Cold War U.K. Regional Government Headquarters

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.

Former RGHQ Locations

The map and the table below show the locations of the Regional Government Headquarters. The history of Regional Government before the sixties is beyond the scope of this topic as information about their communications networks is very sparse and not enough is known to be able to write anything meaningful.

Map of Cold War, UK Regional Government Headquarters
RGHQ Map

Where the same Regional Code appears twice in the table, the first entry was later replaced by the second location around the time shown as 'In Service' date.

Regional Government Headquarters Locations
CodeLocationOSGB Ref.Lat/LonIn ServiceOriginal Purpose
 Region 2, North East
21ShiptonSE54261854.049323, -1.173673early 1960'sRotor SOC
22HexhamNY93864454.974174, -2.098389early 80'sCold Store
 Region 3, East Midlands
31SkendlebyTF43870953.215705, 0.152108mid-60'sRotor
32LoughboroughSK54120552.779381, -1.1994051981Cold Store
 Region 4, East
41BawburghTG16508052.626561, 1.197407mid-60'sRotor SOC
42HertfordTL32512351.793666, -0.080131mid-60'sBasement Govt Building
 Region 5, London
51Kelvedon HatchTQ56199551.672587, 0.256073early-60'sRotor SOC
 Region 6, South East
61Dover CastleTR32042051.130260, 1.3144831962WW2 Tunnels
61CrowboroughTQ47629251.043200, 0.1040921987WW2 Radio Station
62BasingstokeSU63952451.267181, -1.08548160'sBasement Govt Building
 Region 7, South West
71UllenwoodSO93617451.855152, -2.09432850'sAAOR
71ChilmarkST98530051.069329, -2.0227851985Purpose Built RGHQ
72Bolt HeadSX71637450.224852, -3.798431mid-60'sRotor
 Region 8, Wales
82BracklaSS91680551.512992, -3.56350760'sOrdnance Factory
 Region 9, Midlands
91SwynnertonSJ84533252.896273, -2.23239262Ordnance Factory
92DrakelowSO82081052.426684, -2.26614150'sWW2 Factory
 Region 10, North West
101SouthportSD34017453.648858, -2.99940764 till 80Basement Govt Bldg.
102Hack GreenSJ64748353.030811, -2.52781184Rotor
 Region 11, Northern Ireland
111BelfastIJ32170254.562681, -5.95900460'sRegional War Room
111BalleymenaID13804354.873228, -6.2256291989Purpose Built RGHQ
 Region 1 Scotland
N ZoneAnstrutherNO56808856.269707, -2.699108mid 1960'sRotor
N ZoneCultybraggenNN76820256.358035, -3.9955431990Purpose Built RGHQ
E ZoneKirknewtonNT10468455.900348, -3.434541mid 1950's 
W ZoneEast KilbrideNS65352655.747975, -4.1475121953AAOR
HQEdinburghNT20374855.959579, -3.278149before 1963Rotor SOC

Rotor Bunkers Used as RGHQ

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.

Hack Green RGHQ 10.2 Semi-sunken Bunker [2008]
Hack Green

If enemy aircraft were to approach the UK, the SOC would scramble interceptor aircraft. Most of the ROTOR radar bunkers 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 an increased range that meant fewer radar stations were required. Many radar stations were closed or put into a care and maintenance state.

Bawburgh RGHQ 4.1 Guardhouse [1992]

By the 1960's the government had many recently built and expensive bunkers now very embarrassingly left redundant. When the policy of Regional Seats of Government Headquarters was introduced, many of the ROTOR bunkers were utilised for these headquarters. Four ROTOR SOC bunkers (Bawburgh, Barnton Quarry, Kelvedon Hatch and Shipton) and four radar bunkers (Anstruther, Bolt Head, Hack Green and Skendleby) became Regional Headquarters.

Shipton RGHQ 2.1 Guardhouse [2008]
Shipton Guardhouse

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.

Other Bunkers used as RGHQ

Purpose Built Government Buildings used for RGHQ

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.

Other buildings adapted as RGHQ

In the 1960's, a section of a former ordnance factory at Brackla, Bridgend was converted to RGHQ 82. Another ordnance 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.

Drakelow or Kinver

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 formed 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 sites nearby. A separate wooden pole carried the UHF Discone for use on the military band.

These black and white photo's I took in the eighties show the the main entrance and standby generator engine air intakes and exhaust pipes.

Drakelow Main Entrance, Adit A : Adit B, Generator Hall
Adits A + B

In 1954, Drakelow, under the guise of codeword MACADAM was earmarked as a possible location for the Central Government War Headquarters (CGWHQ) as a replacement for / or addition to Corsham. No work took place in preparing the site.

Gallery

Tunnels at Drakelow RGHQ92
1970‘s Mast at Drakelow RGHQ92
Military UHF Discone

Current Use of the Former Bunkers

Secret Bunker This Way
Secret Bunker Signpost

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.

Ullenwood RGHQ [2009]
Ullenwood

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.

Demolished RGHQ

The former cold store at Loughborough that was converted to become RGHQ 3.2 in 1973 was demolished in 1996 and the site used for housing.

The other cold store at Hexham RGHQ 2.2 has also been demolished but as of April 2017 was just derelict land.

The basemap used on this page is © Copyright Ordnance Survey Data, 2001. The Map is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0 Full Licence Text OGL Licence