vord and the future of the Unit seemed assured. MOD, perhaps somewhat belatedly, ordered a rebuild at SHE. I will be writing a further section on that rebuild at a later date.
Links to more sections about Setters Hill Estate:

Visit by the AOCinC ACM Sir Andrew Humphrey 1972

I’m not sure of the exact date but sometime in the summer of 1972 the AOC in C Strike Command Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Humphrey KCB, OBE, DFC, AFC paid a short, informal visit to Saxa. He was accompanied by the AOC 11 Group Air Vice Marshal Ivor Broom CB, CBE, DSO DFC, AFC. Sqn Ldr PCG Woolston was the Station Commander at the time of the visit.

The 3 photos below were taken during the visit. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

The short article below appeared in the Shetland Times shortly after the visit:


Sir Andrew Humphrey had a long and distinguished career in the RAF. He flew spitfires with 266 Sqn in the Battle of Britain, later on flying Hurricanes in the fighter bomber role and, for a period, operated night fighters. By the end of WWII he had been credited with shooting down 7 enemy aircraft with a further 2 “probable’s”. He made headlines in 1953 and 54 flying a Canberra which had been named Aries IV. In ’53 he & his crew flew from London to Cape Town in record time and the following year they made to first RAF jet flight to the North Pole and Back.

He became CinC Strike Command in 1971 and followed that with promotion to become Chief of the Air Staff. After becoming a Marshal of the Royal Air Force in Aug 1976 he became Chief of the Defence Staff. Unfortunately he died just 5 months into this appointment at the age of 56.