Heritage & Monuments

The Administrators House

Tristan da Cunha / Africa

As World War II approached, German U-boats and the battle ship Graf Spee were sighted off Tristan and in 1942 a top secret naval station code-named Job 9 (later HMS Atlantic Isle) was established on Tristan. Its role was to monitor U Boats (who in those days needed to surface to maintain radio contact) and maintain a meteorological station. A local unit of sixteen men were trained as the Tristan Defence Volunteers, but Tristan only had a communications role in the world conflict. The impact of the ‘Station’ was nevertheless dramatic. Under the command of Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Woolley, new buildings were constructed including accommodation, offices, and for the first time a purpose built school, hospital and store. Islanders were employed for cash wages for the first time and were able to spend them in the store, still known on Tristan by the name ‘Canteen’ as it was during the war years. Perhaps more significant was the role occupied by Dr Woolley, who revived the Island Council, and, through his role in charge of HMS Atlantic Isle, effectively became the first of a line of British Administrators. Unlike the priests who also exercised a leadership role, Administrators were official representatives of the British Government in what was to change from The British Empire to British Overseas Territories over the next 60 years. Islanders’ homes were vastly improved by the installation of running water and a sewage system linked to new ‘privies’ built originally outside homes.

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