Life at Dounreay a hard slog in war time
June 30, 2010
A recently-discovered booklet offers a glimpse of life at Dounreay’s airfield during the Second World War.
DSRL’s heritage officer, James Gunn, came across the booklet entitled “Life at Dounreay” on eBay, and successfully bid for it.
It turned out to date from 1943, when RAF Coastal Command built an airfield at Dounreay, called HMS Tern II, as a satellite of HMS Tern (Twatt, Orkney). It was intended to be an advance base for use in operations against occupied Norway, but was never used.
The booklet was produced by building firm W & J R Watson Ltd of West Lothian for their employees who were working on the building of the airfield, and living at the camp.
The camp, known as ‘Boston Camp’, had a welfare officer, camp steward and camp orderlies.
It appears that working at Dounreay was something not to be desired. The introduction from the directors reads: “..we sympathise particularly with those who have been removed suddenly from a sphere of work both congenial and handy in its situation to such a site as this at DOUNREAY.”
The Air Ministry charge for hut rent and food was one pound and 6 shillings per week, and if you needed medical attention, Dr McLaren from nearby Thurso visited twice a week.
The booklet goes on to give information on a large number of subjects, from details of the cutlery charge (“Regular diners at the Canteen will be issued by the Canteen Management with one mug, knife, fork and spoon when attending for their first meal, at a cost of three shillings”) to the time of lights out (“Lights will be turned off every night at 11 p.m. on the instructions of the Resident Engineer”).
"The booklet is only the second artefact I have collected from Dounreay's World War II period," commented James Gunn.
"The other item is an eleven foot long dipstick that was used to check the levels in the aviation fuel storage tanks. I have no artefacts from the Boston Camp heydays of the late 1950s, despite the fact that around 2,000 construction workers and UKAEA staff lived on the site. I'm hopeful that this publicity will help to uncover a hidden gem."