Dollars and Pounds
It was estimated that some 1600 additional jobs in the local area derived from the presence of the American Base, with taxi drivers being one of the most prominent.
A truth or a myth? The Cowal peninsula had the highest number of taxi drivers per head of the population in the whole of the UK. If it was not true, it was very close!
The exact figure of what the presence of the US Navy meant to the economy is unknown. However, it was reported by the US Department of Defense authorised newspaper, the Stars and Stripes, that the average annual contribution to the local economy was $99 million, at that time the equivalent of £56 million.
One interesting figure derived from the U.S. military banking facility at Site One shows that in 1990 over $45 million were exchanged into pounds.
The military banking facility, known as the Community Bank, had a facility in Dolphin Hall (next to what is now The Co-operative supermarket). A representative from that bank would also go aboard the tender to arrange money conversion.
In the 1980s, Gina Angiolini was the Under Manager at the Community Bank, and she had to be escorted by the shore patrol on to the ship because she was carrying such a substantial amount of cash. She sent us her recollections:
‘My name is Gina Botteon Angiolini, Charlie and Laura Witherow’s niece, and I am the Deputy Head Teacher at Moordown St. John’s Primary School in Bournemouth, England. I was brought up in Dunoon and attended Dunoon Grammar School.
I worked at the Community Bank in Holy Loch between 1983 and 1992. A Community Bank is a Department of Defense (DoD) owned bank, provided by the US government to support military personnel with their banking needs whilst stationed overseas.
The bank was operated through a contract between the DoD and a commercial, financial institution. The contractor during my employment was American Express, which then changed to Merchants National Bank of Indiana, and then to the Bank of America. The bank provided a Defense Finance and Accounting Service to the US Navy, as well as facilitating the military personnel with a banking service, which gave them the convenience of having an American style of banking provision, as well as facilitating British banking services for use in the local community.
In addition, the bank provided a currency exchange service both to the US Navy directly and to all the personnel. Therefore, the bi-monthly paydays meant that a large supply of cash was constantly circulating through the Holy Loch branch – hundreds of thousands in both currencies on a daily basis. The permanently stationed submarine tender would order their weekly cash supply through the Community Bank. The bank also offered a branch service, where the military personnel could exchange their money and have extended banking services.
Furthermore, a representative of the bank would visit the submarine tender daily to provide a cash exchange service for all the sailors, as well as the personnel from the many submarines that frequently docked in the Holy Loch. The bank representative would be escorted to and from the tender by the Shore Patrol due to the large amount of cash being transported.
Working at the Community Bank was an enjoyable position. Every day brought a new challenge: from last minute currency orders for a submarine which was making a speedy departure; explaining the different banking procedures in the UK to newly arrived families; helping the younger sailors to manage their finances in a foreign country; to working 10 hour shifts to make sure all the pay cheques were cashed on pay-day. There was never a dull moment!