Back in from the cold

Vet­eran tells se­crets of An­gus spy base dur­ing Soviet era.

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - gstra­chan@the­ graeme stra­chan

A Cold War vet­eran has told how a for­mer An­gus spy base which closed 20 years ago still holds a place in his heart.

RAF Edzell was home to US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers through­out the Cold War, but the base closed in Oc­to­ber 1997 af­ter the Soviet Union’s col­lapse.

Amer­i­can ser­vice per­son­nel of­fi­cially said farewell to the re­dun­dant RAF Edzell base in 1996, a year be­fore the gates closed for good.

Up to 3,000 per­son­nel were said to have been sta­tioned at RAF Edzell, where in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing played a big part in end­ing decades of fear over nu­clear war.

Dan Flana­gan from Mary­land was a US Navy ‘silent war­rior’ who mon­i­tored clan­des­tine com­mu­ni­ca­tions from the Soviet Union dur­ing the Cold War af­ter ar­riv­ing in 1970.

Speak­ing to The Courier to mark the 20th an­niver­sary of the clo­sure, Mr Flana­gan said Edzell “was a spe­cial place”.

He said: “Be­ing a young man of 21 in the navy and leav­ing the USA for the first time in my life, Edzell was an ad­ven­ture at first but later be­came more like home.

“Ev­ery­one I met was friendly. There were navy guys I knew who planned to re­turn to Scot­land to live af­ter they left the mil­i­tary.

“Like most things in life, when you are young and still wet be­hind the ears I didn’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate my time there un­til I left Edzell and was sep­a­rated from the navy and back in civil­ian life in the USA.

“I had some of the best times of my life while I was there and was sad­dened when I learned that the base was go­ing to be closed.

“It was one of the navy’s best duty sta­tions. I still pe­ri­od­i­cally hear from some of the guys I worked with while I was there.”

Mr Flana­gan spent two years at the base and tracked the HF ra­dio fre­quency spec­trum from Soviet land-based sta­tions, the Soviet Navy and mer­chant fleet. Mr Flana­gan left Edzell in 1972 and re­ported aboard the USS Grand Canyon (AR-28), serv­ing the re­main­ing 13 months of his mil­i­tary duty in Bos­ton, Brook­lyn, New­port and Guan­tanamo Bay.

One of RAF Edzell’s best-known per­son­al­i­ties was Bobby Camp­bell who has walked more than 100,000 miles for char­ity.

Mr Camp­bell spent 12 years at the base as an MOD po­lice­man and was made an MBE in the Queen’s New Year hon­ours list dur­ing his time there.

He said: “I made many great friends with the Amer­i­cans, who do­nated around £100,000 to my char­ity walks for good causes over the years.

“They ob­vi­ously thought a lot of me but I thought a lot of them be­cause they were bril­liant boys.

“It was an ex­tremely sad day when they shut the place up.

“Some of my hap­pi­est times were up at the base and I’ve got some great mem­o­ries.”

Main pic­ture: Paul Reid.

One of RAF Edzell’s best-known per­son­al­i­ties was Bobby Camp­bell who has walked more than 100,000 miles for char­ity.

Mr Flana­gan dur­ing his spell at Edzell, where he said he had some of the best times of his life.

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