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RAF Buchan airman shares memories of Peterhead radar station as part of National Service Remembered campaign

Army veteran Galvin Colville served in Peterhead. Supplied by National Lottery
Army veteran Galvin Colville served in Peterhead. Supplied by National Lottery

A British Armed Forces veteran who served in Peterhead during National Service 60 years ago is talking about his time at the radar base there as part of a UK-wide heritage project.

Galvin Carville, 85, who hails from Slough, is one of 18 ex-servicemen included in a National Lottery-funded project called National Service Remembered.

The campaign, run by Same but Different, is capturing an important period of the country’s cultural history through the eyes of the men who served as the UK to mark 60 years since national service ended.

Mr Colville, now a grandfather-of-five, was first conscripted in 1954, aged 18, and served in the Royal Air Force in the north-east until March 1956.

Memories of RAF Buchan

He said: “It was lovely, I saw a part of Scotland and used to do exercise with the Americans.  It was good fun, I enjoyed it because I enjoyed the work. Time went very fast for me anyway, very fast.

“When I went in, I wasn’t worried about fighting. Once I was in the air force I was glad, I enjoyed it at Peterhead. I thought I’d never see Peterhead again so I enjoyed life there.

“I played football – for a small camp, we had a fabulous football team and went all over playing the air force cup.”

RAF Buchan veteran Galvin Colville with a colleague in Peterhead. Supplied by National Lottery

It wasn’t all fun and games, though, as part of the 409 Signals Unit, known as RAF Buchan, as the men and women there were responsible for operating the radar during exercises.

“Two pilots would go up, one target and one fighter,” Mr Colville added. “They would send the target one way and put the fighter onto the target. When it was visible, they would say “tally ho”, which meant he’d seen the target. At our station, the radar could pick up submarines.

“We had some top people and equipment there. Downstairs would be the fighter pilots and we would do all the plotting. We would give the information and they would plot everything.

“When you plot the big exercise you look at the big screen and plot by the square, about 20, 30, 40 coming through, it was very interesting.

“Our sergeants were all regulars, decent people. Do your work and you can have what you want. Our man in charge was brilliant, we got commended for everything.”

“It’s all about the volunteers and draftees.”

After his national service, Mr Colville served on and off as a reservist in Germany for 23 years before a career in sales sent him across the UK, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates before he returned to Shropshire in the 1980s.

“You just had to report for a day or two, so if there was a crisis going on somewhere, you had to be on reserve to be called up,” he added. “It could’ve been the Korean war or the cold war at the time but nothing happened.

“I had a very good National Service. People should realise it’s important because no country with a regular army has ever won a world war. It’s all about the volunteers and draftees.”

National Service Remembers combines portraits, videos and memories of ex-servicemen like Mr Colville one exhibition, which can be seen here https://www.samebutdifferentcic.org.uk/

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