STATE SECRETS


Oops, we forgot to put 'Former' in the title. But you can get a sort of frisson visiting places where even five years ago, showing any suspicious interest in these covert installations would have led to your name being taken and goodness knows what else. Today you can go on a guided tour of the installations listed and there are plenty more semi-secret 'spooky' places that you can photograph. But you'll have to read Duncan Campbell's books to find out where they are – we don't have the room here.


Background reading

BENEATH THE CITY STREETS by Peter Laurie. Published by Granada Publishing Ltd, 1983. The secret plans to defend the State.

FORTRESS SCOTLAND by Michael Spaven. Published by Pluto Press, 1983. A guide to the military presence.

THE UNSINKABLE AIRCRAFT CARRIER by Duncan Campbell. Published by Michael Joseph, 1984. American installations in Britain.

WAR PLAN UK by Duncan Campbell. Published by Paladin Books, 1983. The secret truth about Britain's Civil Defence. This kind of book was mighty fashionable in the early 1980s but the excitement seems to have died down. Either that or everyone who was interested then has grown older and wiser. Duncan Campbell's blockbuster revelation tome, SECRET PLACES, was announced several years ago but has never appeared.

All of these books are currently out of print but can be borrowed from public libraries or bought second-hand. A good starting place to look for out-of-print books is www.addall.com , also www.bookfinder.com .


Websites

These are a good start; you can follow the links they provide—

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg

http://www.subbrit.org/rsg/links.html (further links)

http://www.subterranea.org.uk (includes FAQ on subterranean subjects that should answer most questions)


Places to visit

ALFORD HERITAGE CENTRE, Mart Road, Alford, Aberdeenshire (09755-62906). "Small rural museum with a whole room devoted to the Royal Observer Corps, both the nuclear and the aircraft reporting role. Lots of exhibits including post instruments and other equipment, photographs etc. A very impressive display." Nick Catford.

BATTLE OF BRITAIN CONTROL ROOM, RAF Uxbridge, Uxbridge, Middx. (01895-237144). Underground operations room with all the plotting tables and other paraphernalia, preserved exactly as it was on the morning of 15th September 1940. Individual and group visits, by appointment only. Contact Warrant Officer Chris Wren.

CABINET WAR ROOMS, Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London, SW1 (0171-930 6961). Churchill's underground wartime headquarters, recreated to look as if they have been left as they were at the time of the Blitz. All telephone equipment on show. Open daily 10.00-17.15, admission charge.

EDEN CAMP, Malton, Yorks. (01653-697777). Open daily 10.00 to 17.00, from mid-February to 23rd December. Located off the A64 York to Scarborough road at the junction of the A169 to Pickering. A modern history theme museum set in a 1942 prisoner of war camp, featuring a prefab, bomber command room, replica Spitfire aircraft and a growing collection of military vehicles.

ESSEX SECRET BUNKER, Crown Buildings, Shrublands Road, Furze Hill, Mistley, Essex, CO11 1HS (01206-392271). Open daily 10.30-16.30. Former Cold War period bunker, later the Essex county war headquarters. This underground structure was built in 1951 and has been packed with 80 tons of authentic Cold War period equipment, with the original plotting board and other effects on display.

FORT WIDLEY, PORTSMOUTH. Fort Widley is a Palmerston fort on Portsdown Hill defending the approaches to Portsmouth. As well as all the fortification tunnels, it also houses an old Civil Defence control centre, which is very well preserved, with airlocks, original ventilation, full map room, teletypes and advice booklets. Open Easter Sunday to September from 13.00-16.00 for guided tours, and at other times by appointment. Ring 01705-321223 for more details.

HACK GREEN SECRET NUCLEAR BUNKER, French Lane End, Hack Green (postal address: Box 127, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 8AQ). (01270-629219, fax 01270-629218). HACK GREEN SECRET NUCLEAR BUNKER. Originally built as a radar station during World War 2, the bunker was rebuilt as a top-secret `Sub-Regional Headquarters' during the 1970s, a function which it retained until 1993. Preserved in excellent order, the two-level structure contains a huge collection of civil defence and Cold War memorabilia. It is open to the public throughout the summer and on some days during the winter. For details ring the information line on 01270-629219 or see http://www.hackgreen.co.uk/

HELLFIRE CORNER at Dover Castle, Kent. Tour of once secret wartime installations buried deep inside the cliffs includes tour of communications room, with large quantities of old switchboards, amplifiers and other equipment. The nuclear command centre of the 1960s is not yet on show. Dover Castle is in the care of English Heritage and a single admission fee is charged for admission to all the exhibits. Tours of the secret underground tunnels leave approximately every 15 minutes in summer and every 45 minutes in winter; the tour takes 50 minutes. The last tour starts at 17.00 in summer and at 15.00 in winter. The castle opens daily at 10.00 and closes at 18.00 (16.00 October to March)

KELVEDON HATCH R4 BUNKER, Kelvedon Hatch, Essex (01277-364883). Open daily 10.00-16.00 with tours on the hour. Formerly top secret, this huge underground structure is an excellent example of an R4 Rotor bunker built in the early 1950s as a Sector Operations Centre for the Metropolitan Sector of Fighter Command. It later became a Sector Operations Centre for UK Warning & Monitoring Organisation. Being secret until recently, it is not easy to find but look for an aerial symbol on the Ordnance map north west of Brentwood, near Kelvedon Hatch or ring for directions.

ROYAL OBSERVER CORPS MUSEUM, located at the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, near Bungay, Suffolk. Open Sundays and Bank Holidays; phone 01502-562944 for information.

SCOTLAND'S SECRET BUNKER, Troywood, Anstruther, Fife, KY16 8QH (01333-310301, fax 01333-312040). This is one of the underground nuclear war command centres equipped in the 1960s, known to devotees as Anstruther. It is open from Easter until the end of October, from 10.00 to 18.00. Parties and coaches welcome. The communications centre, emergency broadcasting studios and computer room are all preserved with authentic artefacts. More info at http://www.secretbunker.co.uk

TYNEHAM 'LOST VILLAGE', DORSET. Telephonically, Tyneham's claim to fame is that it is the location of Britain's most obscure phone box. The remote Dorset village still has its K1 kiosk, standing untouched in its original location outside the post office. But nobody has used it, ever since the population was forcibly evacuated in November 1943.

Known as the lost village, Tyneham was taken over by the Army for shelling practice and although the promise was made that villagers could move back home when the war was over, this never happened and its buildings have stood gaunt and uninhabited ever since. Access to the ghost village was restricted for many years, then after pressure from locals it was opened on bank holidays. Now at last it is open most weekends, although visitors are warned to keep to marked paths (there are still unexploded munitions, derelict armoured cars and other hazards in Tyneham whilst nearby hills are still marked with giant numbers for target practice).

An illustrated feature article on this forgotten village can be found in the July 2000 issue of Country Walking magazine, available at most newsagents. One of the photos shows the K1 kiosk and the article makes fascinating reading. See also http://www.thedorsetpage.com/locations/place/T210.htm, which mentions the kiosk and even has a drawing of it.

VERYAN ROYAL OBSERVER CORPS POST, near Truro, Cornwall. Fully equipped Royal Observer Corps post as it was in the Cold War period from 1960 to 1991. Two other sites of interest nearby. Visits to underground site by arrangement with Lawrence Holmes, Rivergarth, Malpas, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 1SS (01872-78234); send SAE for free leaflet.

WESTERN APPROACHES COMMAND CENTRE, Derby House, 1 Rumford Street, Liverpool, L2 3SZ (0151-227 2008). This underground headquarters was the command centre for the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II. Visitors today can see the RAF plotting room, the main operations room, the cipher room, teleprinter room and the telephone exchange. Open all year round but confirm by ringing the number shown.


Dealer list

MIKE MOORE, 35 Mason’s Place, Newport, Salop, TF10 7JS (01952-405105. Specialist bookseller for underground subjects including bunkers. Send SAE for catalogue.


Society

No, we don't have a society for subversives or other enemies of the State but anyone interested in all kinds of underground constructions of all ages should join Sub-Brit, as it is known.

SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA (Sub-Brit). Secretary: Malcolm Tadd, 65 Trindles Road, South Nutfield, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 4JL. Telephone 01737-823456.

Within Sub-Brit is a sub-group called the RESEARCH STUDY GROUP (RSG). RSG was formed to study, research, document and preserve Britain’s Cold War-period defences. It is a non-political organisation and aims to present an objective view of the infrastructure and plans used in the period 1945-1990 for the UK’s national defence. Membership can be had by joining Sub-Brit. Webpage at www.subbrit.org.uk/

Another useful website is at http://www.subterranea.org.uk (includes FAQ on subterranean subjects).


Index