Saturday, January 10, 2009

23rd August 1972 - 5th September 1972

Cape Wrath - Durness
Troop Task: Build 4 Nissan Huts on the top of the Mountain, for Dutch Soldiers to use, during the NATO Exercise. These were the last Nissan Huts coming over from Antigua.

The Mountain was half surrounded by Sea.
To access the Mountain track, we had to cross the compacted sand beach, then climb up the Mountain, which sorely tested our 4 wheel vehicles.
At the top was a wide Plateau, open to the elements - strong winds and driven rain, plus low temperatures.
An old Radar Station was mounted up there, close to the edge, looking out to sea.

Fisrt job was to decide the location of each of the huts, then set up our Tent Camp, get a brew going to warm up.
Four huts were to be erected, with a solid roadway for the Dutch Soldiers.
Our troop had no experience of these Prefabricated Huts, which were a complete Jigsaw.
With such strong winds, the foundations would have to be deep.
Our tents had to be tied to our vehicles, to stop them being blown away.

The next day, we set-up the Generator to power tools and lights for the Camp area, partly hidden behind a bluff. Also set up a Concrete mixer.
Working two shifts, from 07.00hrs to 13.00hrs and 13.00hrs to 19.00hrs, work started on digging out the first hut foundation - 60 feet long and 10 feet wide. then concrete mixed and poured into it.
As the next foundation was started, erecting the first hut started.
This was our type of work, remotely based, using limited tools and lots of improvisation.
The sun was very strong, we worked topless despite scratches and sunburn, yet the weather would change rapidly, causing a rush for warmer clothes and even waterproofs.
After the first hut was built, we moved into it, using sleeping bags on the floor.

To build a hut:
Dig a one foot wide ditch, by 2 feet deep.
Fill with concrete and level.
Build a 3 foot wall on top of the foundation and back-fill with packed aggregate, to a foot from the top, top with sand, leaving four inches clear to the top of the wall.
Fit a partition down the length of the hut centre - 2" x 4" timber.
Fill one side with concrete, level and leave to set.
Fill the other side with concrete, level and leave to set.
Erect Hut framework.
Bolt on the roof.
Put in windows and doors.
Each hut takes approximately 7 days to build.

Due to the mixer breaking down regularly, by the halfway point, we were running late.
Shifts were increased to compensate, the troop was now only getting 4-5 hours rest/sleep a day.
The local Contractors had turned this contract down, saying it was impossible to do in such short time.
Our Troop finished on time.

During the Construction, the troop had lots of fun, some downright dangerous.
The track up the mountain zig-zagged across the mountain and high speed driving down the mountain, led to some dangerous incidents, with vehicles almost rolling over.
Blue crashed a landrover, injuring his arm, which was put into Plaster.
Jock Pews rolled a landrover, but not on the mountain, driving figure of '8's' on the sand beach.

Tourists visiting the mountain beach, would park on it and often had to be pulled off the beach, as the tide returned within an hour.

Ron Gould decided to try and fly, somewhat the worse for Spirit, he tied two camp beds to his arms and jumped off the Radar Station, floating down the cliff heading into the sea 700 feet below. The wind suddenly turned and Ron crashed to the rocks below, luckily, he was only 10 foot from the rocks, when the wind turned and escaped with bruises and cuts.
Only 4 miles from the mountain, was our local Pub - The Smooth Cave Hotel, run by Molly.
Blue Fenwick fancied her and worked his charms on her, despite the 33yrs gap in ages.
For the lads, this was beneficial, cheap drink and long opening hours.
When Dave Green was behind the Bar, everything cost the equivalent of 50 pence now, beer, spirits, matches, crisps, the bar never made so much money before!
On one occassion, Molly's Ex-husband appeared, irritated because Blue was behind the bar, he attacked Blue. Blue tried to defend himself, shouting "Hit a man with one arm would you", Ron had one arm in a plastercast, which he used to drive the man backwards, whilst Mac leaned over the bar and grabbed the man by his hair, trying to drag him over the bar. As Blue drove the man towards the bar entrance, Mac released the man's hair, Ron Gould then slammed the bar hatch over the man's head, ending an awkward situation.

Blue borrowed Molly's new Mini car, being late to return to the Mountain. About 200yrds from the pub, Blue swerved (too much drink) andstranded the car on a double ditch, ripping off the sump as it came to rest on the double hump.
Eddy & Blue stood wondering how to recover the Mini, whilst Jim Bevan yomped back to base - to prepare the troop breakfast.
Mac did not turn up for breakfast, everyone was dispersed to find him.
Lads hunted around the cliff edge, others around our base, others near the cliff bottom - it was thought that Mac had fallen over the cliff.
Mac was finally located in the Senior Staff toilet, sound asleep on the seat plank.

Eddy Sanders was evicted from the Oykel Hotel, which was further away.
During a drinking session, he related the story of Blue and Molly to the owner. The owner exploded in rage "That is my Sister and she is about to die", he threw Eddy out, closed up and went to see Molly.

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