Friday, 22 February 2013

Station Sick Quarters& Dental Facilities

When RAF Saxa Vord (or 91 SU as it then was) became fully operational in Oct 1957 there was no RAF Doctor. In fact, other than during staff visits, there never was an RAF Doctor. From the start the RAF employed the local General Practitioner (GP), an arrangement which seemed to suit everyone. The GP was paid a significant sum each year, the servicemen were treated and the civilian population were sometimes able to access better facilities on the Station. An indication that the medical services were there early on can be seen in this extract from the official F540 – Operations Record – from November 1957. The entry is laid out in the official format; ie, there is no reason to suppose the prevalence of VD at the time was any higher or lower than anywhere else in the UK. (Left click or zoom on picture to enlarge).
For about 30 years of the station’s existence Station Sick Quarters (or Station Medical Centre as it became late in life) was located on the same site – at the east end of the camp by the Water Tower. A few pictures from the early days follow:
Before the arrival of the RAF local Dental Services had been fairly rudimentary! It was unusual for RAF Dentist to treat civilians but the logic of the new situation prevailed. The clip below was copied from the Shetland Times of 26 Nov 59. The Zetland Council, predecessor of the Shetland Islands Council, was successful in its application.
Dental Services were offered to the civilian populations of Unst, Yell & Fetlar. However, it was the Unst residents who really benefitted as these were the days of small boats on the ferry crossings. It was not that simple for someone on Fetlar to get to & from RAFSaxa Vord for an appointment. - for while “traditional” methods remained in use.
By early in 1967 it was agreed that the RAF Dentist and a Dental Technician would  hold clinics on Yell as required, This improved matters greatly for Yell but, by the end of the year, only one person from Fetlar had made the crossing for treatment.
There were numerous GPs employed as the Civilian Medical Practitioner during the lifetime of the Unit but two of them occupied the position for long periods. Dr Bobby Robertson, known to most as “Doc Robbie” arrived in the early 60’s. The photo below shows Doc Robbie at the Officers' Mess Summer Ball in 1967.
After Doc Robbie came Dr Khalid Karam, who stayed until his retirement in the late 80’s. The photo below shows Dr Karam receiving an ECG machine which had been bought following various fundraising efforts on the base.
Being an RAF Officer, the Dentist was posted every couple of years and so the number of them was considerable. One of the Dentists, Jimmy Martin who was at Saxa  in the late 60’s, went on to become The RAF’s  Senior Dental Officer and to promotion to Air Rank which went with it.
Malcolm Maddison, or Maddy as he is normally known, did 2 tours at Saxa. The first starting late in the 60’s and the next in the second half of the 70’s. The following 3 pictures are from his collection, the first from around 1970:

The next 2 photos are from a Station Medical Centre Christmas Party at Maundeville, Uyeasound in 1977 or 78.
A photo of the Medical Centre, taken in 1976 byMike Crichlow,is below:
When the Domestic site was rebuilt, a process which continued from the early 80’s until the early 90’s, Station Sick Quarters had about the same priority as the Officers’ Mess; ie, it came near the end of the list! The plan of the camp below came from the 1983 version of the Station Information Booklet. As can be seen the first part for rebuild had been the Airmen’s’ Accommodation and the next build was to be the Airmen’s’ Mess:
The next photo, taken a year or two later, shows how the rebuild was progressing – the Officers Mess and Station Sick Quarters on the left of the picture were still untouched.
Eventually a new SSQ – Station Medical Facility was built. I’m not too sure when it was complete but I suspect it was Around 1990/91. It certainly can’t have been any later as work on the new quarters at Nordabrake, which was on the same ground as the old Sick Quarters, began in 1991.  A few pictures of the new Medical Centre follow:
I must admit I was rather surprised to find that the Station Church was in the same building. Perhaps the authorities didn’t have that much faith in the medical treatment on offer!
Like all sections on an RAF base the Station Medical Centre was subject to  visits by various senior officers and/or the their wives, A couple of examples; firstly, Margaret  Graydon, wife of the AOC in C  Strike Command Sir Patrick Graydon, finds the white wall fascinating in 1992.
Then in 1996, AOC 11Gp AVM Sir Cliff Spink doesn’t think it unusual that a Cpl should have a doll on the floor!
Finally, I have only one picture of the Ambulance in the later years of the station and in the picture which follows it’s actually in MT with the bonnet up.
If anyone has any more photos of their time in the Station Medical Centre or indeed any other section, they would be happy to share, I would be pleased to hear from them.