Thursday, 24 February 2011

Charity Events Part 2

As was mentioned in Charity Events Part 1:- many events were held by servicemen & their families to raise money for good causes throughout the life of the Station. Pictures of a few more of these events are below and there will be subsequent charity sections published in the future. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).
Blue Peter Bring & Buy Sale in aid of Cambodian Refugees - Dec 79
The first photo shows the opening of the sale on 1 Dec 79 by the Station Commander, Sqn Ldr George Keith. The second picture was taken whilst the sale was in progress.

24 Hr Charity Run to provide funds for an ECG Machine on Unst – Aug 87

Forty-five people took part in this event, running various distances for sponsorhip. The occasion was designed to help purchase an ECG machine to be located on Unst. It was one of a number of events organised to raise money for this cause. The pictures below show Sgt Jerry Davey ( who ran the furthest distance – 51 miles), a copy of a memo providing information for a possible RAF News article and 2 pictures of the presentation of the ECG machine to Dr Karam, the local GP, by the Station Commander, Sqn Ldr Peter Hunter.

Charity Run from Sumburgh to RAF Saxa Vord in aid of Muscular Dystrophy & the RAF Benevolent Fund – May 90

A group of eight runners ran the 86 miles from Sumburgh to Saxa to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy and for the RAF Benevolent Fund. The picture below is from the Shetland Times of 25 May 90 and Sqn Ldr Brian Gregson, the Station Commander can be seen accepting a cheque from SAC Jimmy Burgoyne who, along with the 7 other individuals in the photo, took part in the run.

Sponsored Rugby Run for Save the Children Sep 91

In 1991 an organised run carrying a rugby ball, took place from Unst to Murrayfield with the aim of promoting rugby in Scotland and raising money for charities along the way. The RAF Saxa Vord Rugby Club started the event carrying the ball as far as Belmont. It was picked up and carried across Yell by the Lerwick Rugby Club. The Saxa personnel decided to collect money for Save the Childen. The first two photos below show some of the participants and the third is a copy of a Shetland Times article about the run.

Comic Relief – Mar 97

In 1997 the Station took part in a number of schemes to collect money for Comic Relief. One of the most “hair-brained” schemes was the CO getting a sponsored head shave – yes I agree it’s a horrible pun. Sqn Ldr Grays own comments on the operation can be read in the copy of his entry in the Station History (F540) for March 1997.

Friday, 18 February 2011

40th Anniversary Information Gathering

The previous section covered the preparations for the 40th anniversary celebrations, which were cancelled at short notice. One of the plans had been for a display of memorabilia relevant to life on the Unit over the period of its existence. Attempts were made to contact servicemen who had been posted to Saxa in the early days. Responses from 2 people, George Southwick – who was posted in before the Station opened and Bill Garland – who was posted in twice, the first time at commissioning of the Unit, are included in this section.
I think their letters will make interesting reading both for their contemporaries and for those who worked at Saxa in later years. Certainly the early arrivals had to display plenty of initiative and be very self-reliant. I will leave their correspondence to tell their stories. (Left click on pictures to enlarge – some zooming may also be necessary).

George Southwick
The Unit sent George a typewritten copy of his letter as a check but unfortunately got his name wrong. This lead to a response from George which mentioned a few more of the local population. This exchange is below:-
Bill Garland

Monday, 14 February 2011

40th Anniversary

In 1996 it was decided that it would be a good idea to hold a celebration to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Units existence – the celebrations to take place in the autumn of 1997.

At an early stage it was decided to gather together as many of the previous Station Commanders as possible. Whilst contacting more recent COs who were still serving was relatively simple, it was necessary to work through MOD to try and reach the earlier ones. MOD had the information (2 of them overseas and unfortunately 4 were dead) and the appropriate invitations were sent out. Initially 6 previous COs indicated their intention to attend. Some of the Unit paperwork involved in inviting these officers follows. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

A great deal of effort was put into the preparations, meetings, letters, telephone calls and a lot of thought went into the planning. Copies of some of the letters and Minutes of Meetings are shown below:-

Also early in the proceedings it was decided to involve families and local civilians. Displays, events and a dance were planned. Advertising was discussed using local displays, local radio, local press and the RAF News – an article on the occasion was planned as a follow – up. The dates for the occasion, originally chosen as 20 & 21 Sep, were changed to 6 & 7 Sep 97. As the event neared it became apparent that 4 “Air” ranking officers, including the AOC in C Strike Command, intended to be present at the anniversary accompanied by their wives.

Whilst I don’t have a copy of the final Admin Order a copy of a Draft Admin Order is below:-

So how did it go?

Unfortunately the whole event was cancelled at short notice. Princess Diana died on 31 August 97 and the 40th Anniversary was just one of many events cancelled across the UK. I hope that the workers still got the recognition they deserved for their efforts. I had planned to attend myself but, living in Lerwick, it did not cause me too much of a problem. I believe that one of the ex COs, having had to pay his own fare, quite rightly turned up anyway to revisit old haunts – the story goes that this caught the Unit by surprise, (PB – if you’re reading this check your attic for photos of Saxa!).It was a pity that the station closed just before the 50th Anniversary

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Saxa Vord – The Retail Experience

In the early days of the camp there were far more shops on Unst than in the later years. In the 50’s and early 60’s very few residents had cars – the Dr, Minister, District Nurse and one or two of the more wealthy people had vehicles– for the rest it was necessary to have a place to buy essentials within reasonable walking distance. Some of the early “shops” were just parts of crofts or houses set aside for trading and with limited opening hours.
The advent of more income (the RAF as the main employer) and the RoRo ferries in the early 70’s made it possible to make a return trip to Lerwick in a day and to stock up – especially with fridges and freezers running on power supplied by the camp. For a time the RAF ran periodic shopping trips to the mainland for the benefit of service personnel and their families. Today there is a scheduled civilian service from Unst to Lerwick, which runs 6 days a week and allows 4 hours shopping time in the town. It’s no wonder that many of the local Unst Shops found it difficult to compete after 1970 and a that number have closed down.

Now there are just 3 outlets supplying food stuffs:

1. The Final Checkout (P&T Coaches ex Mills Garage) on a site near where Hagdale Lodge once stood.
2. Skibhoul at Baltasound.
3. Ethel’s Shop at Baltasound (used to be Harry Henderson’s).

This section will contain pictures of those shops which were open at some time during the life of the Unit. They will start with The NAAFI and then those closest to the camp. (Left click on pictures to enlarge)

The NAAFI Shop for about 40 years
Rear of the NAAFI Shop (Kegs look like empties!)
NAAFI Christmas Article in the Saxa Voice
Following reduction in Unit Strength and NAAFI going into partnership with SPAR – the New Premises:
NAAFI Staff in 2001 from the Saxa Voice

Haroldswick Area
Mouat's Shop was the closest shop to the unit (near where Nordabrake was built). After it closed it became the Unst Heritage Centre until that moved to the Haroldswick School.
The Haroldswick Shop had the nearest petrol pump to the station
The Haroldswick Post Office was long famous as being the most northerly in the UK – that claim to fame transferred to Baltasound when the Haroldswick Post Office closed.
Alex Priest's Shop was located on the road between Haroldswick and Burrafirth, near the turn off to Quoys.

Baltasound Area
The Final Checkout is located with P&T Coaches (used to be Mills Garage) near what was the site of Hagdale Lodge. The first of the two pictures below was taken from the Heogs.
The Baltasound Post Office is sited next to Skibhoul, about 600m from SHE.
Skibhoul has been on the same site since 1885. The name is derived from a Dutch word meaning “a place to haul up boats”. Skibhoul has its’ own bakery.
Ethel’s Shop at Baltasound used to be run by Ethel’s father, Harry Henderson. Harry's Park, the field just south of the shop, used to be the Baltasound football pitch.

Uyeasound. Although there was little shopping done in Uyeasound in the later period of the RAF stay on Unst, significant numbers lived in the area in hirings in the early years, especially before SHE was built.

The Post Office at Uyeasound was by the Wester Loch (Scata Water) and has long since closed.
The Westside shop by the Uyeasound pier also closed a long time ago, it was owned by the Sandison's & then by Donald Ritch.
© Copyright Bob Embleton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

On the other side of Uyeasound, near the school, was the Eastside (Harold’s) Shop. I think that the first of these pictures shows the shop soon after closure, whilst the second shows it just before it was demolished a couple of years ago, to help make way for a new pier.

© Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Outside Unst
For those travelling to and from Unst there was always the shop at Ulsta, Yell:
And finally, for some – the height of shopping pleasure  - “The Street” in Lerwick (for some of the single servicemen in the early years it was the chance to visit a few bars!) . Those arriving on the St Clair or the Earl of Zetland and disembarking at the Victoria Pier normally entered via the Market Cross.