• RAF Aird Uig

    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!  There is also an RAF Aird Uig topic in our forum.

    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.

    1. Donald Matheson, Ardroil – General duties in the Sergeant’s Mess
    2. Malcolm John Macaulay – Refuse collection
    3. Calum Iain Macaulay – Handy man
    4. Calum Macneill , Carishader – Handy man
    5. Calum Beag Macneill, Carishader – General duties in the Officers Mess
    6. Angus Smith, Carishader – Kitchen staff in the Airmen’s Mess; also construction
    7. John Murdo Maclean, Breanish – Water man (water supply to the camp); also camp construction.
    8. Calum Iain Buchanan, Breanish – Storeman
    9. Peigi Matheson, Aird Uig – NAAFI shop
    10. Murdanie Maclean Aird Uig – General duties in the Airmens’ Mess
    11. Nora Macdonald – NAAFI Manageress
    12. John Angus Maclennan, Aird Uig – Bus driver
    13. Joan Maclennan – 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)

    Sick Quarters
    C.O.s Quarters
    Sergeant’s Quarters
    Airmen’s Quarters
    Officer’s Mess
    Sergeant’s Mess
    Airmen’s Mess
    Fire Station
    NAAFI
    H.Q. / NAAFI shop (Bonaventure)
    M.T. Workshop (Garage)
    General stores
    Guardroom
    Fire Station
    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

    Sergeants include:

    Sergeant Macavoy
    Sergeant Fitzgerald
    Sergeant Sharp
    Sergeant MacKnight, 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.

    Recent Notes from RAF Aird Uig

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    10 Responses to RAF Aird Uig

    1. Jim McIntosh
      27 February 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Brought back memories of the time I spent at the Aird Uig. I was there from July 1959 to July 1960.I found the Smith family in the village very friendly and visited them a number of time, I am sure that he and his wife worked at the camp. Sargent Richie was in charge of the police section and my nco in charge.
      Best wishes and god bless.
      Jim McIntosh.

    2. John Taylor
      20 May 2012 at 9:43 pm

      I was stationed at Aird Uig from 1958 when the establishment was 15 men and 2 officers The establishment went up to 100 men I remember Sgt Ritchie as I was a member of the Police Section as was Alan Round and Brian Caisley The three of us each paid a £5 to a villager in Uig for a Matchless 350cc motor bike. Brian and I i mmediately went off to test the machine. Brian first, the me with Brian on the back We decided to go to the petrol pump at Maiavig but crashed at the bridge just before the pump
      We were thrown over the parapet but fortunately landed on the only piece of grass amongst the rocks The bike went over the parapet and crashed on the rocks below the bridge Alan never saw the bike A point of interest, one of the C.O’s was Sqd.Leader Liskutin who is mentioned in Laddie Lucas’s book about airmen who rode their luck He was piloting what I believe was a Tempest when he shot down a doodlebug but had got too close and was fortunate to survive the resultant explosion

    3. gordon bell
      26 August 2012 at 12:46 am

      I was an Air Defence Operator at Aird Uig from 1959 until national service ended in 1961. Met many good friends there from all parts of the UK. Remember boarding the Loch Seaforth at Mallaig wondering where the heck I was headed and how long am I going to be here. At Stornaway I was met by someone driving a Land Rover who loaded my bags int the back and off we went on the lonely road to Aird Uig – a single lane road with laybys in places for oncoming traffic to get by. As I recall it took at least 55 minutes to arrive at the camp. The WO man who greeted me (who remembers the WO man in charge of admin) an excitable person to say the least who would shuttle one about like some mother hen showing me the mess hall where I had my first real meal since making the long train and ferry journey from Compton Basset via my home town of Sunderland where I was allowed to take a 48 hour break. The billet I was to spend the next 18 months in was almost full, with a newcome having to take a bed nearest the door. One worked ones’ way to the top of the billiet as airmen left for other postings which took several months to achieve. Squadron Leader Christopher was CO – a likeable guy – who sometimes liked to accompany us on the twice a week liberty runs to Stornaway where he would partake in a drink with the boys especially on a Saturday. I remember being trapped in Stornaway after a snow storm and had to spend the night in a hotel with a bar (can’t remember the name) staying at the hotel was Calum Kennedy the Scottish singer who bought the rounds of drinks for all of us. Needless to say a good time was had by all. I have often wondered where my friends are now Taffy Cross,(storeman) Scotty,(ADO). Dennis Wood (ADO) Trevor Stevenson (ADO) Barry Weed (ADO). Edie Mooney (cook) Dave Andrus ( wireless technician) and many others. It was at Aird Uig that I very foolishly volunteered for Common Cold Research after seeing a notice posted at the camp, which resulted in myself – and others before me – ending up at Porton Down where the most vile human experiments were conducted on so many of the volunteers… Many of you will know of the Wiltshire Police investigation that began in 1999 and lasted for 5 years with no charges being made, despite police knowing the identity of the perpetrators. One particularly vile experiment that was conducted on myself and 114 other airmen consisted of injecting a cell altered bacteria derived from salmonella abortus equi into the blood stream of 81 airmen with a further 34 inhaling the highly toxic endo toxin. It will shock you to know that only 7 airmen have ever been accounted for after forming part of this Josef Mengele type of human experiment with Wiltshire Police ignoring my many requests to have the missing airmen traced.
      To add further to this atrocity Leigh Day & Co attended two secretly held “mediations with the MOD that resulted in 645 Porton Veterans including 39 family members of deceased veterans each receiving 8356 pounds and 54 pence, with Senior Partner Martyn Day being awarded 3.72 million pounds…. YES 3.72 million pounds from the MOD for legal work that was never carried out. Anyone interested can contact me at
      Beat wishes to all.
      Gordon Bell
      Spruce Grove
      Alberta
      Canada.

    4. gordon bell
      26 August 2012 at 12:52 am

      My address should read: 40 Morel Drive, Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. T7X 2P9.

    5. Gord Bell
      9 September 2012 at 9:34 pm

      I was at aird uig 1959 -61 sorry I don’t remember you being there during this period.
      As an “Air Defense Operator” we had to produce our “1250″ to the police on entering the workplace. I did this for over 18 months yet I have no recollection of the name Mcintosh.

    6. Anne Mitchell
      31 October 2012 at 7:25 pm

      My father (sgt John Mitchell) was stationed at Aird Uig in the late 50s. Our family had one of the married quarters and spent some very happy years there. I remember my friend Donald Angus, who lived in the village. As children we roamed free in the camp and the surrounding moors.

      • Donald Smith
        6 April 2014 at 8:05 pm

        I remember many of the children from the camp who attended Crowlista school – many quickly understood gaelic as well as we locals understood english – I don’t think any of us thought of ourselves as bi-lingual – we just learnt to communicate and play with the innocence of youth. I often wondered what of them all – the names I remember were Anne’s older brother Hamish Mitchell, Brian and Linda Roper, Adrian Roland, Susan Jones (can’t remember her younger sister’s name). The Mitchell home (one of the married quarters bungalows) was like a second home to me after school – Anne and I were great pals. Would love to hear from you – my email address is iolairetech@yahoo.com

    7. James (Jim) Sey
      12 January 2013 at 5:32 pm

      I arrived at Aird Uig as an ADO, in the Spring of 1958 and left the same month in 1959 for RAF Buchan to complete my Natinal Service. I had an Ariel 500T trials bike there for much of the time and also sailed on the Albacore dinghies when they arrived that summer. I have many happy memories, however they are short of names as that aspect of my memory is crap. I would dearly like to get in touch with the guys I shared the hut with, I think it was the last hut on the left opposite the road to the tech site. One of the guys married a lass in the Naffi if I recall. There was also a guy known as the “skyeman” (from the Isle of Skye unsurprisingly), he was handy as could tell us what the locals were discussing about us in the shops and pubs.
      The dances in Stornaway were something else!

      • James (Jim) Sey
        12 January 2013 at 5:34 pm

        Amendment…”Last hut on the right”

    8. 10 March 2013 at 11:26 pm

      Reading the list of names the one that I instantly recognised was Sgt ‘Des’ Fitzgerald, IC the Fire Station at Aird Uig 1960-64. Better known to myself as ‘Dad’. I know that for most Aird Uig was an unaccompanied tour, somehow though Dad not only extended his tour but also got permission to bring the family over to live in a rented house in Valtos. I was only four when we moved but I do have many vivid and enduring memories of our time in Lewis, certainly remember visits to ‘Dads’ fire station and having rides in his fire engine, also remember on those visits eating dinner in the Sgts’ Mess and, particularly, the exotic drinks mixed up for me by, I think, the civilian barmen – orange and lemonade, with a slice of orange and ice cubes was definitely exotic to a five year old in the early 60′s!

      So many memories of our four years in Valtos, bonfire nights, sheep shearing and dipping, Dad scuba diving for clams, Carnival in Stornaway. school, school dinners and the swimming pool. School sports, rowdy crowds filling the home, sheep on the doorstep, foreign fishing boats at the quayside – I could go on and on.

      Back in ’96 after a resettlement briefing in Glasgow I made a spontaneous decision to visit Lewis, drove up and caught the ferry and drove up to Valtos. Stayed a couple of nights with a lovely couple, ex cops from Glasgow I seem to recall, who were offering B&B in their home directly across the road from what was once our home. What a step back that short visit was, always plan to make another trip, hopefully before too long.

      Dave

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