It was hoped that The ROTOR 3 programme would be complete by 1957 and all technical aspects were classified as ‘Super Priority’. By the target completion date of August 1955 some ROTOR stations had already closed down and the introduction of the ‘Comprehensive Radar Station’ as part of the ‘1958’ plan had no place for Aird Uig and the station closed in 1964.
RAF Aird Uig was fitted with one Marconi Type 13 height finder, one Type 14 and a Decca Type 80 early warning radar with a US IFF aerial mounted on it. The Type 80 was the four motored variant that was only installed across the top of Scotland where weather conditions were very harsh. Four 40HP motors were fitted instead of the usual two.
At Aird Uig the weather was so bad that occasionally the aerial was stopped by the wind despite this extra power. In these conditions it was considered too dangerous to take a vehicle to the operations site after two vehicles had been blown off the road with the new watch having to make their way on foot from the domestic camp at Aird Uig village. By 1959 the Type 14 had been taken out of use although it was still operable. Both the Type 13 and Type 14 radars were mounted on plinths, the Type 80 was mounted in a steel gantry straddling the modulator building.
Although the operations block had been designed to take a Kelvin Hughes projector, this was never fitted. Instead the pit was covered over with floor boarding with brass pull up handles. In the large well beneath, accessed by a staircase, the station stored some of its bulk emergency rations.
The station however remained in RAF hands as a communications centre and through the 1990’s it was home to 81 Signals Unit, the RAF’s high frequency communications specialists. At the same time, the station also housed a low frequency transmitter providing RAF maritime low frequency communications. Following the transfer of this service to the Defence Communications Services Agency (DCSA) facility at Crimmond, near Fraserburgh in 2000, the 81 Signals Unit detachment became redundant and the personnel returned to their base in Kinloss. Following their departure the 618 foot low frequency radio mast was dismantled. The base on Gallan Head had been expected to close and there were plans to build a wind farm on the site but in 2003 these plans were put on hold following a decision by NATO to reactivate a radar monitoring operation at Aird Uig.
Work has been going on through 2003 to build a series of masts which will form part of NATO’s radar monitoring of the Atlantic. There are 14 masts in all – two groups of six each with complex cabling and two larger structures.
The badge for 71 Signals Unit was obtained from the National Archives at Kew (AIR 2/14820). I then used JASC photoshop to produce an electronic copy of the badge. The copyright for the badge still lies with the Ministry of Defence, so if you wish to use it in any publications or on the web it is advisable to seek permission first. Like you said 81 Signals was also in residence at Aird Uig in the 1990s utilising the converted R10 operations building for the operation of High frequency radio network. This was in operation until the start of 2000 when the new (DCSA) facility at Crimmond came on line. 71 Signals Unit was in operation from Aird Uig November 1957 until December 1960. At the moment I am documenting all of the Units/Stations that made up the ROTOR radar project that was in operation in the 1950s. If you require further reading the Operational Records Book for 71 Signals Unit is available at the National Archives at Kew AIR 29/2753
With thanks to Kevin Lloyd Jones for submitting this information.