Sunday 31 July 2016

Bill Borthwick - Saxa Vord 1963/64

Bill Borthwick, originally from Edinburgh, was a Radar Mechanic at Saxa from 1963 to 1964. He was posted in from RAF Locking in Somerset. ( Left click on pictures to enlarge)

As usual he was assigned to a billet with guys from a similar trade and he took a picture of some of his room - mates on the Domestic Site opposite the NAAFI. I'm not sure of the occasion but it looks like everyone was ready for an AOCs Inspection,  Battle of Britain Parade or a Remembrance Day. The only person in the group whose name can be remembered  is Lew Lewis (at the back, not wearing a hat):

Bill took another photo of Lew on a separate occasion:
:On passing through Dyce, Aberdeen, Bill managed to take this snap of one of the Airspeed Ambassadors built for British European Airways from the aircraft he was travelling in (probably a Handley Page Herald) . By the time of the photo this particular Ambassador, G-ALZW, had been sold to BKS Air Trans port Ltd:

Bill was at Saxa during the period when the Type 80 Radome was built by a Norwegian firm of contractors, with a little help from some of the local Unst folk. The 18 12  ton Type 80 aerial assembly had been dislodged from its turntable by gales in January 1961 and had been replaced:

 It was judged wise to provide the new equipment with some protection. Bryan Edwardson, from Unst, can be seen displaying a head for heights on top of the new radome in the next photo :

The next 2 pictures show the interior of the Radome once the job was completed, the first features Bill himself

The following photo shows a sight which was to become familiar to many Shetlanders and servicemen over the years, the first "Golf Ball" on Unst.

Whilst the Type 80 was off the air the stand-by search  radar, the Marconi Type 14 Mk9 (originally the T14 was WWII vintage),  was called upon to maintain operations much more than usual. Saxa's Type 14 was finally decommissioned on 23 Sep 64, about a year after the Type 80 returned to full operations. The Type 14 can be seen in the next of Bills pictures:
The picture which follows looks as if it may have been taken from the Receiver Site on Sodders Field and shows the radar heads, with the TACAN Beacon on the left:
The next picture shows part of the road up to the Mid and Top Sites, it was possibly taken from the rear of a One or Three Tonner on the way down the hill - the luxury of RAF coaches/buses not having reached Unst by this early date!

Being so remote it wasn't possible to send many teams of sportsmen to the UK Mainland to participate in RAF completions because of the travel problems. A long tradition of taking part in local Shetland events began in the 50's with servicemen involved in activities such as sailing and table tennis.  By far the most popular sport (and Saxa Teams were very successful at it when competing in the early 60's), was soccer - though in Shetland leagues were arranged in the summer months due to the climate. Many inter-section games and matches  against teams from Unst were played in the field by Harrys Shop at Baltasound, but the following two pictures were taken at Burrafirth:

Soccer matches against other Shetland teams were played away in Lerwick and involved a round trip on special overland buses & ferries. The weekend trips entailed night-stops in the "Big City"-  a number of players and supporters took the opportunity to sample the night life. The three pictures which follow were taken in Lerwick. The first two were taken by the small boat harbour and show the St Clair in the background. The chap with the glasses in the first two is thought to be Charlie Gaze. The third photo was taken close by, facing in a different direction and has the rear of the Main Post Office on the right-hand side:

There was no television in Shetland before Apr '64, when a single channel became available  via a relay transmitter on Bressay, making BBC1 accessible to some on the Mainland. However, there were still pastimes, apart from sport,  to keep the active serviceman occupied on Unst. There were frequent film shows in the station cinema, The Ice Cap:

The delights of decanting home-made ginger beer into Lucozade bottles - it couldn't be home brew (known as hom bru locally), as that activity wasn't allowed on camp!.
The art of conversation still existed in the 60's, as this gathering in  the billet indicates:
and, of course, there was always the opportunity for a get together in the Social Club or the Springfield Hotel:

Off camp, apart from trips to Lerwick and the Springfield, the chance to explore the local environment was frequently taken (when the weather permitted it). The next photo shows Bill, with a couple of mates, Jim Barber & Geordie Henderson, at Lambaness, near the site of the remains of the old WWII CH Radar site at RAF Skaw:

Bill is still remembered in Shetland as one of the members of the first group in Shetland to play music from the charts and to use amplified guitars - The Hustlers. There is a complete section about Bill, Dave, Geordie and Jim here:
Bill, together with the other members of the Hustlers, was  posted from Saxa Vord to RAF Boulmer in Oct 64. If anyone has more information or photos of Bill, the Hustlers or any other person featured in this section I would be pleased to hear from them ( My thanks to Bill for allowing me to tell part of his story.