Saturday, April 07, 2012
I have been sent this by Malcolm Parkin who is a regular in the letter columns of the Scotsman and other Scottish newspapers. It is unedited except for some underlinings of my own which relate to the "radium" issue I am concerned with.
I well remember RAF Donibristle, near Dalgety Bay, when it was active in the fifties. A part of it was known as HMS Merlin due to a Naval presence. Donibristle was eventually used to scrap aircraft and small ships, and to dismantle them for parts, and then eventually all kinds of military kit and vehicles were scrapped there.
There always a headline when some local kid found a hand grenade, usually from an army personnel carrier that had not been properly checked. Aircraft used to arrive with parachutes and overalls still in them. A mate of mine got a pair of pilots gloves out of a wrecked Harvard.
Nobody gave a thought to radioactivity, because there was only the fluorescence and luminescence (radium) from aircraft instruments, and they were usually taken away from the site anyway. Some flammable parts (wiring harnesses, doped fabric airframe covering, rubber tyres, and paperwork mainly) were burnt in huge fires that used to give off strange explosions and vast toxic fumes. The ashes were then put on the beach to be washed away. The smell was fantastic.
I salvaged maintenance manuals and pilots notes for dozens of aircraft types before they were burnt. I also got a fair number of rounds of 0.5 inch Browning machine gun ammunition from some scrapped Mk 5 Spitfires. The precautions and procedures used then would certainly not pass muster today. The whole place was wide open for access day and night, and scrap merchants would arrive with trucks and just take stuff away.
When it was all eventually cleared up, the smooth concrete slab runways and perimeter track were quickly used for unofficial car and bike racing until about 1966, and this only stopped as factories began to be built, and builders debris began to appear on the runways. It was also a popular place for domestic driving lessons as I remember. The runways began to break up naturally, but mostly from the wear of the plant and machinery used by the factory builders. There were also complaints about noise from the owners of the new houses in the area. They would call the Fife cops, who would casually arrive and watch with interest for a while, before asking us to move on. If something really good was going on, they would sit for half an hour or so, until we had finished.
In 1967 I drove one of the last “unofficial” 100mph sprints on runway 07 / 25 for the Lothian Car Club, who used it for high speed manoeuvrability competitions. There was a goodly crowd of enthusiasts from afar, who had gathered to watch when word got out.
Afterwards, we all went to a pub in Hillend, and got thoroughly ratted before driving home over the recently (1964) opened Forth Road Bridge.
Regards : Malcolm
Nowadays with so many nanny state regulators desperately looking for something to regulate we wouldn't get away with anything like that.
However how does it affect the current case? Well it looks like they disassembled significantly more than the 20 aircraft I assumed. On the other hand the interesting stuff was "usually" taken away and then a second time anything interesting would be taken away by scrappies. Combining those it looks like my estimate of 0.26 of a gram left was well on the high side and it may very well be that all of the dials were taken away, leaving no radium.
Since SEPA have said that they have no information about how many aircraft were disassembled I will, in a spirit of being helpful, pass this on to them. It may not be a detailed account of the disassembling but it is certainly more than SEPA had when they started this fiasco.
I am flabbergasted !!!!