Sunday, 26 June 2011

SHE – 1974/75 Build

In the previous sections I have written about Setters Hill Estate I have made a serious omission. A large construction phase has been overlooked and in this section I hope to go some way in rectifying the situation.

In Apr 74 a detachment from 53 Field Sqn Royal Engineers (based at Waterbeach, Cambridge ) arrived to work on services, drainage and access roads for a new batch of quarters to be erected next to the Dorran quarters at SHE. The Royal Engineers were scheduled to be based at Saxa for 4 months but in fact completed their work on 16 Jul 74.
The new Quarters were factory built and assembled on site - I believe some of the work was carried out by a Scottish company called “Pearson & Tawse”- they carried out a fair amount of work in Shetland. Not unusually the winter of 74/5 was pretty poor and by Mar 75 the Station History reports that the build was a month behind schedule. The RAF officially took over 12 of the new Quarters in Jun 75 and the rest were expected to be complete by the end of August (I don’t have a final completion date).
The first photo shows the first “Dorran” Quarters which were taken over in 1967 on the left and the taller 74/75 build on the right.
The next 3 pictures show this build of quarters probably in the 80’s. The quarter on the right in the third picture was the location of the “Hive”.
The “Hive” was still in the same place in 2002 as can be seen in this picture, taken at the time of the Annual Formal Inspection.
The photo below must have been taken around 1994 with the construction of the last build at SHE (93 to 95) well underway.
The quarters are still standing, some occupied, some empty and some for sale. The current look of the “patch” can be seen in the two recent photos below.
These photos below are included mainly for nostalgia. They are all fairly recent and show “the patch” from 4 different directions.
At some stage in the future, if the pace of life slows down a bit, I will attempt to amalgamate this section with the 3 previous sections on SHE. Hopefully, this will result in a more logical and readable narrative. I would welcome any suitable material:-
Links to the 3 previous sections on SHE below:-


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Functions in the Officers’ Mess in the 80’s

Once again all the pictures used here have been taken from the scrapbooks left by my late father-in-law, Hughie McMeechan. Therefore, I am unable to attribute credit for the pictures and will remove any of them should the owners object. I would like to acknowledge the help I have received from George & Anne Keith, Stew &Gisela Dorward & Hugh (Shetrad) in identifying some of the people in the photos.
From Jun 79 to Feb 81. Stn Cdr – Sqn Ldr George Keith

From Feb 81 to Sep 82. Stn Cdr – Sqn Ldr John France

From Sep 82 to Feb 84. Stn Cdr – Sqn Ldr Stewart Dorward

From Feb 84 to Jun 85. Stn Cdr – Sqn Ldr Ian MacDonald

Unfortunately I have no photos of functions in the second half of the 80’s and would welcome any contributuions.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Soccer at Saxa Vord (Amended Sep 14)

Like most sports, soccer at Saxa was popular, whether it was just inter-section 6-a-side tournaments on base or, representing the station. In the early years representing the station usually meant playing both home and away games on the Shetland mainland. In the days before the RoRo inter-island ferries local teams could not afford either the time or the money to make the round trip to & from Unst. For the Saxa teams the overland trip (5 hrs each way) was a more practical option. The services had a separate budget for sporting activities and most servicemen welcomed to opportunity of an excuse to get off the island for a while and the chance to visit the pubs and entertainment available in Lerwick – away matches nearly always involved a night stop in the “big city”. Three or four times a season the lads would be off down to Lerwick on a Friday afternoon, play a match in the early evening and then have a night out on the town. On Saturday they would spend the morning shopping or, more likely recovering, before playing another match in the afternoon. A special overland would be arranged to take them back to Unst early Saturday evening.

One unusual fact about soccer in the islands compared with mainland UK is that it tends to be a summer rather than winter activity. The weather and short hours of daylight meant that holding regular winter competitions was impractical.

The Most Successful Season
In 1962, whilst there were still some National Servicemen on the Unit, Saxa entered the Shetland football league for the first time. The team went on to win the Madrid Cup – the premier Soccer trophy in Shetland. The Cup was first presented in 1908 and is still keenly fought for today. 1962 was the only occasion when a Saxa team was able to lift this trophy. That year the team went on to win just about every trophy available to them. An article from the Scottish Daily Express and a photo of the seasons trophies are below. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

The Le Cheminant Trophy

Sqn Ldr J Le Cheminant was the Stn Cdr from Jan 68 to Feb 70. In 1969 he introduced the Le Cheminant Trophy to be played for by the RAF Saxa Vord team and an Unst “Select” side chosen by the local footballers on Unst. This led to a series of matches over the following years. I’m not sure what the fixture consisted of in the early days but later on it was decided over two “legs”.
A couple of the fixtures are the subject of the 3 pictures below:-

The Astroturf Pitch

As part of the Station rebuild an all-weather Astroturf pitch was constructed near the site for the Nordabrake Quarters/New Officers' Mess at a cost of £900,000. An article about the official opening in 1991 from the Shetland Times is reproduced below:

During the period when the Unit operated as RRH Saxa Saxa Vord, the strength was reduced to less than 70. I suspect that Saxa could no longer field a full team and the pitch started to deteriorate. After the closure of RAF Buchan and the return to Station status it was decided to refurbish the pitch. In Oct 2004 a contract, worth £40,000 was awarded for the “rejuvenation” of the Astroturf pitch – shame the Unit closed 16 months later.

Four Team Photos
I'm grateful to David Shields, who was a cook on the Station from August 1964 until March 1966, for the first photo which features the successful 1965 team - they won the County Shield in Lerwick.

The next is from the 1970 era and I’m grateful to Andy Anderson, who appears in the picture and to Andy Parkinson who was at Saxa 69 -71 for helping identify some of those featured.
The second (slightly out of focus) photo comes from my late father-in-laws collection. There is no date but I presume it is an RAF Saxa Team playing an away game at an airfield.
The third photo comes from Frank Josephs and shows the Saxa Team 1986/87.
Help in identifying people in the pictures above would be appreciated.

Shetland Times Cuttings

The final part of this section consists solely of cuttings from the Shetland Times and is probably just of interest to those who were involved with soccer during their time at Saxa. I have attempted to put them in a chronological sequence – but it difficult as some do not have the day & month on them.