Tuesday, 27 December 2011

AOC’s Inspection 1971 – AVM IG Broom CBE DSO DFC

The AOC’s inspection in 1971 took place on  10 Jun whilst Sqn Ldr AP  Melbourne was the CO. The Inspecting Officer was AVM IG Broom, AOC 11 Gp, who must have visited Saxa on at least half-a-dozen occasions during his appointment. The first picture is a copy of a clipping from the Shetland Times. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).
A better quality version of the photo from the newspaper is below:
The next photo is of the AOC at the saluting base in front of the Power House:
During the visit the AOC presented a Long Service & Good Conduct Medal to Cpl Horton:
Whilst at Saxa he AVM also performed the official opening of the first version of the Penguin Club – an event which has been covered elsewhere on the blog.

The final l photo shows the AOC & his wife at the Unst Airstrip alongside an RAF Percival Pembroke C1:


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas Parties for Children & Senior Citizens

Saxa (as 91 SU) became operational in Oct 57 and very soon thereafter planning for the first Children’s Christmas Party began. Ninety-two children attended the party in December and this was just the first of many. In the early 60’s it was decided that it would be better to have 2 parties, splitting the children into different age groups. The parties proved to be extremely popular - for around 40 yrs somewhere between 70 and 110 children attended the annual festivities each year. At the beginning most of the children were from local families but, as the number of married service personnel increased and quarters were built, the percentage of Service children attending increased.

The parties were arranged by a number of different sections, clubs and organisations. The Catering Section, Corporals; Club, Airmens’ Social Club, Sergeants' Mess and Wives' Club were amongst those helping out. The RAOB was even involved with at least one party.
The 1962 Children’s party was mentioned in the Shetland News:
The Invitation and photo below relate to the party in Dec 1963:

The 1964 party was covered in a short article which appeared in the Shetland Times of 18 Dec 64, which is copied below:
The event in 1965 was also mentioned in the Shetland Times:

I’m not sure when the first “Senior Citizens” Christmas Party was – the first record I have is the early 70’s. In those days it was the OAPs or Pensioners Party - most people wouldn’t have had a clue what qualifications were needed to become a “Senior Citizen”. These parties became very popular and, unlike the Children's Parties, a small amount of alcohol was sampled. In fact I’ve heard stories about families being slightly hacked off when Dad or Granddad was returned to them slightly the worse for wear – but it was Christmas!

The next two pictures are of Pensioners Parties in the 70’s:
The following 2 photos are from 1982:
The next picture is from 1984:
These events were frequently reported in the Shetland times:
The popularity of these events was evident. Every year there were plenty of children and senior citizens looking forward to them and more than happy to attend. On a number of occasions letters of appreciation were received by the Unit or published in the Shetland Times. An example from the Shetland Times in 1982 is reproduced in the final picture below:

Children’s parties continued for many years after that but I believe that eventually the invitations to local children had to cease due to the increasing number of married RAF couples with children – the logistics just became too complicated and it was found too difficult to cater for the numbers involved.


Monday, 12 December 2011

Article in the Shetland Times 1990

The following article is copied from a 1990 copy of the Shetland Times. The optimistic tone about the future of the Unit is perhaps forgivable considering the Domestic Site was nearing the end of a complete rebuild and a new Quarters patch at Nordabrake was being built. Plans were in being for the installation of the Type 93 radar and most of SHE was to be rebuilt in the early 90’s. One has to feel sorry for the Stn Cdrs over the next dozen years who were expecting the Station to stay open for a long time and indeed were being briefed accordingly by MOD. In retrospect, with advances in technology and the ability to supply secure data links over long distances, it is perhaps surprising that Saxa lasted as long as it did. The eventual closure, when it did come, was not well handled as far as the local community were concerned. Whilst the servicemen on Unst did their best to ease the blow, the overall aim of politicians and the MOD was to save money.           In an attempt to make the article easier to read I have split into 3 parts. (left click on each part to enlarge).

Monday, 5 December 2011

Functions in the Sergeants’ Mess – Again

Most of the following photos are undated. Some will have been taken in the “Old” Mess and Some in the “New.” Whilst I could make a reasonable guess as to which is which I’ll leave it to the experts. Apart from the 5 photos which haven credited the collection comes from a photo album which was left in the Mess when it closed. I’m happy to credit photos to the photographers if they let me know who they are. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

I anyone has other photos of Saxa Vord and is prepared have them published, I would be pleased to hear from them. gordon.carle@gmail.com

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Penguin Clubs and Skittle Alleys

Many ex Saxa personnel remember nights in the Penguin Club, various quantities of alcohol and many more games of skittles starting than finishing. However, on closer questioning it is noticeable that there are disagreements about buildings and internal layouts. This is because there were a number of Skittle Alleys and because the “Penguin Club” was located in 3 different Buildings over the life of the station.

I believe the first Skittle Alley was constructed in an unused billet in the mid ‘60s. I don’t think it was a “licenced” premise and the main purpose was to be the venue for the Station Skittle League. These activities came to a temporary halt in Apr 68. In that month a detachment of sappers from 15 Field Sqn, Royal Engineers arrived on Unst to build the airstrip. The original plan had been for the army personnel to live under canvas in field conditions – not sure I’d be that keen to do that for months on end in Unst. The camp had some surplus accommodation and decent facilities so the invitation was made and readily accepted. The Wives Club and building housing the Skittle Alley were used to augment the barrack blocks. I’m not sure how long the sappers stayed, probably 4 to 6 months. Their presence had a significant impact, bar profits soared, sporting fixtures were arranged and for the first time there were dodgems on the Norwick Beach using bulldozers! An extract from the Station History follows: (left click on pictures to enlarge).
Following the departure of the army detachment a few enterprising personnel decided to refurbish and improve the Skittle Alley. Most of the work was carried out in the winter of 68/69 and the Sailing Club provided much of the voluntary labour. One of those involved was Jeremy Thornton:-

“The skittle alley was set up down below where the squash court was in an unused billet. Once again the CO was sympathetic and helped us to obtain wood and panelling to make the runway and build a bar. He allowed us to have a barrel of beer behind the bar each skittle night - in the heady days we even provided hot dogs and onions!”
The Building is indicated in the three pictures below:
A party was held in Oct 70 to celebrate the opening of the new Skittle Alley:
The venture was so successful that it was decided to turn the building into a new social club. The official opening of the “Penguin Club” was on the evening of 29 May 1971, after the Station Sports Day. It was, I believe, possibly  the first all ranks club at Saxa – handy for section functions, charity events and sporting occasions.
The next reference to Skittles I’ve found is in the Official Station History for 1973 when a dance was held in the Viking Club to celebrate the end of a very successful Skittles season, I presume it was held in the Viking Club because it was a larger venue. An extract of the “History” is below:
Nevertheless, by 1975 the Penguin Club had been demolished. It looks as if it was a wooden building and it had probably been on site since the beginning - so maybe it was just old age!

Fortunately there was a prefabricated building on the Ops Site which was surplus to requirements.The structure, known as a Cosley Building, had been erected in 1960, and for 3 years housed generators producing 120volt electricity for trials carried out from the Admiralty Building. By the end of 1963 the trials were over. This building was dismantled and part of it re-erected on the Domestic Site, mainly due to the efforts of a scopie called Harry Bowyer. Photos of the Cosley Building at the Ops Site and at the Domestic Site follow:
I don’t know if it was Harry who was responsible for the interior of the building but, whoever it was, a good job was done. I have tried to contact Harry on a couple of occasions – maybe I have the wrong email address.
This, the second version of the Penguin Club, was officially opened on 8 Jul 75 by a politician.  Having done a lot of the work, I understand that Harry Bowyer was (not unnaturally) upset not to be invited to the opening!  An extract of the Official Station History is shown below:
Mick Standen (Saxa 78-80) has kindly allowed me to use the following photos, taken in this incarnation of the Penguin Club, from his tour at Saxa Vord:
The next photo from Mick shows a team of 6 runners who had just won a 12 mile relay race from Belmont to Saxa. The CO, George Keith, made the trophy presentations in the Penguin Club – he’s in the middle of the back row. (Any help with missing names would be appreciated)
As “they” say – all good things must come to an end. This version of the Penguin Club was also demolished and a new building constructed over the winter of 1991/2. I don’t know why, but I suspect that a metal building, designed to house industrial equipment, may well not have met Health & Safety requirements for an entertainment venue or, like the rest of the camp, it was time for a rebuild.
So – to the third building! This was, I believe, the last of the Penguin Clubs. According to Roddy MacDonald, who had a major part in the rebuild, " All of the doorways, plumbing etc. were designed so that we could recycle doors, loos, radiators etc. from the domestic site buildings which were being demolished at the time, double skin blockwork with full cavity insulation and it cost just under £19,000, a small shedload of guinness and it cost me a Spec. Rec. for promotion! Worth it in all regards!"

Although it was not an expensive build this last version of the Penguin Club stood the test of time and is still on the site today. I believe that in its later life there was less of the Skittle League atmosphere and a slightly more alcoholic glaze as time went on. I’m grateful to Megan Fielding (Saxa 95 to 2001) for permission to use the following photos:-
Unfortunately I have to report that, following the closure of the station nearly six years ago, the Penguin club is not looking too good!