Local Cold War Bunkers
8th January, 2013
David Oliver, Chairman of SOAG contributed the following personal notes
From an early age I always had an interest in archaeology. My dissertation for a BA in archaeology
covered the strategic location and characteristics of Cold War bunkers, which are fast disappearing and in
many cases have moved into the field of archaeology. Encouraged by English Heritage, as they have little
data in this aspect of the Cold War, the dissertation concentrated on bunkers related to civilian
administration. These were intended to coordinate recovery after a nuclear attack. A result of this input to
English Heritage was that one Berkshire bunker became listed at Grade II and so has some degree of
protection against threatened demolition. When these bunkers were active their existence was kept secret
both from potential enemies and the local population. However, in the early 1960’s some aspects of these
preparations became public knowledge when exposed by the “Spies for Peace” and a splinter group from the Easter march from Aldermaston to London invaded RSG6 (Regional Seat of Government 6) at
Warren Row just off the A4 at Knowl Hill.
The talk will briefly cover the history of defence against air attack starting in WWI, but will concentrate
on describing a number of bunkers mainly within Berkshire including the infamous RSG6 and a similar
construction near Park Place across the river from Henley. Reviewed by Valerie on 13th February, 2013
Dave Oliver, Chairman of South Oxfordshire Archaeological Group, gave a talk at our
January meeting, which was attended by Subterranea Britannica members in addition
to members of the Society. The talk was fascinating and so well received that the
questions at the end added to the interest, especially as many people had either
been involved or could remember these times.
Air defence at the start of the Cold War was based on experience gained in both the
first and, more copiously, the Second World War. Between the wars a Regional
Commissioner's system was established in 1926 in case of government control
breakdown during the General Strike and what became the Royal Observer Corps set up.
By the mid 1930s the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) was formed to cover civil defence
which aimed at the saving of life during and after air raids. During World War II,
protected controls were used both by the military, to provide an active defence
against attacking aircraft, and the ARP to enable centralized and local control of
rescue and fire fighting resources. Much of the funds for the building of air raid
shelters etc were controlled by the Regional Commissioners, much to the annoyance
of local councils.
Stood-down with a week's notice at the end of the war, Civil Defence was reformed
in 1948 (and stood-down in 1968) to counter the effect of possible attacks on the UK
from a potential new enemy, and from 1949 this included the threat of atomic warfare.
In the early and late1950s there was a programme of bunker building mainly for the
military part of which included 1565 underground Royal Observer Corps (ROC) posts
designed to monitor where nuclear blasts had happened and monitor any radioactive
fall-out. The introduction of much more powerful hydrogen bombs required a revision
of plans and it was decided underground bunkers to house Regional Seats of Government
were required to run the country from protected locations.
Examples of bunkers are:-
|Near Bath||Central government with room for many thousand |
|Kelvedon Hatch in Essex||Initially a sector operations centre for the RAF this eventually became a Regional Government control|
|Oxford||what is now part Oxford Brookes University basement was a ROC Group control|
|Streatley Hill|| A four man underground ROC post|
|Ascot||Another ROC underground post in the middle of race course|
|Easthampstead Park school basement||Berkshire County Control|
|Reading Shire Hall basement||a later Berkshire County Control|
|Whiteknights Park||Regional war room for the Regional Commissioner before the H-bomb|
|Warren Row||A facility for making aircraft parts during WW2 in a converted chalk mine; it then became the
Science Museum store until 1958 when arrangements were made for Regional Seat of Government 6 to be set up in
times of emergency: a list of key people would be expected to leave their families behind and assemble
underground to deal with the aftermath of an attack.(Now used for document storage).|
The Park Place underground factory on Wargrave Road was to manufacture aircraft part until decades after the war.
It was eventually used as the Armed Forces HQ for London and now a stores documents.
Shiplake had an underground ROC post at what was Hatt's Farm; now only recognizable by the lone short
telegraph pole still standing above Henley Road.
We were left with a last sobering thought that it is believed significant nuclear arsenals
still exist in eight countries, including places like India, Israel and Pakistan and
others may possess a few: e.g. compared with US & Russia each with around 10,000 nuclear
warheads the UK has around 185, but we have nothing like the preparedness against attack
that existed during the Cold War.
Valerie Alasia, Chairman
You are not authorized to submit a review