On the windswept, 60-metre high, cliffs at Gallan Head, Aird Uig, a watcher’s hut was built for shelter, during the Second World War.
Local men, in the Auxiliary Coastguard Service, kept a watch on the North Western Approaches for enemy ships. The watch was maintained 24 hours a day and the men were uniformed and armed.
A radar station, type R10, eventually replaced the watcher’s hut around 1954, as the main surveillance building and a domestic camp, where the servicemen lived, was built around the same time. Virtually every able man in the district was employed in its construction and teams were also bussed in from other parts of the Island.
The radar station was in operation until 1964, when it was replaced by a radio communications surveillance system. The domestic camp was adjacent to the village of Aird Uig and a few hundred metres south of the radar station; it too was closed in 1964. The buildings remained unused for many years until the site was sold in 1977; it has been resold several times subsequently. Individuals now own the buildings and have transformed them into homes, restaurants and guesthouses. The Headquarters and NAAFI shop building is now the Gallan Head Hotel & Restaurant.
Local civilian workforce
Thirteen (perhaps as many as 20) local people were working at the camp as civilians, managers, cleaners, cooks, drivers, handy men and shop assisants in the NAAFI shop.
Ardroil – General duties in the Sergeant’s Mess
Malcolm John Macaulay
Calum Iain Macaulay
Carishader – Handy man
Calum Beag Macneill
Carishader – General duties in the Officers Mess
Carishader – Kitchen staff in the Airmen’s Mess; also construction
John Murdo Maclean
Breanish – Water man (water supply to the camp); also camp construction.
Calum Iain Buchanan
Breanish – Storeman
Aird Uig – NAAFI shop
Aird Uig – General duties in the Airmens’ Mess
John Angus Maclennan
Aird Uig – Bus driver
General duties in the Officers Mess (wife of John Angus)
Angus H. Smith from Carishader, who was involved in the construction of the domestic camp, along with John Murdo Maclean, Brenish and Finlay Maciver, Geshader, was approached by the first commanding officer of the base, Squadron Leader Parker and asked if he wanted to become part of the full-time civilian staff at the camp. Angus agreed and went to work in the cookhouse, helping with the preparation of food for the servicemen. He worked in the camp from 11th April 1955 until it closed, he was then asked to continue working at the main radar facility, R10, at Aird Uig, which was a restricted area; here he was involved in the general cleaning of the building.
John Murdo Maclean, Breanish, was involved in the building of the camp in the early 1950s, he continued working there for 5 years, involved in various construction work but finally worked on the camp water supply, which was fed from a local loch (possibly Loch Bheannaich), the pump building is still standing (2005), up the hill from the loch.
About 150 servicemen were stationed at Aird Uig camp, Radar operators, radar technicians, mechanics, electricians, cooks, storemen, police and firemen.
Buildings at the camp include: (see map)
H.Q. / NAAFI shop (Bonaventure)
M.T. Workshop (Garage)
Air Ministry – Public Building Works
There was a flammable substance store near the M.T. Office.
There were 2 buses (driven by John Angus Maclennan and Angus Unknown – from Harris), 3 trucks and 2 Land Rovers; plus officer’s cars. The men often went, by bus, to dances and events in various villages and to Stornoway. Discipline was uniformly strict during the tenure of all commanding officers.
Commanding Officers include:
Squadron Leader Parker
Flight Lieutenant Fletcher
Squadron Leader Nascutin
Squadron Leader Christopher
Squadron Leader Evens
Was the skipper of the 5m fishing boat that belonged to the RAF. This was often used to supply the cooks with fresh fish, and the excess fish was given to local villagers.
There were two incidents recalled by Angus H Smith (cook in the Airmen’s Mess), one in which a civilian Englishman call Mr. Lee was bird watching on the cliffs to the north of the domestic camp when the rocks suddenly gave way, he fell to his death on the rocks below. Angus was in the boat that recovered his body from the sea.
On another occasion a corporal used the NAAFI shop keys to unlawfully enter the shop, taking some whisky from the storeroom. He was found out and disciplined by the commanding officer. Local men from Uig gave the NAAFI shop some money to pay for the missing drink, which shows there was a friendly relationship between servicemen and local civilians.
We are interested in hearing from any former servicemen who were stationed at RAF Aird Uig, with a view to compiling memories of the place. Please get in touch!
We will be digitaising all of our archives soon…
The archives we have are currently in the Museum. Most of the known genealogy of Aird Uig has been documented on Hebridean Connections.
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