Sunday 30 January 2011

Presentations – Again

There are pictures of various awards in this section. Once again they are largely one off events and take place between 1970 and 1989... Some of the newspaper cuttings have been poorly looked after over the years and were difficult to read. I have done my best to edit them and I think they should now be readable to most.(Left click on pictures to enlarge).
The first picture shows the presentation of an AOCs Commendation to CPL Livingstone (PTI). It is somewhat unusual in that it the commendation is from the AOC 24 Gp, Saxa being an 11 Gp station.

In 1972 the Communications Centre staff received an efficiency award from the Deputy Commander Elect Eng (Ground).
Sgt Tambling was presented with an AOC 11 Gp’s commendation in 1973.
The next (poor quality) cutting shows Nobby Clark receiving a Tankard on the occasion of his retirement. Nobby , an ex Air Defence Operator (TG12), spent 20 years working in Stores at Saxa.
Steven Saxby retired from his civilian post in MT in 1977. During WWII Steven had been in the RAF and had worked at the Flying Boat Station in Sullom Voe, Mainland Shetland. He has twice featured previously on this blog, the first time receiving an AOC’s Commendation in 1971 and the second receiving a gift from the Stn Cdr on the occasion of his retirement. This presentation took place shortly after his retirement and the article from the Shetland Times (4 Nov 77) and shows Steven receiving a second AOC’s Commendation, 6 years after the first.
Although remote and the weather not always perfect, there was still time for sport. The Saxa Open Golf Championship in 1978 must have taken place on the course at Burrafirth rather than on the earlier one at Inner Skaw.
Many people at Saxa had cause to be thankful for the inter-island flights provided by Loganair. One of the main motivators behind this service was Captain Alan Whitfield, many of those stationed on Unst flew with him. In 1978 he was moved to Glasgow on promotion and the community of Unst raised money for a farewell gift.
In Jun 79 Sgt Herd was awarded an AOC 11 Gp’s Commendation and can be seen receiving it in the photo  below from Sqn Ldr Pete Batchelor:
John Spence, from Haroldswick, was another civilian who spent many years on the base.  The article below from the Shetland Times shows him receiving a retirement gift from Sqn Ldr George Keith, the CO.
In Sep 79 the Barrack Warden, Mr B Wilson, left the Unit and the 2 pictures following show him receiving gifts at the time.
AVM Peter Latham was AOC 11 Gp from Sep 77 to Jan 81 – longer than most. He paid the last of a number visits to Saxa Vord in 1980. The picture which follows shows him being presented with a Shetland crook staff by Hughie McMeechan outside the CO’s Quarter, whilst Sqn Ldr and Mrs Keith look on.
Sgt Trevor Birch was awarded an AOC’s Commendation in 1982 and this was passed on to him by the Stn Cdr at the time, Sqn Ldr JD France.
John Jamieson received a Carriage Clock and a Smoking Set from OC Admin to mark his 25 years service. I’m sure the Smoking Set would not be considered PC in today’s service climate. The clipping below is from the Aberdeen Press & Journal dated 12 Aug 1893.
WO Walklate and Sgt Ray both left Saxa in 1985 and the Catering Section took the opportunity to present them with farewell gifts –it looks like the event occurred in the Penguin Club.
In 1988 an RAF Policeman, Cpl Scott Etheridge, on leave in Preston, managed to apprehend a thief escaping after robbing a jewellers shop. He was awarded a Commendation by the Provost Marshal. In the same year Sgt Jim Donaghie qualified for his Long Service & Good Conduct Medal. Both awards were made by Sqn Ldr Peter Hunter in Dec 88. The first of the articles below is from the Evening Post from Jul 88 and the second is from the Shetland Times in Dec 88.
The next article from the 30 Jun 89 RAF News covers the award of an AOC in C’s Commendation to Cpl Trevor Frost for his charitable work and work with youth movements.
As mentioned elsewhere in the blog Shetland was the base for 3 sites of the NATO Ace High Forward Scatter Link.  These sites were manned by the Royal Signals Corps and one of the sites was at Saxa. In 1989 Staff Sgt Graham Reith, based at Saxa, was awarded a Commendation by the Commander of NATO’s Central Region Signals Group for his help in saving a child from a burning Quarter at SHE. The article below comes from the Shetland Times date 8 Sep 89.
The final picture in this section is a bit of a mystery. On the back of the picture it was entitled “Cpl Broad”. Unfortunately it doesn’t say what he has received (looks like a commendation) or when he received it. If anyone can add details my email is


Tuesday 25 January 2011

Saxa -Long Service and Good Conduct Medal 1977 to 84

In the RAF the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal is awarded to airmen who have served 15 years (used to be 18 yrs)  without committing any major misdemeanours. In certain circumstances it could be awarded to officers but only when they had spent the majority of their service as airmen before being commissioned.
Previous sections have shown a number of people being presented with LS&GCMs during visits by senior officers as part of set of pictures covering the whole visit, I have grouped these photos together as they don’t fit into an extended visit itinerary but were awarded over a 7 year period (1977 – 84).
The first presentation pictured here took place in 1977. The medal was awarded to Cpl Rick Sewell and to C/T Leslie Henderson.Unluckily for Cpl Sewell (and possibly C/T Henderson) the change in rules came a little too late and 18yrs was the qualifying period.

Because he was a local Shetlander (from Unst) a short piece about Leslie Henderson was included in a subsequent Shetland Times.
The next 4 presentations all took place in 1979 with Sqn Ldr Batchelor (CO),  Sqn Ldr Keith (CO) and Sqn Ldr Forsyth (OC Eng) presiding over the events.
 Sqn Ldr Dorward made the next 2 presentations in 1983
In 1983 the AOC, AVM Ken Hayr made an informal visit to the unit and presented Ch Tech Dawson with his LS&GCM.
The 3 pictures below are of medal presentations in 1984, during the period when Sqn Ldr Ian MacDonald was the Stn Cdr.
On a slightly different note, many of the servicemen who served at Saxa in its’ later years were not aware of the strong connection with the Royal Corps of Signals. There were Army personnel stationed at Saxa for many years (and at Mossy Hill and Collafirth on the Shetland Mainland). These servicemen operated the Ace High Tropospheric Scatter Equipment, which formed an important NATO wide link. The Army also awarded its’ own version of the LS&GCM. Sean McHale-Smith, featured in the Shetland Times article below, worked on the Unit as a civilian after leaving the Army.
So what happens after the LS &GCM? Until 1977, if you served a further 18 years, still without committing major misdemeanours, you were awarded a clasp to your medal. In 1977 the rules changed decreasing the time from 18 to 15 years. The only person I am aware of who was awarded a clasp to his medal at Saxa Vord was WO Bolt, who received his clasp from Sqn Ldr Batchelor in 1979 and is featured in the picture below:

I’m sure that there are other award ceremonies which I have not covered in this, or previous, sections on this site. If anyone would care to submit material for publication my email address is:

Friday 21 January 2011

Sqn Ldr Nick Gordon – Presentation of Medals & Awards

Sqn Ldr Nick Gordon, known almost universally as “Flash", was the Station Commander from Aug 91 until Sep 93. Amongst other things, he had to contend with was the clear-up following the New Year Storms of 91/92 which left the Unit without a search radar for about 8 months.
The photos below were taken of a presentation of medals and awards by the CO. Once again I lack specific details - the date, the medals/awards and the names of some of the recipients. Thanks to Frank Wallace for providing some of the information used. If anyone can furnish more information I will be pleased to amend this section at a later date:-


Sunday 16 January 2011

Saxa and the South Atlantic Medal

The South Atlantic Medal was awarded to personnel who were sent to the South Atlantic during the Falklands conflict in 1982. Unusually for a medal it came in 2 versions, one with and one without a rosette. The basic medal was awarded to those who completed at least 30 days in the South Atlantic on active service before the end of hostilities with Argentina. To be awarded the medal with the rosette personnel needed to have completed at least one days active service between 35 and 60 degrees south of the equator or, in the case of RAF aircrew, one operational sortie south of Ascension.
Less than 30,000 medals were awarded, most of them to navy and army personnel. However a significant number were awarded to members of the Merchant Navy, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and some civilians (including a few journalists). The total number of medals awarded to members of the RAF was about 2,000.

I am aware of 5 people at Saxa Vord who were presented with the Medal during their tours. There may well be more and I would be pleased to add them to this section if details are sent to me. There appears to have been 2 award ceremonies; the first by AVM Ken Hayr in 1983 and a second, by Air Cdre Stuart-Paul, in 1984.

Presentations by AVM Hayr 1983  Two people were presented with their medals by the AOC 11 Gp.
Cpl Browne completed a number of tours at Saxa and still lives in Shetland today. J/T Jenkinson can be seen on Ascension in this photo taken on Green Mountain (back row 4th from left), in front of an S259 radar.

Presentations by Air Cdre Stuart-Paul 1984  There were 3 recipients of the medal on this occasion. The second picture is a clip from the first, used in the Shetland Times. Those awarded the Medal are, from left to right, Cpl RW Jackson, SAC LJ Milne and Cpl JB Cufflin.


Wednesday 12 January 2011

Interim Ops Room (In use from Feb 1984)

In order that work could be carried out to refurbish the equipment in the R101, interim operations facilities were installed in the old Type 80 display hall. The equipment provided was a compact GL161 System (ex 1ACC). Cpl Richardson from USST Wattisham was involved in the setting-up and commissioning of the GL161 System. Operations started with this equipment in Feb 1984 but I do not know for how long it was in use. If anyone has information regarding the return to the updated R101 facilities I would be pleased to hear from them.
The equipment provided included 6 x Plessey Mk5 Displays with IFF & minicomms, but no rolling ball marker or computer back-up. Information from the S649 (Type 96) radar was fed to the system using to old Type 80 cabling. The GL 161 System, in various forms, had been in use by the RAF for a number of years. I have included a photo from the Ops Room at RAF Bukit Gombak in 1969 at the end of this section for comparison.

I am grateful to Bill Darling (ex TSSU Wattisham) for his help with this section. I would appreciate it if anyone who can supply further information about this “Interim” Ops Room, and the refurbishment of the R101, would get in touch :-
(Left click on photos to enlarge).