Sunday 1 December 2013

Ray “Dickie” Dawson – 91 SU (Saxa Vord) 1957 to 59

A few RAF personnel, under the command of Flt Lt CA Davison DFM, had been on site in 1955 & 56 during the construction phase of Saxa Vord. However, the first large contingent of 66 airmen, who were to become part of the strength of 91SU, arrived on 20 Sep 57. A few days later a second party of 50 airmen arrived at Baltasound. This group included an MT Driver named Ray “Dickie” Dawson. It had not been a good trip from Lerwick and most of the lads had been very seasick. Unst must have seemed to be the end of the world. Ray stayed at 91 SU until late 1959, subsequently marrying an Unst girl. Fortunately he took a number of photos during his tour and has kindly allowed me to reproduce them.

The first Christmas must have been a bit of a make do affair – NAAFI didn’t arrive on Unst until 25 Jan 58. It is interesting to note that, even this early in the Units history, a party was laid on for local children. On 20 Dec 57 52 children were treated to a film show, games, food and a visit from Santa (complete with presents). With few cars and no public transport on Unst MT would have had to provide a taxi service.

The lads themselves entered into the festive spirit as can be seen in some of the photos taken inside one of the billet blocks over that first Christmas. (Left click on pictures to enlarge).

Ray worked in the MT Section and many of his photos reflect this. The next 2 pictures celebrate an important trophy. In 1957 a weekly magazine called Reveille released a picture of Bridget Bardot on its centre pages. The lady was issued in 3 sections so it was necessary to buy 3 consecutive magazines to make up the complete picture.


 For a while a copy of the picture was on the wall in the MT Section but one night, when none of the MT staff were about, it was purloined and later found to be hanging at the Radar Heads. After a short while the MT Section made a foray into the secret and supposedly secure top site and recovered the picture. Ray tells me that the picture was misappropriated more than once but was always recovered. The plaque at the bottom of the next photo records the travels made by the mademoiselle:

A few more pictures featuring MT & personnel:

Those of you who have been to Saxa will know that the driving conditions are not always perfect! It should also be remembered that in the 50's roads were narrower and less well maintained.

  Some of the incidents were more difficult to recover from than others, this Bedford water bowser being a case in point:

 There again, back in those days they had an interesting tradition which has been discontinued – to the disappointment of many :- 

And finally, there was always the odd beer or two in the evenings after a hard day at work:-
All of the photos above, apart from the Reveille thumbnail, belong to Ray Dawson. If anyone can add details (names etc) to any of them, it would be much appreciated.



  1. A brilliant addition to the history of Saxa the photos adding that wider dimension. Just great Lez.

  2. Fantastic bit of history and makes me wish I had spent more time there. I am lucky to have spent 19 brilliant months in a place that taught me so much. Good friends and good times. I must visit again while I still can. It would be great to have those days again and turn the clock back. An experience not forgotten.