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Documenting the history of the Naval Annex

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One day soon sunburned tourists will swim, sip fruity drinks and complain about the weather at a new hotel development planned for Morgan’s Point in Southampton. Few people will probably give a thought to the fact that they are standing on ground that was once a vital Cold War defence post against nuclear attack.

American Renee Nunn, a former Bermuda base worker, has obtained permission to document what is left on the Southampton property that once housed the Naval Air Station (NAS) Bermuda Annex before it undergoes development. She lives in Miami, Florida and will be visiting the Island later this month on the Holland America

Veendam .

“I am going to document every inch of what is left,” she said. “There are 50 years of memories in that ghost town. Thousands and thousands of United States Navy veterans called it home at one time. Because it has been off-limits, what’s left of it makes it a little ghost town time capsule.”

She plans to photograph the property with assistance from two friends; one of them is Lisa Ruiz Hayward, a United States Navy veteran who married a Bermudian.

Ms Nunn worked in Bermuda on the Kindley Air Force Base in St David’s helping to service Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft from 1983 to 1986. The four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft were developed for the United States Navy and introduced in the 1960s. Ms Nunn was 20 years old when she first came to Bermuda.

“I worked in the avionics shops,” she said. “It was in the pink air craft hangar that sat on the runway. It was across from what later became McDonald’s. It had a series of white trailers attached and that is where we had the repair shop set up. When an avionics system malfunctioned, the aircrew and ground crew isolated the component. That component of the system came to me and I repaired damaged circuits in the component.

“My friends and I frequently visited NAS Bermuda Annex for picnics and parades. We liked it up there because it was closer to the beaches. We were younger then and liked the beaches with the waves, like Horseshoe Bay Beach.”

The NAS Bermuda Annex was constructed during the Second World War. On the western side of the Great Sound two islands, Tucker’s and Morgan’s, were levelled, adding 36 acres to Bermuda’s land mass, and creating a peninsula extending from the mainland in Southampton. The entire base was a little less than half a mile in length. During the Second World War it was used to shelter and service large Martin flying boats. It was originally called the Naval Operating Base, but in the 1970s became known as the Naval Air Station (NAS) Annex.

After the Second World War, the area became even more important as an anti-submarine warfare operations centre.

“When it was active, a lot about that facility was classified,” she said.

“When we went there, we never asked any questions about it. On the Eastern United States it was the centre point for defending us from Soviet submarines. It was a very quiet place. It was very important. The Cold War was a very long period and the threat of nuclear annihilation was very real. Soviet submarines were carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. It was a considerable threat. The duty of the NAS Bermuda Annex was to keep track of all Soviet submarines within striking distance of the East Coast.

“The NAS Bermuda Annex was the point of the triangle coming out of the United States from bases in Jacksonville, Florida to Brunswick, Maine.”

Ms Nunn’s mother worked for the United States Navy and then the Pentagon; her father was also in the military.

“A lot of people forget what it was like during the Cold War back then, but I was born into it,” she said.

At 19 years old she took a one-year course in aviation electronics at the Naval Air Technical Training Centre in Millington, Tennessee

“That was where they trained everyone,” she said. “There were a good number of women on the base. Maybe we made up about ten percent of the population on the Kindley Air Force base in 1983. Maybe in my training class there were two females out of 20 students.”

Now she keeps in contact with many of her old friends from Bermuda on a Facebook page devoted to the NAS Bermuda Annex. Among the many is one for students of Roger B Chaffey School www.facebook.com/groups/49480482357/.

Ariel view of Morgan's Point the old Naval Air Station (NAS) Annex.
Ms Nunn worked in the white trailer off the pink hangar in the avionics department at the Kindley Airforce Base in the 1980s.
On the Kindley Air Force Base in the 1980s. Notice the little Mobylettes.
A Lockheed P-3 Orion on the Kindley Air Force Base in the 1980s.
Renee Nunn on the Kindley Air Force Base in the 1980s.
Photo by Glenn Tucker A derelict building left at the old Naval Air Station (NAS) Annex. Former base worker Renee Nunn is hoping to document what is left at Morgan's Point, Southampton before it becomes a hotel development.
Photo by Glenn Tucker. Constitution Road connects the mainland to the former US Naval Air Station Annex at Morgan's Point, Southampton.

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Published September 13, 2011 at 9:33 am (Updated September 13, 2011 at 9:33 am)

Documenting the history of the Naval Annex

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