Saturday, 29 November 2014

Doug Slade - Saxa Vord 1965 to '66

Doug Slade was posted in to Saxa Vord in September 1965 from RAF Honington, a "V" bomber base in Suffolk. He was a medic and was employed in the old Station Sick Quarters with Dr Robertson (Doc Robbie) as the Civilian Medical Practitioner.  Doug and some of his contemporaries soon formed a group called "The Embers" and, by Christmas '65, were playing at functions on the Station. The members of the group were Doug and Dave Truman (both from SSQ), and Tony Reid and Rod Paton (both from Stores). A short piece about the group was recently added to this section of the Blog:   
Doug has kindly allowed me to share some of the photos he took during his tour and to repeat some of his anecdotes. Like most of us spending a winter on Unst, a little bit of snow comes as no surprise, (left click on images to enlarge):

The Shetland weather is certainly changeable and the place can look totally different on a good day, as the following pictures illustrate:

According to Doug -Tony Reid really liked his "camp bike":

The next picture  shows Rod Paton attempting to start a Moped outside SSQ. What he probably didn't know was that it almost certainly belonged to a young lady who worked part-time next door, doing the Officers' Mess bookkeeping - the young lady later lent the Moped to me when we were courting:
Two of the medics, Doug & Dave Truman, managed jollies to Lerwick on alternate weekends taking medical items to the Gilbert Bain Hospital for sterilisation. Using the overland they had to stay in the "big city" at her Majesties expense for the whole weekend, leaving on Friday and not returning until the following Tuesday. On one weekend it was Dave Truman's turn for the Lerwick trip and, at the time the NCO i/c SSQ - Cpl Pete McGarry - was away on the UK mainland on leave. Doug was left as the sole Medic on the Station. As luck would have it Doc Robbie, with the CO's permission, admitted a patient who was an alcoholic undergoing withdrawal symptoms, Doug was on his own and had to attend this hallucinating patient 24hrs a day until Dave returned. In Doug's words " I spent the next three days chasing him round the Med Centre giving him injections to keep him sedated and hydrating, feeding him when he raised his head. The mess brought me food and kept me going and the Doc kept coming in!.Anyway he was shipped out on the Tuesday overland and Dave came back with the re sterilised drum, all chirpy. I was by this time stir crazy and just wanted a good kip"
The first opportunity he got he decided to go for a long walk in the fresh air after being cooped up with a demanding patient for so long. The following photos were taken on that walk at Lambaness, the site of the WWII Chain Home Radar Station - RAF Skaw:

 The road in the previous photo, which for many years was the vehicular access from Norwick to Lambaness and Skaw, is now too dangerous to use and a new road has been constructed. The photo below shows the current state of "The Floggie":
Doc Robbie and Sqn Ldr Stevens recommended Doug for an advanced trade course. In his own words Doug describes his selection, " I would have to go to RAF Hospital Ely for an interview (which would of course entail a week away!) When I got to the interview the panel asked me the usual questions and then said did I know what my CO and MO (Medical Officer) had written. I of course didn't , they said it was a description of my three days continuous duty which impressed them enough to offer me a place on the course".
Talk about doing the right thing at the right time......... In June 1966 Doug was posted to Wegberg in Germany to complete his course. Although he regretted leaving Unst after 8 months, it was too good an opportunity to miss. He stayed in Germany until 1969, joining a new band, before a posting to RAF Gan. He had subsequent postings to Salalah and finished off at RAF Chessington Rehabilitation Unit. In 1976 he had applied, and been accepted, to complete 22 years in the RAF, but he was made redundant in 1978. His advanced training allowed him to land a job with a hospital in Truro, Cornwall and he still lives at the opposite end of the country from Unst. Not only that, but  when he retired from the NHS in 2006, he got  back into the music scene with a local group called Merlins Rockit. The band members eventually went their separate ways and he is currently working with a new group.
My thanks to Doug for sharing his Saxa Vord memories.