The Unique Nature of Site One
The USA had many bases across the world and it also had other military bases here in the UK, but Site1 Holy Loch was unique in that the personnel lived with and within the local community. On most other American military bases around the world, and indeed on many bases within America itself, families often lived separate from the local population especially where nuclear arms were involved. On these bases everything was provided by the military, children were educated by American teachers in the American school system; military personnel and their families celebrated American holidays, attended church and socialised with each other. While of course some people did meet with the locals, the situation was not structured for interaction, mostly for security purposes.
This did not happen here in the Cowal community. There was no separated housing for Americans on a military base. Families rented local houses, American children attended the local Scottish schools and the entire mixed population went to the same churches, social events, pubs, dances and clubs.
The Americans did have some activities of their own, but sponsored many more for the inclusion of all. The important factor was the Americans and the Scots mixed together for education, socialising and worshipping.
In 1991 just before Site1 Holy Loch closed, 360 American children were attending the local Scottish primary schools, and 100 children were attending Dunoon Grammar School.
For further details on how this worked in the schools please listen to the upcoming podcast by the headmaster of Dunoon Grammar School, Joseph Rhodes, and one of the teachers, John Kelly.
The US Navy has provided us with statistics.
From 1974-1991 the average number of US dependants (wives and children) of sailors assigned to the Holy Loch was 1,679 annually. The biggest number was in 1983 with 2,139 and the lowest number was 1,201 in both 1976 and 1977.
When you look at the pattern it is clear that the numbers increased. This is in line with US statistics elsewhere in the armed forces. Career sailors simply got married.
|1974 = 1488||1983 = 2139|
|1975 = 1525||1984 = 1388|
|1976 = 1201||1985 = 2035|
|1977 = 1201||1986 = 2035|
|1978 = 1424||1988 = 2035|
|1979 = 1277||1989 = 1588|
|1980 = 2000||1990 = 1588|
|1982 = 1900||1991 = 2035|
Figures are by courtesy of U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum (Archives) – Holy Loch Collection – Binder # 13 – U.S. Naval Support Activity Annual Reports (Ambassadors Award 1974-1992), and Press Conferences (Media Day: Human Interest Aspects of Base Closing).
US/ Navy Civilian Families in local Cowal communities:
|Year / Families||Year / Families|
|1974 = 650||1983 = 940|
|1975 = 500||1984 = 877|
|1976 = 500||1985 = 696|
|1977 = 500||1986 = 792|
|1978 = 636||1988 = 792|
|1979 = 659||1989 = 898|
|1980 = 822||1990 = 885|
|1982 = 940||1991 = 703|
During all of these years the Americans helped to finance the building of homes to relieve the pressure on the local rental market created by their presence. In 1991, just before Site1 Holy Loch closed, the majority of the 342 American families residing in the Cowal area were living in these purpose built “military” homes. This housing was never created on a separate “base” compound and was easily integrated into the local economy and housing market upon the departure of the military presence.
Also, in 1991 56 American servicemen married UK nationals, with 12 retired sailors living in the area. It was anticipated that this number would grow in the years ahead when US naval personnel retired or returned, as has indeed happened.
The only statistics for single/ unaccompanied US personnel living on the auxiliary supply ship are as follows:
|Year / Sailors||Year / Sailors|
|1974 = 841||1988 = 562|
|1983 = 638||1989 = 179|
|1984 = 733||1990 = 179|
|1985 = 675||1991 = 310|
|1986 = 562|