This page shows the locations used over the duration of the cold war and briefly describes the type of building used to house the Regional Government Headquarters.
Reproduced from Ordnance Survey map data by permission of the Ordnance Survey © Crown Copyright 2001.
|Code||Location||OSGB Ref.||In Service||Original Purpose|
|Region 2, North East|
|21||Shipton||SE542618||early 1960’s||Rotor SOC|
|22||Hexham||NY938644||early 80’s||Cold Store|
|Region 3, East Midlands|
|Region 4, East|
|42||Hertford||TL325123||mid-60’s||Basement Govt Building|
|Region 5, London|
|51||Kelvedon Hatch||TQ561995||early-60’s||Rotor SOC|
|Region 6, South East|
|61||Dover Castle||TR320420||1962||WW2 Tunnels|
|61||Crowborough||TQ476292||1987||WW2 Radio Station|
|62||Basingstoke||SU639524||60’s||Basement Govt Building|
|Region 7, South West|
|Region 8, Wales|
|Region 9, Midlands|
|Region 10, North West|
|101||Southport||SD340173||64 till 80||Basement Govt|
|Region 11, Northern Ireland|
|111||Belfast||IJ321702||60’s||Regional War Room|
|Region 1 Scotland|
|N Zone||Anstruther||NO568088||mid 1960’s||Rotor|
|N Zone||Cultybraggen||NN768202||1990||Purpose Built|
|E Zone||Kirknewton||NT104684||mid 1950’s|
|W Zone||East Kilbride||NS653526||1953||AAOR|
|HQ||Edinburgh||NT203748||before 1963||Rotor SOC|
In the 1950’s the Royal Air Force replaced the ageing WW2 radar with centimetric radar in what was known as the ROTOR plan. This built an elaborate network of 39 bunkers at radar sites around the UK. On the East and South coast these were deep underground. On the West Coast where they were less vulnerable the bunkers were only semi-sunken. The plotters at radar station reported to one of four Sector Operations Centres (ROTOR SOC) of similar design to the radar bunkers but larger with three levels.
If enemy aircraft were to approach the UK, the SOC would scramble interceptor aircraft. Most of the bunker became operational around 1952 but the rapid development of aircraft and radar technology quickly made the ROTOR plan redundant. As the speed of bomber aircraft increased it became necessary to control the interceptor fighters directly from the radar station making the SOC redundant. New radar was developed with increased range that meant fewer radar stations were required. Many radar stations were closed or put into a care and maintenance state.
By the 1960’s the government had many recently built and expensive bunkers embarrassingly redundant. When the policy of Regional Seats of Government Headquarters was introduced, many of the ROTOR where utilised for these headquarters. Four SOC bunkers (Bawburgh, Barnton Quarry, Kelvedon Hatch and Shipton) and four radar bunker (Anstruther, Bolt Head, Hack Green and Skendleby) were used as Regional Headquarters.
All the ROTOR bunkers were built to similar specifications. The most noticeable feature of a fully submerged bunker being the entrance in a bungalow style guard house with a veranda. The guardhouse is connected via a tunnel into the main bunker. The only other surface features are the ventilation shafts and a lattice communications mast.
At Southport, Basingstoke and Hertford three government office buildings were constructed with reinforced basements that were used for Regional Government Headquarters. A bunker was built at Chilmark, Wiltshire in 1985 as replacement for the Region 7 bunker at Ullenwood, Gloucestershire. In Scotland a bunker was built at Cultybraggen in 1990 to replace Anstruther, Fife.
In the 1960’s, a section of a former ordinance factory at Brackla, Bridgend was converted to RGHQ 82. Another ordinance factory at Swynnerton, Staffordshire became RGHQ 91. In Region 6, WW2 tunnels known as the ‘Dumpy’ level in Dover Castle were adapted as RGHQ in 1962 before it moved in 1987 to the former WW2 propaganda radio transmitter site at Crowborough. Two former government WW2 Cold Stores located at Hexham, Northumberland and Loughborough, Leicestershire were adapted in the early 1980’s for use as Regional Headquarters 22 and 32 respectively.
In July 1941 construction started on a matrix of tunnels designed as a factory for aircraft engines and as a RAF store having a combined floor area of 285,000 square feet. The tunnels are at the same level as Kingsford Lane which passes by the North side of the site and is about 150ft below the top of the sandstone ridge that former part of the Drakelow estate. OS Ref SO820810
After engine production finished, part of the tunnel complex has been used as a Regional Government Headquarters from the late fifties until the disbanding of the UKWMO in 1992. During that time it has been known as the Regional Seat of Government No9, Kinver; RGHQ 92 Drakelow or possibly Kidderminster. (the nearest large town) I took these pictures of the tunnel entrances facing the Kingsford Road shortly after closure. The lattice communications mast is on the top of the ridge and linked into the HO hilltop sites at Romsley and Brown Clee. A separate wooden pole carried the UHF Discone for use on the military band.
In the Seventies and early Eighties there were two microwave dishes on the mast , one pointed at Romsley and the other to an unknown location, possibly Titterstone Clee CAA site. The purpose of this link is a mystery - please get in touch if you know the answer. Romsley to has a direct line of sight to Titterstone and most HO sites in the area, so this routing was obviously to serve the RGHQ. One of the UHF skeleton slot yagis on this side of the mast linked Shrewsbury ROC HQ via Brown Clee Hill HO site which also had microwave dishes.
These black and white photo's I took in the eighties show the engine air intakes and exhaust pipes and the main entrance.
In 1954, Drakelow, under the guise of codeword MACADAM was earmarked as a possible location for the Central Government Emergency Headquarters as a replacement or addition to Corsham. No work took place in preparing the site.
After the disbanding of the UKWMO the RGHQ bunkers have been placed on the market and some have been sold to landowners or private companies. Four have become museums open to the public. Kelvedon Hatch in Essex and Anstruther in Fife are underground ROTOR bunkers. Hack Green in Cheshire is a semi-sunken ROTOR bunker with a good display of exhibits from both sides of the Cold War. Dover Castle, former RGHQ is also open to the public. These secret bunker museums have their own web sites that are linked from this site. All are well signposted for visitors, the phrasing of the signs like this one on the A525 at Audlem, gives many motorist a chuckle.
The Ullenwood RGHQ was in a former Anti-Aircraft Operations Room (AAOR) a semi-sunken two storey bunker. A replacement was built in 1985 at Chilmark and since then had been used by Gloucester County Council. On a recent visit I have to assume it is now in private ownership as a large country house has been erected in the grounds. The bunker has been clad with local Cotswold stone to match the house and tastefully landscaped into the garden.