SITE CAMP 1
The incomplete site camp in early July 1984
The photo shows the site camp in winter (July 1984).
Eventually the paths were enclosed so that all parts of the camp and the link with the main RAF camp buildings (not occupied by contractors) could be reached without going outside.
In February 1984 there was yet another accommodation problem as the England was due soon with another batch of workers and we had outgrown the East Cove camp near the Merchant Providence.
LMA wanted people to move up to the site camp five miles away which was nowhere near ready. At that time, in February, there was no drainage, no water and no canteen. George L, in his usual way, was adamant there was no way he was going to be pushed around by LMA!
I had a different view. I liked the independence we had at Mount Pleasant House in an environment where there were fewer people. I suggested that all the PSA move up to the site, instead of some in the ship, some in East Cove camp and some up on site with LMA's workers.
On 17th February I was already suggesting that we offer to take a complete block and convert a drying room into a mess room. We could be one big family and distance ourselves from the hordes of workers down near the ship. I asked others and most said they agreed if we all went.
I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, but we all had a landrover between two or three people, whereas the workers would have to be bussed down for meals. We had the freedom to come and go as we wished.
I put it to Tony R (who was comfortable on the Merchant Providence) and he merely said nothing could be done until the 25th and it would be sorted out on a fair and equitable basis. George L had no faith in Tony's negotiating skills and there was soon a heated argument, with threats of eight to a cabin at East Cove coming up again. It was obvious that Maurice C and Tony R didn't want PSA to have better accommodation than LMA any more (although they would be OK in the ship).
I went to see Bob D, a QS for LMA, and put it to him. He said they had all categorically said they wouldn't move (like George L's original view although he was now coming round to my view). We would need thirty six to fill a block and I asked him to consider it with other LMA staff.
The first block was being carpetted and stood on its own at the end of a row until a later phase was built and had two toilets and two drying rooms. LMA said that cold breakfasts would be provided, and later hot boxes with porridge, sausages, etc.
Maurice A, Bob D's new boss, was keen to follow the LMA management line, but agreed we could achieve it our way. He said we needed to put together a list of names, all paired off two to a room, so that LMA management had a package to accept. We were effectively bypassing PSA management (ie Tony R and Maurice C) and George L said I had organised it through the back door. He was now fully in favour, no doubt appreciating that as a pioneer he should always be the first to do anything, and rough it.
On 22nd February we were told the move was definitely on for Sunday 26th, but Maurice C, Martin R, Jim L, Alan W and Tony R were to stay on the ship. George was still condemning manhole concrete! In the event, the move happened on the 28th.
We had left the final arrangements to LMA management and Tony R as the messenger although George and I had done some liasing with those LMA staff due to move up with us. The allocation of rooms was done by Tony R. Ken D, who snored, was allocated a room with a future PSA person. The pairing was otherwise as we had suggested, I think, with me sharing with George L.
We had loaded up our landrovers with our suitcases as LMA had said all wardrobes were to be emptied so that LMA could move them up. The carrot to persuade LMA staff to move was that each could have their own wardrobe. We PSA already had one wardrobe each and assumed this would continue. George was busy so John G, Dave G and I went for a final check of D block and noted that a sign had been erected saying "The Maze" - a reference to the Belfast prison.
Rumour had it that Wyseplan's room numbering was different to LMA's (Wyseplan were the sub-contractors building the camp), so we went to see them, crossed out their numbers and put in LMA's. Each room already had one wardrobe, but the agreement was for two as rooms were to be shared.
Some of the wardrobes didn't have keys, so to ensure we got ones that did I decided to go down to East Cove and bring mine up. I also brought up my white pioneer chest of drawers and the one Mark T had inherited from James M. I was suspicious that LMA might not do everything to plan even at this stage. John G also went down to fetch a wardrobe for himself from his cabin and Mark T had brought his up from ours, so out of four in our cabin at East Cove there were now only two for a future eight people.
After lunch Frank S came by and said that LMA had gone into rooms and taken one wardrobe out of each, even though the agreement was for two. "Wardrobes ?? GET THEM. F--k the newcomers, they can do without!" The great wardrobe race began in earnest. Frank and Mark went zooming off to complain to Tony R, George went storming off to the camp to remonstrate with LMA. I thought either tactic would be useless and decided to go down to East Cove with John G to "ras" George's wardrobe. Mine first - John G could wait!
First we went round to the camp to warn George not to overstep the mark, his job was almost on the line before over the East Cove cabin saga. We met Maurice A and Tony D there who were also concerned that the agreement had been broken, and Maurice A was a senior LMA man himself.
John G and I raced down to East Cove, passing a landrover with Volvo's staff coming up with a wardrobe on its roof and we tooted and waved at each other. We took George's wardrobe (leaving just one for eight newcomers) as the LMA guys were busy in other cabins, took it up to our office cabin and locked it in for safety, much to the amusement of Ron and Stirling.
Then we returned for John G's second wardrobe as he had had his pinched as well. We passed Bob D with a wardrobe in his landrover, a Bowmaker landrover too and the LMA surveyors on their second trip. It was by then 5.30 pm and the keys were due to be handed over at 6 pm. Some PSA guys now had a replacement wardrobe, others hadn't.
I explained to George that the wardrobe in my office (his old one) hadn't got keys, (he had dropped them while taking them off his key ring while sitting on the loo and then flushed the toilet thinking they would remain in a clean bowl but they got flushed away) so he sneaked into the next block and took a lock off a wardrobe there with his screwdriver.
The Wyseplan men who had also been persuaded to move up to the site found that none had a wardrobe each and some had none at all in a room. They went straight to Wynne K, LMA's chief, demanded wardrobes and had fifteen men and an 80 foot container wagon ready! They got wardrobes.
George disappeared and came back with a wardrobe for me, so I now had a spare one at the office! The lock that George had taken earlier didn't match the keys even though they were both from the same wardrobe, but surprisingly they did match the wardrobe he had just got, so we were now just fine. By the end of the day all PSA had a wardrobe each.
We settled in for our first night and George gave me two large gins. We went down to the ship for pre-dinner drinks and a post-mortem on the day's excitement. After dinner we returned to the site camp and sat in the drying room with LMA staff, drinking. My Southern Comfort was quite depleted.
The Oropesa with more wardrobes wasn't due for a fortnight so the newcomers must have been living out of their suitcases for quite a while.
At first we were all put two to a room with toilet/wash/shower rooms at the ends of each block. Later on senior PSA staff (except Maurice C) moved up when more blocks had been completed and we all had single rooms with use of common wash areas at the ends of each block. In September PSA senior staff and one senior man from each firm of consultants went into single rooms with a shower, wc and basin. Other consultants stayed in single rooms with use of common wash areas at the ends of each block.
When we first moved up to the site camp there were no bars or canteens. We had to go down to the Merchant Providence for all meals. However, cold breakfast was provided at the camp.
Islander at East Cove International Airport on 30th April 1984
Our post was taken by Islander after "East Cove International Airport" was opened.
It was a strip cleared on a ridge just north of East Cove and was used for important or urgent travel to Stanley as the landrover trip was slow and impossible in winter.