More Info. about Tudor Hill
Conversation with James Baker (1981 - 1984).
In August 2019, firstname.lastname@example.orgI received a couple of e-mails from James Baker, recounting some of his experiences at Tudor Hill, and his memories of Frank Watlington, Albert Bruce Paynter and Richard Lambert, all of whom transferred from SOFAR to Tudor Hill in the early ‘70s. The e-mails got buried in my to-do file, and it wasn’t until recently when James contacted me that I ‘re-discovered’ them. I have James’s permission to publish them here (with slight editing). If any readers have any comments or further additions to James’ commentary, – or if you wish to contact James directly, - please let me know at email@example.com .
From: James Baker
Subject: Bermuda Info
To: Bruce Hallett firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 12 Aug. 2019, 3:30 PM
I was looking thru the SOFAR web pages and thought I would send along my "story". First, my father, Robert (Bob) Baker worked at NASA from about 1961- 1972.. not much to do with SOFAR though. Later in life, I came to Bermuda for US Navy duty and wound up working at Tudor Hill Lab (as a storekeeper) from 1981 – 1984. During this time I became good friends with Frank Watlington, Bruce Paynter, and the captain of the RV Erline, Richie Lambert.
Frank would come in every morning and go straight to the lab and turn on the speakers and listen to the whales if they were in the area. It kinda’ drove the others nuts. Frank only worked 1/2 days, so when he left each day, Dr Riccuitti (sp) would run in and turn the speakers off. lol.
Bill Spriggs was the maintenance guy and took on any job thrown at him.
Bob Rumpf worked closely with Dr. R. a lot.
There were 6 military stationed there.
Bruce Paynter was a real card and a real Bermudian. I enjoyed his friendship very much.
It was very nice happening to come across your website. It answered some questions I’ve always had.
james s baker
From: Bruce Hallett
To: James Baker
13 Aug 2019 6:21 pm
Welcome aboard! Thank you for your interest in the SOFAR website, and for your interesting recollections of your time at Tudor Hill.
Perhaps you already know (if you are interested) that there is a ‘NASA-Bermuda’ website or facebook page (or maybe both). Just FYI.
I agree that there was almost zero contact between NASA & SOFAR – they were going up, whereas we were going down! Outer space vs. Inner space. Of course, we devised and oversaw the MILS programs (Missile Impact Location System) for the Navy, although we left all the rocketry to the experts, we just told them how bad their aim was!
SOFAR also had very little contact with the Tudor Hill operations, except at a very high (classified) level – way beyond my pay grade! I did get to visit the Nav Fac on a couple of occasions, delivering and receiving messages, but never got any further than the door – wait in the rain for the reply. I also visited one of the other buildings there, when Frank Watlington had a brief meeting with Cmdr. Pinning, but my recollection of the interior of the building is very vague. Perhaps you can help me here. (I presume you have seen the photos on my website.) When I visited the area in 2014, I was able to definitely identify and photograph the Nav Fac, but I couldn’t identify for certain the other 2 buildings.
Can you help me with this?
Which building was your ‘stamping ground’?
And can you shed any light on the purpose of the ‘concrete platform’ shown in the photos on the website?
As I was wandering around in 2014, I followed a pathway from Nav Fac down towards the ocean, but encountered a locked gate. Would I be right in assuming that this pathway would lead to a building containing the termination of the SOSUS cables from Argus Island? Do you recall any such building?
Frank was my first boss at SOFAR – Great guy, lots of fun, but expected results too! He had rigged the SOFAR Intercom system to sing the whales song, but there was a volume control in each office, so it wasn’t so invasive. Personally, I love the sound – I find it very relaxing.
Albert Paynter was the cook on Sir Horace Lamb, our 136’ ex-minesweeper research vessel, and would crew on the TBoat & Buoy Boat if needed. He liked his ‘sauce’, and if he over-imbibed, his wife would throw him out of the house. So he built a houseboat! Problem solved.
I don’t think I ever knew Richie Lambert, nor Dr. Riccuitti, Bill Spriggs, or Bob Rumpf. A decade apart, and opposite ends of the Island.
James, I wonder if I can have your permission to post your e-mail on the Tudor Hill page of the website to give people a first-hand glimpse of life there, and maybe convince some other Navy folk to add their two cents to the memories. And if you have any further comments or questions, please get in contact.
From: James Baker
To: Bruce Hallett
13 Aug. 2019 6:37pm
Hi Bruce. Yes, you may post my emails. I don’t mind. Yes, Albert Paynter - Brucie, as we called him - did like his sauce. Also, I believe whenever the RV Erline deployed on the Argus Tower runs, he went out with them. One time I discovered a whole BUNCH of conch down at the seaplane ramps and they were in water that was only 4-5 ft deep. After a lot of work I managed to get about 20-25 of them out of the water. On my moped (going about 5 mph), I took them up to Tudor Hill. I phoned Brucie and asked him how to get them out of the shells, and he told me that they were protected -- $500 fine for each one. I freaked. I told him I was taking them back. He said ”Hold on, I’ll be right there.” He came and took them all. Over the course of the next week or 2 he brought me conch stew, conch chowder and a few other tasty items. He taught me about eating raw fish - take a mason jar, put a slice of Bermuda onion in the bottom. Fill the jar with cubed raw fish, (hot peppers if you like) and fill with vinegar. Top it off with another slice of onion, put the lid on it and put in fridge for at least 1 day. Man o man... I took one taste and wound up eating the whole jar. Lol.
I never was inside NAVFAC, but had a room-mate who worked there. It was funny because at times the offgoing duty section would "attack" the building to see if they could capture it. He had some stories.
If you are standing in front of the entrance, there might have been a concrete pad behind you, over your right shoulder. While I was there, SEABEE Battalion #4 or 5 installed a solar array to provide electricity for NAVFAC.
There were 2 main buildings at the hill......NAVFAC was larger - 2 story.
NUSC was at the top of the hill.
There was also an underground air raid shelter - left over from ww2, - right across from the entrance to NUSC.
NUSC had one of the plane hangers (from ww2) and one time the base Fire Marshall and a couple of fire trucks showed up. They said they were told that we had a bomb in there and they needed to see the inside. Our "bomb" was a very large (4-5 ft tall) mine casing from ww1. still had an ID plate on it, used it as a buoy. We all got a good laugh out of that one.
Not sure of the year but I remember being told that Frank was out for his evening walk when he wasn’t feeling right and he sat down on either a wall, or a bench.................. and passed on right there. Very sad.
I liked hearing the whales also. Also, good fishing at the seaplane ramps. I always used a hand line, just like the locals, - haven’t used a rod ‘n’ reel ever since!
I vaguely remember the building over the hill. I am sure it belonged to NAVFAC but couldn’t tell u what it was for.
Side info on me. I came to Bermuda in the summer of 1967 to get to know my dad. I went to Kindley high school. We lived in St. George’s on Suffering Lane, up behind St. George Hotel. The #3 tee was right across from our front door. Needless to say, - dad taught me how to play golf.
One time dad showed me a satellite spinning in space on the NASA camera. It was pretty cool. The guys there would point the camera down island at the beaches and watch the women during their lunch breaks. Navy calls that -- eyeball liberty!!
I really enjoyed my time in Bermuda. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was very sad to learn there are guns on the island now.
The Holiday Inn Hotel that they built after I left was built on top of an old fort across from St. Catherine’s fort. That hill had lots of tunnels running thru it -- underground. You could even walk between walls in some areas.
I live in Maryland now, so feel free to ask any other questions.
Posted April 2021
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